According to U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, the White House is aware of the situation despite the Pentagon’s refusal to say if it used a $400,000 missile to shoot down a $12 balloon.
Inquiries about whether one of the unexplained objects the Pentagon fired down off the coast of Alaska earlier this month was a $12 hobby balloon are being met with obstinate denials from the Pentagon.
Last week, after a group devoted to the pastime, reported one of its balloons “missing in action” above Alaska, speculation that the unidentified aerial item the administration shot down earlier this month was actually a cheap hobbyist pico balloon started to grow.
In a blog post, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB) described how it had lost communication with its hobby balloon on February 11 and how it had last been seen off the coast of Alaska at a height of roughly 39,000 feet.
Little mylar balloons called “pico balloons,” which can cost as low as $12, are used by amateur meteorologists to measure weather trends.
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On the same day, the U.S. military employed an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile worth $400,000 to shoot down an unidentified object at a height of 40,000 feet over the same approximate area.
The Pentagon dodged questions on whether that included a pico balloon or if the department had followed up with the NIBBB in any way.
“We have nothing to provide on this,” a Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson said in an email.
For its part, the NIBBB has stated that it is common for a balloon of this type to go without transmission for several days at a period and that the claim that the U.S. military shot the balloon down could not be verified until the balloon’s remains were gathered.
“As has been widely reported, no part of the object shot down by the U.S. Air Force jet over the Yukon Territory has been recovered,” the NIBBB said in a blog post.
“Until that happens and that object is confirmed to be an identifiable pico balloon, any assertions or claims that our balloon was involved in that incident are not supported by facts.”
According to U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, the White House is aware of the situation despite the Pentagon’s refusal to admit the likelihood that it fired down the balloon.
Recently, an official claimed that, on average, one balloon flies above Taiwan each month, which is just one of the army of spy balloons that China has launched around the world.
“We just can’t confirm those reports or what the remains of that balloon might actually end up being,” Kirby said during a Feb. 17 press briefing.
“We haven’t recovered it, so it’s very difficult until you get your hands on something to be able to tell.”
Kirby continued by saying he wasn’t sure if NIBBB would be compensated for the balloon.
“I don’t know of any plans to reimburse,” Kirby said. “We honestly don’t know what this is.”
“Given the information that we had at the time and the legitimate concerns about potential surveillance in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon, you make decisions based on the best information you have.”