Military officials say small balloon spotted over Western U.S. poses no security risk

A small balloon was spotted drifting high above the Western United States but poses no security threat, military officials said Friday.

A spokesperson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command – a binational organization of the U.S. and Canada – confirmed in a statement to USA TODAY that it had detected a small balloon at an altitude between 43,000 and 45,000 feet.

“The balloon was intercepted by NORAD fighters over Utah, who determined it was not maneuverable and did not present a threat to national security,” the statement said. “NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also found the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety, NORAD said.

NORAD has not revealed where the balloon came from or why it was seen flying over Utah and Colorado.

Early reports that the military has been tracking a balloon over the Western U.S. raised some concern among lawmakers, including from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale from Montana, who said their offices were monitoring its movement.

The detection Friday comes one year after a Chinese spy balloon was able to gather intelligence from U.S. military sites and transmit it to Beijing in real time despite the Biden administration's attempts to block it, according to a report from NBC News. The high-altitude balloon was able to make multiple trips over some of the sites before it was shot down, at times flying in a figure-eight formation, NBC reported.

Last February, U.S. warplanes shot down four unidentified flying objects in three days. Military officials said it was the first time in history that U.S. warplanes shot down aircraft over or near the country.

Contributing: Holly Rosenkrantz, Francesca Chambers, Josh Meyer, Tom Vanden Brook and Candy Woodall, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Military officials track small balloon in Western U.S. skies