After a Chinese balloon — which the Defense Department called a surveillance balloon — flew over Montana, where intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields are located, Montana GOP Senator Steve Daines wrote an urgent letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin demanding a full security briefing.
After the balloon was detected, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and vice chair Joint Chief Gen. Christopher Grady recommended that no “kinetic action” be taken because of possible falling debris, defense officials stated.
“The fact that this balloon was occupying Montana airspace creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission,” Daines wrote. “Given the serious nature of the event, I am 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.”
Daines continued by noting that Montana housed the nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base, then stated bluntly, “I am alarmed by the fact that this spy balloon was able to infiltrate the airspace of our country and Montana.”
“There is no higher priority for your administration than the safety and security of the American people and it is imperative that your administration reassure them of that fact at this time,” he concluded.
The balloon was reported by several people in Billings, Montana on Tuesday. According to a senior defense official, the balloon had flown over the Aleutian Islands, then Canada, before reaching Montana, and was still flying over the U.S. on Thursday.
On Wednesday, all flights at Billings Logan International Airport were grounded for roughly two hours.
“You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings airport, and the mobilization of a number of assets including F 22s…in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana,” the senior defense official acknowledged. “So we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area…It was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough that we didn’t take the shot.”
Montana GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte issued a statement saying, “I received an informational briefing yesterday on the situation involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana. From the spy balloon to the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans through TikTok to CCP-linked companies buying American farmland, I’m deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security.”