Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Orb spotted over Billings is suspected Chinese surveillance balloon

Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images

Pentagon officials say the floating orb that grounded flights at the Billings airport Wednesday is a Chinese surveillance balloon.

A statement from Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed officials, including with NORAD, detected and are tracking a “high altitude surveillance balloon” moving over the U.S., but said it doesn’t present a physical or military threat. The AP reports a senior defense official told reporters the U.S. has “very high confidence” the object is a Chinese high-altitude balloon flying over sensitive sites to collect information.

Montana is home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, one of three nuclear missile silo fields in the country.

Billings Logan International Airport assistant director Shane Ketterling said in a statement that Wednesday’s ground stop stretched from here to Helena about 240 miles west, and lasted about two hours.

Three flights were delayed, but since then there haven’t been any more issues. Ketterling says he’s aware of reports that the balloon is being used for Chinese surveillance, but declined to comment further.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte in a statement said he received a briefing on the situation and that he’s “deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security.”

Nadya joined Yellowstone Public Radio as news director in October 2021. Before coming to YPR, she spent six years as digital news editor/reporter for the NPR affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, where her work earned several Kansas Association of Broadcasters awards and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for Excellence in Social Media. Originally from Texas, Nadya has lived and worked in Colorado, Illinois, Washington, D.C.; and North Dakota. She lives in Billings with her cat, Dragon, and dog, Trooper, and enjoys hiking, crocheting, and traveling as often as possible.