What in the world is that? Oh A massive white orb is spreading over US airspace. It has caused a diplomatic uproar and is causing a stir on social media.
China insists it was just an errant civilian aircraft primarily used for meteorological research that went down due to winds. with only limited “self-steering” capabilities.
However, the US says it is undoubtedly a Chinese spy balloon. And his presence Secretary of State Antony Blanken called for the weekend trip to be cancelled China aimed to ease tensions that are already high between the countries.
The Pentagon says the balloon, which carries sensors and surveillance equipment, is maneuverable and has shown it can change course. It has prompted measures to prevent the military from gathering intelligence in sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are sealed.
A Pentagon spokesman said it could remain aloft over the U.S. for “a few days,” raising uncertainty about where it would go or whether the U.S. would attempt to bring it down safely.
A look at what’s known about balloons — and what’s not.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a balloon.
The Pentagon and other US officials say it is a Chinese spy balloon – about the size of three school buses – heading east of the US at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters). The US says it was being used for surveillance and intelligence gathering, but officials have provided few details.
U.S. officials say the Biden administration knew about it before it entered U.S. airspace in Alaska earlier this week. Several officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.
The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the balloon for the first time on Tuesday. And the State Department said Blankenship and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman spoke Wednesday evening with a senior Chinese official based in Washington about the matter.
In the first public U.S. statement, Brig. Pentagon Press Secretary General Pat Ryder said Thursday evening that the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat — an acknowledgment that it was not carrying weapons. And he said that “once the balloon was detected, the US government took immediate action to prevent the collection of sensitive information.”
Retired Army Gen. John Ferrari, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says the balloon poses a threat to the United States even if it is not armed. He said the flight itself could be used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and find holes in the country’s air defense warning system. It could also allow the Chinese to detect electromagnetic emissions that high-altitude satellites cannot, such as low-power radio frequencies that could help them understand how various US weapons systems communicate. do
He also said that the Chinese may have sent the balloon “to show us that they can do it, and maybe next time it has a weapon. So now we have to spend money on it and Time has to be spent” to develop a defense system.
Let it fly? Shoot it?
According to senior administration officials, President Joe Biden initially wanted to shoot down the balloon. And some members of Congress have echoed that sentiment.
But top Pentagon leaders strongly advised Biden against the move because of the risks to the safety of people on the ground, and Biden agreed.
The balloon’s sensor package weighs up to 1,000 pounds, an official said. And the balloon is so big and so high in the air that the potential debris field can stretch for miles, with no control over where it will eventually land.
For now, officials said the U.S. will monitor it using “various methods,” including aircraft. The Pentagon has also said the balloon does not pose a military threat and does not give China any surveillance capabilities it does not already have with spy satellites.
But the US is keeping its options open and will continue to monitor the flight.
Representative Jim Hammes, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that it might be valuable to try and capture the balloon to study it. “I’d rather own a Chinese surveillance balloon than clean up a 100-square-mile debris field,” Hames said.
How did it get there?
On purpose or accident? There is also disagreement.
As for wind patterns, China’s assertion that global air currents — known as westerlies — carried the balloons from its territory to the western United States, said Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Washington. He is a professor, he said. For two decades, Jaffe has studied the role of the same air patterns in transporting air pollution from Chinese cities, forest fire smoke from Siberia and dust from sandstorms in the Gobi Desert to the United States.
“This is completely consistent with everything we know about winds,” Jaffe said. “The transit time from China to the United States will be about a week.” “The higher it goes, the faster it goes,” Jaffe said. Weather and research balloons typically have steering capabilities that range from no steering at all to limited steering capabilities, depending on their sophistication, he said.
The U.S. has been largely silent on the matter, but insists the balloon is maneuverable, suggesting that China somehow deliberately steered the balloon toward or toward U.S. airspace.
History of the Spy Balloon
Spy balloons aren’t new – they’re centuries old, but they got a lot of use in World War II. Administration officials said Friday that there have been other similar incidents involving Chinese spy balloons, including one that says it happened twice during the Trump administration but was never made public.
At the Pentagon, Ryder confirmed that there have been other incidents where balloons have come close to or crossed the U.S. border, but he and others disagree that the difference is that it was over U.S. soil. How far in time and country. entered
Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Chinese surveillance balloons have been spotted on several occasions over the past five years in various parts of the Pacific, including near US military installations in Hawaii. The high-altitude inflatables serve as low-cost intelligence-gathering platforms and some could reportedly be used to detect hypersonic missiles, he said.
During World War II, Japan released thousands of hydrogen balloons containing bombs, and hundreds ended up in the United States and Canada. Most were ineffective, but one was fatal. In May 1945, six civilians were killed when they found one of the balloons on the ground in Oregon, and it exploded.
After the war, America’s own balloon efforts sparked alien stories and stories linked to Roswell, New Mexico.
According to military research documents and studies, the U.S. began using giant trains of balloons and sensors that were linked together as part of an early effort to detect Soviet missile launches in the post-World War II era. and were spread over 600 feet. They called it Project Mogul.
One of the balloon trains crash-landed at Roswell Army Airfield in 1947, and Air Force personnel unfamiliar with the program found the wreckage. The unusual experimental equipment made identification difficult, leaving the airmen unanswered questions that over time – with the help of UFO enthusiasts – took on a life of their own. The simple answer, according to military reports, was at the Project Mogul launch site in Alamogordo, just above the Sacramento Mountains.
In 2015, an unmanned Army surveillance blimp at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland broke loose from its moorings and floated for hours over Pennsylvania with two fighter jets on its tail, entangling its tether to power lines. Blackout started dragging. As residents raised their voices, the 240-foot blimp came down in pieces in the Muncie, Pennsylvania, countryside. He still had helium in his nose when he collapsed, and state police used shotguns — about 100 shots — to incapacitate him.