US hobby club fear their missing weather balloon was shot down by USAF
A hobby club known as the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade lost their $12 weather balloon. It may have been one of the "unknown objects" shot down with a $400 000 Sidewinder missile by the US government last week.
Published: February 17, 2023, 8:23 am
Aviation Week reported that the club’s balloon had last been spotted on 10 February “off the west coast of Alaska”.
“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. And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down,” said Ron Meadows, a Silicon Valley company founder that makes purpose-built balloons for hobbyists, educators and scientists.
A popular forecasting tool projected that the balloon “would be floating high over the central part of the Yukon Territory on February 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.”
Meadows said the descriptions of all three unidentified objects shot down matched the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small pico balloons, which can usually be purchased for $12-180 each, depending on the model.
Tom Medlin, a retired FedEx engineer and co-host of the Amateur Radio Roundtable show, agreed. “I’m guessing probably they were pico balloons,” and added that he had three such balloons in flight in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Aviation Week contacted the FBI, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Security Council (NSC) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for comment, but were brushed off.
In a White House statement on Thursday, President Biden had to admit the obvious however: “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
Currently, around 2000 single-use stratospheric balloons are launched daily.
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