Just when we thought we’d never see war on American soil in our lifetime, residents in Billings, Montana were hit with an odd reality last Wednesday when a Chinese spy balloon was first spotted. The Pentagon was prepared to shoot it down immediately, but after consulting with President Biden determined this operation would have to be more detailed because debris from the balloon could cause damage on the ground. Plus, any information the balloon has collected since being in the air would have “limited additive value compared with China’s spy satellites.” according to the Pentagon. Once President Biden, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin finished their final meeting about this situation Wednesday, they decided to send the U.S. military to handle the job today.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, “An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon. The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt.”

The DOD also shared that the balloon did not pose a threat, but their “intrusion into American airspace over several days was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty.”  Although Chinese officials took responsibility for the balloon being theirs, they argued it was only a ‘runaway weather ballon’. To heighten the curiosity, this also makes the third time China has made a surprise pop-up during this administration.

Moving forward, the government has put in place a recovery mission without an idea of how long this will take. They have aligned U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels for security around the area where the balloon first entered U.S. territory, and are currently searching for debris to begin research and an investigation.

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