The Chinese spy balloon photographed over the U.S. in February 2023 (Credit: Chase Doak/Wikimedia Commons).

Military Officials Tracking High-Altitude Balloon Spotted Over Western United States (Updated)

A high-altitude balloon is being tracked over the Western United States, according to officials who spoke on Friday with knowledge of the matter.

Military aircraft were reportedly dispatched to investigate the object on Friday afternoon, and the object is not believed to represent a threat.

Presently, the origin of the balloon remains unknown, and few details have been made available about what its purpose may be. The situation, which is currently still developing, was first reported by CBS News.

According to sources who spoke on background on Friday, the balloon was reportedly first observed moving eastward as it passed over Colorado.

In response to inquiries made by The Debrief, a spokesperson with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that the object was intercepted as it passed over Utah.

“In close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected a small balloon at an altitude varying between 43,000-45,000 ft,” the NORAD public affairs spokesperson told The Debrief in an email.

“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 added.

“NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon. The FAA also determined the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety. NORAD remains in close coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety.”

The United States remains in a heightened state of alert such circumstances since a rash of incidents one year ago that began with the appearance of a large Chinese spy balloon that drifted over the United States before it was shot down over South Carolina coastal waters.

The Chinese balloon was later confirmed to have possessed surveillance capabilities, including power systems that could have supported the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capable of penetrating through clouds and other thin coverage.

Following the Chinese spy balloon incident, three more objects were shot down over the U.S. and Canada in the ensuing days. While U.S. officials were hesitant to characterize the objects as balloons, the possibility that the objects had represented aerial devices used for meteorological studies, or possibly operated by hobbyists, was not ruled out.

“Our intelligence community is still assessing all three incidents,” President Biden said on February 16, 2023. “They are reporting to me daily, and will continue their urgent efforts to do so, and I will communicate that to the Congress.”

In the aftermath of last February’s Chinese spy balloon incident, NORAD instituted a series of updates to its sensory and detection capabilities, which had likely contributed to the detection of the object.

The incident also stoked political tensions between Washington and Beijing, even resulting in the cancellation of a trip to China by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

China denied that the balloon had been intended for surveillance purposes, despite later revelations that it possessed such capabilities, including technologies that allowed it to obtain intelligence from electronic signals.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at Follow his work at and on X: @MicahHanks.