Why America’s Air Defense Network Failed to Detect the Chinese Spy Balloons

February 10, 2023


Since the earliest days of the Cold War, the U.S. military has been monitoring the skies over North America, ever-vigilant for a sneak attack. The task falls to U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to identify and track potential threats before they even cross into our airspace—be they Russian bombers or possible North Korean ballistic missiles. So how did it miss at least four Chinese balloons that had entered U.S. airspace in recent years, including near Texas, Florida, and Hawaii?

General Glen VanHerck, NORAD’s commander, admitted that the balloons exposed a “gap” in American air defenses. “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” he said.

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