I spy with my little eye: the Spy Balloon Saga


Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette

A far away photo of the first balloon.

Adding an interesting start to the year of 2023, on February 1st, a large white balloon was spotted about 60,000 feet in the air above Billings, Montana. Multiple videos of the balloon quickly found themselves plastered across various social medias, bringing national attention to it. 

Later on, it was discovered the balloon had originated in China, and the U.S. government had suspicions it was spying on sensitive military sites. This revelation created a hubbub across America, with many calling for the government to immediately shoot it down, in fear of what classified secrets the Chinese government might have obtained. The Chinese government claimed that the balloon was just a weather balloon blown wildly of course. The American response was rather slow; it took three days until, on February 4th, a fighter jet shot it down off of the coasts of the Carolinas, putting the whole saga to an end. 

This isn’t the first time a “spy” balloon has been spotted either. Three were reported during Donald Trump’s 2016-2020 presidency in states such as Hawaii, Florida, and Texas. Another balloon was also observed over Latin America the same week the one was shot down in the U.S. As of February 12th, three UFOs (unidentified flying objects) suspected to be from China, were identified in North America in February alone. (Politico)

While much information is still unknown to the general public about the balloons, the FBI is currently running analysis on the UFOs. (ABC7) State Officials have noted that the balloon had the capability

The selfie taken by the pilot who shot down the now famous spy balloon. (US Department of Defense)

to monitor US communications, and had flown over 40 countries prior to it being taken down. (ABC7) The Biden Administration, the FBI, and the State Department, have been updating lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the status of the UFOs and the government’s reaction. 

However, in today’s political atmosphere, President Biden’s response has faced criticism from both sides of the political aisle. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed his concerns with waiting to shoot down the balloon, while Senator Mitt Romney believed Biden made the right call. All in all, the spy balloon has caused international panic and questions regarding the future of US and Chinese diplomatic relations.