UPDATE 1/3/22 0855 - Chinese "balloon" in U.S. airspace came from China is of a "civilian nature", China's foreign ministry claims.
A Chinese spy balloon has been detected in the airspace over Montana and is being monitored by the government. The identification of the balloon concerned Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) enough that he wrote of the "concerning event" in a letter to the Department of Defense (DoD). Daines went on to note that Montana airspace includes "Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) and the United States' intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields."
The senator also expressed that given "the serious nature of the event" he was "requesting a full security briefing from the administration on this situation."
"It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy balloon was utilizing," Dained added.
"As you know, Montana plays a vital national security role by housing nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom AFB," the senator concluded.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday, "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now."
"The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," Ryder added.
While such high-altitude balloons operate at 15-22 miles above the earth, well above the altitude of commercial air traffic, the military has taken "custody" of the balloon and deployed stealth fighter jets and other aircraft to observe it.
The spy balloon is estimated to be the size of 3 buses and military commanders have advised President Biden against shooting down the balloon for fear of falling debris injuring civilians on the ground.
Canada's Defense Ministry is also reportedly monitoring a "potential second incident" but did not provide further details.
As for the balloon in Montana, the military intends to continue monitoring it and will continue to take measures to protect any sensitive data from being intercepted by the balloon.