US officials decided not to shoot down balloon seen off Hawaii
A U.S. Air Force pilot looked down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovered over the Central Continental United States February 3, 2023. Recovery efforts began shortly after the balloon was downed. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense)
U.S. officials decided not to shoot down an unmanned balloon first spotted off the coast of Hawaii last week after determining the aircraft did not pose a military or physical threat.
A Department of Defense spokesperson said in a statement that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Defense Department first saw the unmanned balloon on April 28 at about 36,000 feet. The spokesperson said that the U.S. does not know who owns the balloon, but that there is nothing to suggest it is being handled by a “foreign or adversarial actor.”
The spokesperson added that the balloon did not fly over sensitive U.S. government sites and that it did not pose a threat to civil aviation. The balloon has now exited Hawaii airspace and territorial waters, but the Defense Department and the FAA will continue to monitor the aircraft, the spokesperson said.
“Based on these observations, the Secretary of Defense concurred with the recommendation of his military commanders that no action need be taken against the balloon,” the spokesperson said.
NBC News first reported about the unmanned balloon Monday, citing three people familiar with the matter.
This news comes months after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina in February after the balloon spent a week traveling across the United States.