One of the unidentified objects that the Biden administration ordered to be shot down last weekend with a $400,000 missile may have actually been a $12 hobby balloon belonging to an Illinois-based hobbyist club.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade has not yet officially blamed the Biden administration for the disappearance of their small, globe-trotting “pico balloon,” but descriptions of the balloon and its last-known location have led many to speculate that it is likely the object that was shot down.
Aviation Week reported: “The club’s silver-coated, party-style, ‘pico balloon’ reported its last position on Feb. 10 at 38,910 ft. off the west coast of Alaska, and a popular forecasting tool—the HYSPLIT model provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—projected the cylindrically shaped object would be floating high over the central part of the Yukon Territory on Feb. 11. That is the same day a Lockheed Martin F-22 shot down an unidentified object of a similar description and altitude in the same general area.”
The outlet went on to note that flying high-altitude circumnavigational pico balloons has become a hobby over the past decade. The relatively cheap hobby balloons are naturally buoyant at 43,000 feet, while carrying a small GPS tracker and antennas that allow them to update ham radio receivers worldwide on details of their position. Pico balloons can typically be purchased for $12-$180.
“At any given moment, several dozen such balloons are aloft, with some circling the globe several times before they malfunction or fail for other reasons,” Aviation Week added. “The launch teams seldom recover their balloons.”
When Scientific Balloon Solutions founder Ron Meadows tried to discuss the issue of pico balloons with the FBI and the military, they reportedly gave him “the runaround.”
“I tried contacting our military and the FBI—and just got the runaround—to try to enlighten them on what a lot of these things probably are,” Meadows said. “And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down.”
Meanwhile, the Air Force under the direction of the Biden administration used Sidewinder missiles — which cost roughly $400,000 each — to shoot down unidentified objects flying over the U.S. last week. They also used one of these missiles to take down a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this month, though the Biden administration was criticized for waiting until the balloon had completed its journey across the U.S. before finally shooting it down — which has led many to speculate that the quick action on the recent objects was an overcorrection to cover for their failure.
The White House has admitted that these objects were likely not foreign-made or a threat to Americans, like the Chinese spy balloon was. On Wednesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the three objects shot down “could just be balloons tied to some commercial or benign purpose,” — though he did not mention the possibility of pico balloons.
“We did assess that their altitudes were considerably lower than the Chinese high-altitude balloon and did pose a threat to civilian commercial air traffic,” Kirby said. “And while we have no specific reason to suspect that they were conducting surveillance of any kind, we couldn’t rule that out.”
President Joe Biden made similar comments, saying that “nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program, or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.”
“The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects are most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreational or research institutions, studying weather or conducting other scientific research,” Biden added.
Fox News Channel’s Jesse Watters argued that the recent military operations shooting down unidentified objects, including the hobby balloon, is likely just a response to Biden receiving “some bad polling after taking a week to pop the Chinese spy balloon.”