US intercepts small balloon over Utah, determines it’s not a threat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. military intercepted a small balloon over the state of Utah on Friday and determined that it posed no threat to civil aviation or to national security, a U.S. official told Reuters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the balloon also was incapable of maneuvering itself as it traveled at an altitude of between 43,000 and 45,000 feet (13,100 and 13,700 meters). The official did not offer further details about the balloon, including whether it might have been a simple hobby balloon.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February 2023, an American fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina shot down what the Pentagon said was a Chinese spy balloon capable of collecting intelligence over the United States. U.S. officials said that balloon could self-maneuver.

That incident further strained U.S. ties with China, which denied it was using the balloon to spy on the United States. Instead, China said the balloon was used for meteorological and other scientific purposes and strayed into U.S. airspace “completely accidentally.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham)