NORAD Commander: Chinese Balloons That Entered US Under Trump Went ‘Undetected’

The US is recovering the debris of the balloon it shot down

The head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) claimed on Monday that Chinese balloons that entered US airspace during the Trump administration weren’t detected by the command, which is responsible for airspace protection of Canada and the continental United States.

“As NORAD commander, it’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America,” said Gen. Glen VanHerck, who also heads US Northern Command (NORTHCOM). “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats. And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.”

During a briefing over the weekend, Pentagon officials said similar balloons entered US airspace three times during the Trump administration, a claim that was strongly denied by President Trump and his former top officials. But VanHerck and other US military officials insist it did happen and that the balloon activity was only “discovered” after Trump left office.

The US on Saturday shot down the alleged surveillance balloon, which Beijing insists is a weather balloon that only had a civilian purpose. The US is currently working to recover the balloon debris off the coast of South Carolina.

Chinese officials said they kept close communication with the US over the incident, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken still canceled his trip to China because of the balloon.

The balloon is not the first time surveillance aircraft or alleged surveillance aircraft sparked a diplomatic crisis between the US and China. On April 1, 2001, a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet off the coast of Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The American pilot had to land in Chinese territory, and the Chinese pilot went missing and is presumed dead.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.