A US Air Force F-22 May Have Shot Down a $12 Hobby Balloon

a fighter jet flying in the sky
Written by Charlie

One of the objects that the US Air Force shot down last week may have finally been identified – a cheap hobby balloon from a balloon club.

Earlier this month, people all over the US were tracking and looking for a high altitude balloon that was from China as it traveled across the continental US. Finally, after crossing the entire width of the country, the US Air Force shot it down over the coast of South Carolina. As a result, fingers started pointing about why it took so long, was it the first, and more.

US Air Force F-22 May Have Shot Down a Hobby Balloon – “Pico” Balloon

Following that incident, the US Air Force proceeded to shoot down three more flying objects, which raised even more questions about what these new objects were and why the US felt safe shooting these down over the US mainland when they had previously let a Chinese balloon get to the ocean to avoid shooting it down over the US.

Now, there appears to be some new information that may point to what kind of object at least one of these balloons were. The possibility is a bit surprising to be sure as a balloon hobbyist group in Illinois says that their $12 hobby pico balloon had been in the same vicinity as the object that was shot down by a F-22 on February 11. Visit the club’s website to watch their balloon tracker and see more information about their hobby efforts.

Here is a portion from the Aviation Week article that describes the pico balloon:

But the circumstantial evidence is at least intriguing. The club’s silver-coated, party-style, “pico balloon” reported its last position on Feb. 10 at 38,910 ft. off the west coast of Alaska, and a popular forecasting tool—the HYSPLIT model provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—projected the cylindrically shaped object would be floating high over the central part of the Yukon Territory on Feb. 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.

As an amateur radio operator, I am familiar with this practice that has been going on for years but has gotten even more advanced over the last decade or so. Radio clubs outfit balloons with small radios so that their progress can be tracked by the club and other radio operators as it makes its way around the world. Some of these balloons have gone all the way around the world – some even several times.

According to this article, NORAD has spoken with the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade club which had launched the balloon that may have been one of the objects shot down.

These balloons have been flying around for years without any issues so it would seem to be an overreaction that objects similar to this and others were shot down after the Chinese balloon was shot down. The White House even admitted that the objects shot down most recently were objects with a “benign purpose” though after the fact.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Very simple. President Biden was caught off guard with the People’s Republic of China spy balloon and couldn’t shoot it down in time over Montana. Then when over St. Louis, it does carry risk of missile fragments hitting a house or car, as well as the balloon payload doing the same. So they waited days, causing embarrassment. Afterwards, they got trigger happy shooting down 3 nothings to try to prove Biden is tough.

    This analysis is midway between the self serving Biden explanations and the attack piece that opponents say.

    • And then, of course, there’s the fact that the Trump administration was completely ignorant (imagine that) to the fact that multiple Chinese spy balloons invaded our airspace under his watch. Let me ponder what’s more embarrassing.

  • @Derek – Even simpler explanation – UFO’s and Chinese Weather Balloons are good distractions for the less-intelligent public. The only thing ballooning in this country is the country’s debt. However the political establishment of both parties needs to spend more of taxpayer money on the Ukraine War and Defense while raising the Debt Ceiling.