FACT CHECK: Image Does Not Show Chinese Spy Balloon On Map

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter
An image shared on X claims to show a Chinese spy balloon near the United States.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence of a Chinese spy balloon. The information available shows that it is a private balloon operated by Raven Aerostar.

Fact Check:

Social media users are sharing an image of a Flight Radar 24 map and claiming it shows a Chinese spy ballon. One social media user wrote, “Another ‘Chinese’ Balloon… How come sleepy sheep don’t care? Cause the 📺 hasn’t told ‘em 🎯😆 I have quite a few of these filed from Feb to present day, including the February 3, ‘Chinese Balloon’ that created the frenzy.”

There is no evidence of this claim, though. If there was a Chinese spy balloon over the U.S., media outlets would have covered it, yet none have. A wider internet search also did not yield any results for this alleged Chinese spy balloon.

The Department of Defense (DOD) nor the White House have released statements or information about an alleged Chinese spy balloon in the U.S. The DOD statements about the Chinese spy balloon that was later shot down, while White House press briefings included questions from reporters about the balloon.

The balloon that appears in the X image is N870TH or HBAL 665. Check Your Fact reviewed N870TH’s information and the owner was listed as a “private owner.” (RELATED: Video Claiming Showing Israeli Missile Attack On Gaza Predates The Current Conflict)

Flight Radar 24’s communications Ian Petchenik told Check Your Fact in an email that the balloon “is not a Chinese spy balloon.”

“We can confirm that the balloon you link to in the claim is NOT a Chinese spy balloon. This balloon (and others like it) are stratospheric research balloons. They are typically operated by one of a few corporations, including Raven Aerostar, which operates this particular balloon. For reference, Google Loon formerly operated stratospheric balloons, but the Google Loon program was terminated in 2021,” Petchenik said.

Raven Aerostar culture and communications director Anastasia Quanbeck confirmed that the balloon was owned by the company.

“We can confirm that HBAL 665 is owned and operated by Aerostar. Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we fly balloon systems all over the US and to locations around the world,” Quanbeck said. “As the world leader in stratospheric technology, Aerostar launches up and safely operates hundreds of flights every year. Our balloons are equipped with transponders and we coordinate closely with the FAA, international, and local authorities so that surrounding air traffic can follow our location.”

Check Your Fact reached out to the Department of Defense for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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