Fighter Jets Scramble Toward Balloon Over Utah

NORAD says object was a small, high-altitude balloon that doesn't pose national security threat
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2024 9:30 AM CST
Fighter Jets Scramble Toward Balloon Over Utah
In this photo, a Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, top, is intercepted near the Alaska coastline on March 9, 2020.   (NORAD, via AP, File)

It was spy balloon deja vu on Friday, when fighter jets rushed to intercept a small high-altitude balloon in the skies over Utah, reports the Deseret News. Per a statement later that day from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the balloon was at between 43,000 feet and 45,000 feet when it was intercepted, but once it was checked out, concerns died down. "NORAD fighters over Utah ... determined it was not maneuverable and did not present a threat to national security," the statement notes, adding, "NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon."

An official tells CBS News it should have made it to the skies above Georgia by Friday night. On Saturday morning, there was further clarification, with a Defense Department official telling CBS News that the object was a hobbyist balloon. The outlet reports that the balloon was said to be made of Mylar and featured a 2-foot-by-2-foot box hanging underneath it. The AP notes that at one point, the balloon had also been spotted flying over Colorado. The balloon hullabaloo comes just over a year after a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. (More balloon stories.)

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