OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — As China’s spy balloon drifted through East Tennessee last weekend, it attracted a lot of attention, some questions and more than a few memes.
East Tennesseans wondered on aloud and on social media, does Oak Ridge know?
The city name has long been a reference to the Y-12 National Security Complex. The manufacturing facility that defines itself as “a premier manufacturing facility dedicated to making our nation and world a safer place.” The facilities in Oak Ridge have played a key role in strengthening the country’s national security since 1943.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Y-12 provided this statement in response to WATE 6 inquires:
“The Y-12 Security Complex always maintains a high level of security due to the sensitive national security missions supported at the site. We are aware that the Chinese balloon flew through East Tennessee, but we have not identified any attempt to collect data from the Y-12 facility. We will continue to be vigilant and learn from new types of data collection technology.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Congressman Chuck Fleishmann said that he received information about the balloon’s flight across the Appalachians late Monday.
“I have not gotten any intelligence briefings but I was told at a Republican conference last night that it did fly over Oak Ridge,” Fleishman told WATE 6. “There’s no question this was, and is, a spy balloon and it’s wrong.”
The balloon floated its way across East Tennessee and South Carolina before it was shot down in the bright blue sky off the coast of Myrtle Beach. The U.S. Navy released photos Wednesday showing the effort to bring pieces of the 200-foot tall balloon ashore.
The balloon, estimated to be around 200 feet tall, was carrying a long sensor package underneath, which U.S. officials estimated was the size of a small regional jet.
“What we don’t know at this point in time is what information did they gather, where, why and how,” Fleishmann said.
On Wednesday, Pentagon said the Chinese balloon was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for several years. China still maintains the balloon was intended to study the weather and not spy on the United States.
Associated Press contributed to this story.