The Pentagon has confirmed the suspected Chinese spy balloon currently enjoying the freedom of American skies is “maneuverable” and equipped with a “large payload” as the US government continues to refuse to shoot down the balloon.
“Clearly the intent of this balloon is for surveillance,” said a senior US Defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
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“President Biden was briefed and asked for military options,” the official said.
The Pentagon has been tracking the Chinese balloon that has been flying over the United States but claims it is “too risky” to shoot it down.
After questions from a reporter about whether the location of a reported Chinese spy balloon was classified, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said on Friday that the “public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky” and see where it is.
ABC report: The official said Washington had been tracking the high-altitude balloon since it entered US airspace a couple of days ago, including by observing it with manned US military aircraft.
Senior US military leaders considered shooting down the spy balloon over Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, but eventually recommended against it because of the potential safety risk from debris.
That base has 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.
The US had readied fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if ordered to do so by the White House.
China has denied claims the balloon was sent for spying, a claim rejected by the Pentagon.