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White balloon flying near Hawaii at 40,000+ feet; military investigating

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Halvorson, 96th Weather Flight, watches a just-released weather balloon rises into the sky above Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
February 20, 2023

Pilots were on the lookout for a large white balloon over the waters northeast of Hawaii on Sunday, days after fighter jets shot multiple unidentified objects out of North American skies. The balloon’s nature and whereabouts remained unclear Monday morning.

An image circulating online appeared to show a pilot in a cockpit holding a printout warning of a reported “large white balloon” flying between 40,000 feet and 50,000 feet. The printout, which appeared to originate from air traffic control in Oakland, California, said to alert air traffic control if the object is spotted.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees military action in the region, confirmed the reports around 3:36 a.m. on Monday, The Drive reported.

“U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is aware of the reports of a large white balloon by civilian aircraft. We are looking into the reports and have nothing additional at this time,” the command stated to the outlet.

READ MORE: Spy balloon launched from Chinese island was tracked the whole time, sources say

A forecasted trajectory shared on Twitter on Sunday indicated that winds could carry the reported balloon directly over the Big Island.

This latest report of a balloon near American airspace comes a week after U.S. fighter jets shot down three unidentified objects in as many days.

The flurry of shootdowns over Alaska, Lake Huron and Canada’s Yukon territory followed the nearly week-long voyage of a Chinese spy balloon over much of the U.S., which was shot down Feb. 4 off the coast of South Carolina.

U.S. officials have described the spy balloon as part of a broader Chinese military surveillance program that has targeted more than 40 countries. Much remains unclear about the three objects, including whether they were balloons, but President Joe Biden said nothing yet indicates they were related to the spy balloon.

A U.S. official said that the spy balloon’s original trajectory would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii, but prevailing winds blew it into the course that it ultimately took, Reuters reported.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.