A new theory about ‘spy’ balloons: one cost $12 and was shot down by a 439,000 missile

The Illinois fan group says its balloon  disappeared the day a $439,000 military missile destroyed an unidentified flying object in the United States.


A group of enthusiastic balloonists in Illinois may have solved the mystery of one of the unknown flying objects shot down by the US Army, a saga that stunned the entire world.

The ‘Northern Illinois Balloon Brigade’ says one of its craft “missed in action” over Alaska on February 11, the same day a US F-22 jet shot down an unidentified airborne entity not very far over the Canadian Yukon Territory.

theory about it

In a blog post , the group did not link the two events. But the picoballoon ‘s trajectory before its last recorded electronic verification at 12:48 a.m. that day suggests a connection, as well as a ferocious demise at the hands of a sidewinder missile on day 124 of its voyage, three days before it was ready to complete its seventh circumnavigation.

If that’s what happened, it would mean the US military spent a $439,000 missile to shoot down a hobby balloon worth about $12.

The Illinois brigade’s membership is a “small group of picoballoon enthusiasts ” that has been operating since June 2021, according to its website. They contain trackers, solar panels and antenna packs lighter than a small bird, and the balloons are filled with less than a cubic foot of gas. According to Aviation Week , they’re small hobby balloons that cost around $12 and allow enthusiasts to combine their interests in high-altitude ballooning and radio amateurs in an affordable way .

“For now we are calling picoglobe K9YO missing in action,” the group’s website says, noting that its last recorded altitude was 11,560 meters while near Hagemeister Island, a 300-square-kilometre landmass off the north coast of Bristol Bay.

The object over Yukon was the second of three shot down on Joe Biden’s orders in successive days after a Chinese spy balloon , a fourth separate object, was shot down over the Atlantic after crossing the South Carolina coast on February 4.

Nothing official yet

US officials said during the week that the three objects shot down after the destruction of the Chinese spy balloon were likely benign and were likely for commercial purposes or related to climate research.

“Nothing at this time suggests that they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles of any other country,” President Biden said.

He said they were removed because authorities deemed them a threat to aviation, though some observers say the shootdowns were an overreaction amid political pressure over the discovery of the Chinese balloon .