Thousands mistake US owned research balloon for Chinese spy balloon

© Provided by Washington Examiner ADDS PENTAGON RESPONSE THAT IT WOULD NOT CONFIRM - A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down due to risks of harm for people on the ground, officials said Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. The Pentagon would not confirm that the balloon in the photo was the surveillance balloon. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP) Chris Jorgensen/AP

FlightRadar 24 changed the classification of a standard United States based high altitude research balloon on Saturday morning, after thousands of Americans mistook it for the suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The flight tracking website clarified in a tweet that the balloon was operated by the U.S. instead of China, writing, "no, this is not a Chinese balloon," and specified it did not believe the spy balloon would be picked up by its sensors.


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"To provide additional clarity about what balloons are and are not visible on Flightradar24, we’ve updated our database entry for N257TH," FlightRadar 24 tweeted. "N257TH is a standard high altitude research balloon, often released over the US and is not the Chinese balloon."

At least 4,000 users followed the research balloon on FlightRadar24, and it was the site's most-tracked aircraft late Friday and Saturday morning. The research balloon was seen over Memphis, Tennessee, and belonged to U.S. company Aerostar, operated out of South Dakota.


The Pentagon announced it was monitoring a balloon over Billings, Montana, that it had "very high confidence" belonged to China. The balloon is maneuverable, and it is located about 60,000 feet above the U.S. A second balloon was confirmed over Latin America on Friday, and the Pentagon claimed both were surveillance balloons from the People's Republic of China.

Republican members of Congress have urged the Biden administration to shoot down the balloon, which has flown over important military facilities. It is not clear where in the U.S. the balloon is currently located, but it's expected to remain in U.S. airspace for several days.

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Tags: Defense, National Security, China, Tennessee, Montana

Original Author: Misty Severi

Original Location: Thousands mistake US owned research balloon for Chinese spy balloon