• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Fighter jet shoots down China spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina

Bynewsmagzines

Feb 4, 2023
Jets were seen flying close to the balloon around 1.30pm

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The Chinese spy balloon was blown up over the Atlantic today after Joe Biden gave the shoot-down order and the FAA shutdown three airports in the Carolinas.

The Biden administration confirmed the shoot-down order around 2pm after the President this morning vowed, ‘We’re gonna take care of it,’ as he stepped off Air Force One at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, upstate NY.

At least two jets are flying close to the balloon near Myrtle Beach.

The Federal Aviation Authority announced a ‘ground stop’ at Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington’s international airports shortly after 1pm. That notice was originally in effect until 2.45pm EST but has now been extended to 3.30pm.

The Coast Guard advised mariners to immediately leave the area because of military military operations ‘that present a significant hazard.’

Officials were aiming to time the operation so they could recover as much of the debris as possible before it sinks into the ocean. The Pentagon had previously estimated that the balloon, flying at about 60,000 feet in the air, was about the size of three school buses and that any debris field would be substantial.

In 1998, the Canadian air force sent up F-18 fighter jets to try and shoot down a rogue weather balloon. They fired a thousand 20-millimeter cannon rounds into it before it finally sank six days later. 

Scroll down for LIVE video of the balloon 

Jets were seen flying close to the balloon around 1.30pm

Jets were seen flying close to the balloon around 1.30pm

Trails from jets around the Chinese balloon

Trails from jets around the Chinese balloon

Jets were seen flying close to the balloon around 1.30pm after a source revealed that defense officials were planning a shoot down and capture mission

Military aircraft have been spotted ripping around the Chinese balloon

Military aircraft have been spotted ripping around the Chinese balloon

A jet close to the balloon

A jet close to the balloon

Military aircraft have been spotted ripping around the Chinese balloon

President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Saturday, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y. The Bidens are in Syracuse to visit with family members following the passing of Michael Hunter, the brother of the president's first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden

President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Saturday, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y. The Bidens are in Syracuse to visit with family members following the passing of Michael Hunter, the brother of the president's first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden

President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Saturday, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y. The Bidens are in Syracuse to visit with family members following the passing of Michael Hunter, the brother of the president’s first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden

The balloon, filled with helium is not like the Hindenburg, it will not simply explode, and it is not clear whether surface-to-air missiles will work because their guidance systems are designed to smash fast-moving missiles and aircraft.

It comes amid mounting pressure on Biden as it emerged that a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, passing over the Panama Canal and moving southeast over Venezuela.

The Pentagon confirmed the second Chinese aircraft Friday night.

‘We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,’ chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said. 

But the Biden’s administration’s attempts to hide the blatant US airspace violation from the public for almost a week and inaction over the threat to national security have infuriated Republicans.

‘Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland,’ Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) told The New York Post.

‘It’s an outrage that the Biden Administration spotted this balloon days ago as it was flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it,’ she said. ‘The president has not even made a comment about this unacceptable act of aggression by the CCP.’

Biden first became aware of the balloon last Sunday, January 28, when it was spotted over Alaska. The US military tracked it over Canadian airspace and as it re-entered US territory on Tuesday.

The aircraft was tracking towards the Carolinas this morning and is due to exit the east coast by noon after passing over a sensitive nuclear missile site in Montana dubbed America's 'Doomsday Base'. It comes amid mounting pressure on Biden as it emerged that a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, passing over the Panama Canal and moving southeast over Venezuela. The Pentagon confirmed the second Chinese aircraft Friday night. 'We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,' chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said

The aircraft was tracking towards the Carolinas this morning and is due to exit the east coast by noon after passing over a sensitive nuclear missile site in Montana dubbed America's 'Doomsday Base'. It comes amid mounting pressure on Biden as it emerged that a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, passing over the Panama Canal and moving southeast over Venezuela. The Pentagon confirmed the second Chinese aircraft Friday night. 'We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,' chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said

The aircraft was tracking towards the Carolinas this morning and is due to exit the east coast by noon after passing over a sensitive nuclear missile site in Montana dubbed America’s ‘Doomsday Base’. It comes amid mounting pressure on Biden as it emerged that a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, passing over the Panama Canal and moving southeast over Venezuela. The Pentagon confirmed the second Chinese aircraft Friday night. ‘We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,’ chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said

A US defense official said the balloon is the size of several buses - but doesn't pose an immediate threat to Americans. The balloon, pictured over Montana, has been tracked for several days but officials decided not to shoot it down over fears about debris. China claims it is a civilian airship used for meteorological research. However, William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, said the balloon has a significant, visible 'payload' - the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels. Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said

A US defense official said the balloon is the size of several buses - but doesn't pose an immediate threat to Americans. The balloon, pictured over Montana, has been tracked for several days but officials decided not to shoot it down over fears about debris. China claims it is a civilian airship used for meteorological research. However, William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, said the balloon has a significant, visible 'payload' - the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels. Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said

A US defense official said the balloon is the size of several buses – but doesn’t pose an immediate threat to Americans. The balloon, pictured over Montana, has been tracked for several days but officials decided not to shoot it down over fears about debris. China claims it is a civilian airship used for meteorological research. However, William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, said the balloon has a significant, visible ‘payload’ – the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels. Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said

The following day, Biden was given a detailed report on the aircraft and its course, attended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.

Biden initially wanted to take it down but Milley and Austin argued the risk from falling debris was too great, sources told Bloomberg.   

Meanwhile, the administration went to the Chinese embassy for an explanation and continued making preparations for Blinken’s landmark diplomatic visit.

The administration finally told the public on Thursday after local Montana paper, the Billings Gazette, published photos of the balloon.

The emergence of the spy aircraft comes on the heels of a classified report to Congress which outlined advanced new technology that US adversaries were harnessing to spy on the country.  

The report last month mentioned at least two incidents of a rival power conducting aerial surveillance with what appeared to be unknown cutting-edge technology, sources told The New York Times.

Although the report did not single out any country, two US officials familiar with the research named China.

The two sites where the unusual surveillance was detected included a military base in the US and another overseas. 

Since 2021, the Pentagon has studied 366 unexplained incidents and determined that 163 were balloons. 

A handful of these were advanced surveillance balloons, a US official told the Times.

The President was last night slammed by the Governor of Montana over his inaction. Greg Gianforte (pictured in the Montana State Capitol on Jan. 25) said that as as a result, 'Americans are endangered and our enemies are emboldened.'

The President was last night slammed by the Governor of Montana over his inaction. Greg Gianforte (pictured in the Montana State Capitol on Jan. 25) said that as as a result, 'Americans are endangered and our enemies are emboldened.'

The President was last night slammed by the Governor of Montana over his inaction. Greg Gianforte (pictured in the Montana State Capitol on Jan. 25) said that as as a result, ‘Americans are endangered and our enemies are emboldened.’

Stunned Montana residents Friday posted videos on social media of helicopters buzzing overhead after the emergence of the balloon

Stunned Montana residents Friday posted videos on social media of helicopters buzzing overhead after the emergence of the balloon

Helicopters buzzing overhead near Billings, Montana after the emergence of the balloon

Helicopters buzzing overhead near Billings, Montana after the emergence of the balloon

Stunned Montana residents Friday posted videos on social media of helicopters buzzing overhead after the emergence of the balloon

The footage, taken near Billings, Montana, appears to show Chinooks escorted by smaller helicopters

The footage, taken near Billings, Montana, appears to show Chinooks escorted by smaller helicopters

The Chinook, capable of speeds of up to 200mph, is one of the fastest helicopters in the US inventory

The Chinook, capable of speeds of up to 200mph, is one of the fastest helicopters in the US inventory

The footage, taken near Billings, Montana, appears to show Chinooks escorted by smaller helicopters 

Chinese balloon hard to take down and controlled by advanced AI tech, expert says 

William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, said the balloon could be steered by AI and has superior technology to another developed by the US.

AI GUIDANCE SUPERIOR TO ANYTHING THE US HAS DEVELOPED:

It has a quite large, visible ‘payload’ — the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels.

And it appears to have advanced steering technologies that the US military hasn’t yet put in the air.

Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said.

‘Before you either had to have a tether… or you just send it up and it just goes wherever the wind takes it,’ he said.

‘What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that… doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude it can control its direction.’

That could also involve radio communications from its home base, he said.

But ‘if the point of it is to monitor (intercontinental ballistic missile) silos, which is one of the theories… you wouldn’t necessarily need to tell it to adjust its location,’ he added.

WHY USE A BALLOON INSTEAD OF A SATELLITE 

Kim said that as satellites become more vulnerable to being attacked from the Earth and space, balloons have distinct advantages.

Firstly, they don’t easily show up on radars.

‘These are materials that don’t reflect, they’re not metal. So even though these balloons expand to quite large, detecting… the balloon itself is going to be a problem,’ he said.

And the payload, if small enough, can be overlooked.

Balloons also have the advantage of holding relatively stationary positions over a surveillance target, compared to constantly orbiting satellites used by spy agencies to take photographs.

‘These things can stay overhead, they can stay over one spot months at a time, compared to the low-Earth-orbit satellites,’ Kim said.

WHY CAN’T THE US SHOOT IT DOWN?

Shooting down a balloon is not as easy as it sounds, said Kim.

‘These balloons use helium… It’s not the Hindenburg, you can’t just shoot it and then and then it goes up in flames.’

‘If you do punch holes in it, it’s just kind of going to leak out very slowly.’

Kim recalled that in 1998 the Canadian air force sent up F-18 fighter jets to try and shoot down a rogue weather balloon.

‘They fired a thousand 20-millimeter cannon rounds into it. And it still took six days before it finally came down. These are not things that explode or pop when you shoot at them.’

He said it was not clear if using surface-to-air missiles would work, because their guidance systems are designed to hit fast-moving missiles and aircraft.

Reporting by AFP.

Biden was last night slammed by the Governor of Montana over his inaction. Greg Gianforte said that as a result, ‘Americans are endangered and our enemies are emboldened.’ 

Speaking to Fox News, the Republican governor revealed that he was briefed earlier in the week that the Pentagon had been looking at taking it out.

‘Clearly this went to the President’s desk and he chose not to act,’ Gianforte said.

He added: ‘If it was up to Montanans this thing would have taken out the sky the moment it entered our sovereign airspace and it clearly had been there for a while. It’s not moving that fast.’

China insisted the balloon is an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds. 

However, the US rejected that out of hand and Blinken cancelled his trip to Beijing, telling a senior Chinese diplomat that sending the balloon over the US was ‘an irresponsible act’.

Shooting the slow-moving, low-flying balloon down is not as simple as it sounds.

William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, told AFP that the target was resistant to missiles and bullets.

‘These balloons use helium… It’s not the Hindenburg, you can’t just shoot it and then and then it goes up in flames,’ he said.

‘If you do punch holes in it, it’s just kind of going to leak out very slowly.’

He said it was not clear if using surface-to-air missiles would work, because their guidance systems are designed to hit fast-moving missiles and aircraft. 

Kim said the Chinese balloon is also far more advanced and could be using artificial intelligence (AI), allowing it to steer through severe winds at extreme altitudes.

It has a significant, visible ‘payload’ – the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels, he said.

AI has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said.

‘Before you either had to have a tether… or you just send it up and it just goes wherever the wind takes it,’ he said.

‘What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that… doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude it can control its direction.’

That could also involve radio communications from its home base, he said.

But ‘if the point of it is to monitor (intercontinental ballistic missile) silos, which is one of the theories… you wouldn’t necessarily need to tell it to adjust its location,’ he added.

Kim said that as satellites become more vulnerable to being attacked from the Earth and space, balloons have distinct advantages.

Firstly, they don’t easily show up on radars.

‘These are materials that don’t reflect, they’re not metal. So even though these balloons expand to quite large, detecting… the balloon itself is going to be a problem,’ he said.

And the payload, if small enough, can be overlooked.

Balloons also have the advantage of holding relatively stationary positions over a surveillance target, compared to constantly orbiting satellites used by spy agencies to take photographs.

‘These things can stay overhead, they can stay over one spot months at a time, compared to the low-Earth-orbit satellites,’ Kim said.

Kim called it a ‘real possibility’ that a Chinese balloon may have been intended to collect data from outside US boundaries or much higher but malfunctioned.

‘These balloons don’t always work perfectly,’ he said. He said it was ‘definitely a little low (in the sky).’

The Chinese surveillance balloon is estimated to be about the width of three buses. The balloon is fitted with solar panels to power the on-board equipment, which could include long-range cameras and radar. It was traveling at an altitude of around 60,000ft on Friday afternoon, but the balloons can reach heights of around double that

The Chinese surveillance balloon is estimated to be about the width of three buses. The balloon is fitted with solar panels to power the on-board equipment, which could include long-range cameras and radar. It was traveling at an altitude of around 60,000ft on Friday afternoon, but the balloons can reach heights of around double that

The Chinese surveillance balloon is estimated to be about the width of three buses. The balloon is fitted with solar panels to power the on-board equipment, which could include long-range cameras and radar. It was traveling at an altitude of around 60,000ft on Friday afternoon, but the balloons can reach heights of around double that

‘If you wanted it to be harder to spot, if you want it to be harder to shoot down, then it would make sense to operate at higher altitudes,’ Kim said.

Even if it’s not armed, the balloon poses a risk to the US, a former military leader has warned. Retired Army Gen. John Ferrari claimed the flight itself can be used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and to find holes in the country’s air defense warning system.

It may also allow the Chinese to sense electromagnetic emissions that higher-altitude satellites can’t detect, such as low-power radio frequencies that could help them understand how different US weapons systems communicate.

He also said the Chinese may have sent the balloon ‘to show us that they can do it, and maybe next time it could have a weapon. So now we have to spend money and time on it’ developing defenses.

The discovery of the balloons dealt a new blow to already strained US-Chinese relations that have been in a downwards spiral for years over numerous issues.

Still, US officials maintained that diplomatic channels remain open and Blinken said he remained willing to travel to China ‘when conditions allow’.

‘We continue to believe that having open lines of communication is important,’ he said.

A US State Department official said Blinken and deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman had both protested to the top official at the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday, a day before the Pentagon announced the discovery of the balloon.

Balloon over Latin America

Balloon over Latin America

Balloon over the US

Balloon over the US

A second Chinese spy balloon was reported flying over Latin America, with many taking photos of a balloon hovering above Venezuela (left). The sighting comes after a surveillance balloon was spotted flying Montana (right) 

A social media user shared this photo of the suspected Chinese spy balloon allegedly flying over Costa Rica yesterday

A social media user shared this photo of the suspected Chinese spy balloon allegedly flying over Costa Rica yesterday

A social media user shared this photo of the suspected Chinese spy balloon allegedly flying over Costa Rica yesterday

The aircraft has also sparked concerns that China could have deliberately sent the balloon to spy on US bases.

Montana Senator Steve Daines warned that the balloon might’ve been targeting his state’s nuclear missile fields.

‘Montana plays a vital national security role by housing nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom AFB,’ Daines wrote to the Department of Defense. 

‘Given the increased hostility and destabilization around the globe aimed at the United States and our allies, I am alarmed by the fact that this spy balloon was able to infiltrate the airspace of our country and Montana.’

Blinken claims he told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the US was ‘an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have’. 

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: ‘In actuality, the US and China have never announced any visit. The US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that.’

According to Beijing, Wang said China ‘has always strictly followed international law, we do not accept any groundless speculation and hype. Faced with unexpected situations, both parties need to keep calm, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments and manage differences’.

The Chinese surveillance balloon is estimated to be about the width of three buses. The balloon is fitted with solar panels to power the on-board equipment, which could include long-range cameras and radar. It was traveling at an altitude of around 60,000ft on Friday afternoon, but the balloons can reach heights of around double that

CIA Director William Burns pictured on Thursday at Washington's Georgetown University, where he called China the 'biggest geopolitical challenge' facing the United States

CIA Director William Burns pictured on Thursday at Washington's Georgetown University, where he called China the 'biggest geopolitical challenge' facing the United States

CIA Director William Burns pictured on Thursday at Washington’s Georgetown University, where he called China the ‘biggest geopolitical challenge’ facing the United States

China’s foreign ministry said the balloon ‘seriously deviated from the scheduled route’ and expressed regret that ‘the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure’ and claimed it was used for scientific research ‘such as meteorology’ – something the Pentagon disputed.

The detection of the balloon, which triggered alarm in the White House and the Pentagon, adds to a series of recent controversies that have further strained the tense relationship between China and the United States. 

Beijing had urged calm while it established the ‘facts’ before a statement yesterday morning said the balloon was a weather research device that had ‘deviated far from its planned course’.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it regretted that the balloon had mistakenly entered US airspace. 

Republican leaders and former President Trump had led calls for the balloon to be shot down. 

F-22 fighter jets were mobilized to track the device as it hovered over Montana, which borders Canada, on Wednesday. 

Analysts said the balloon is about the size of ‘three buses’ and could be fitted with high-tech equipment including cameras, sensors and radar. 

The alleged Chinese spy balloon is pictured over Maracaibo, Venezuela yesterday

The alleged Chinese spy balloon is pictured over Maracaibo, Venezuela yesterday

The alleged Chinese spy balloon is pictured over Maracaibo, Venezuela yesterday

A model of the path the balloon caught hovering over the US is thought to have taken, created by meteorologist Dan Satterfield, showed it originated in central China

A model of the path the balloon caught hovering over the US is thought to have taken, created by meteorologist Dan Satterfield, showed it originated in central China

A model of the path the balloon caught hovering over the US is thought to have taken, created by meteorologist Dan Satterfield, showed it originated in central China

US officials had said that the balloon is large enough that destroying it would rain down debris, risking the safety of people on the ground. 

After it was spotted flying over, the balloon was tracked further south on Friday afternoon flying over Missouri. 

The Pentagon said the balloon was floating at around 60,000 feet on Friday afternoon

The Pentagon said the balloon was floating at around 60,000 feet on Friday afternoon

The Pentagon said the balloon was floating at around 60,000 feet on Friday afternoon

Images posted by the National Weather Service in Kansas City, MO, showed an unidentified balloon flying over the state which is believed to be the Chinese surveillance device. 

A report from the crew of a Cessna Citation private jet on Friday afternoon said they observed a ‘derelict balloon adrift’ while cruising at 43,000 feet near Kansas City.

They said the balloon was floating at around 50,000 feet, which could cause safety concerns among aviation officials.

Military and defense officials previously said the balloon was floating at around 60,000 feet and doesn’t pose a threat to civilians or civil aviation.

A Pentagon spokesman also noted the aircraft could remain aloft over the US for ‘a few days,’ extending uncertainty about where it will go. 

The news initially broke as CIA Director William Burns was speaking at an event at Washington’s Georgetown University, where he called China the ‘biggest geopolitical challenge’ facing the United States. 

Elaborating on China’s readiness for an invasion of Taiwan, Burns added: ‘Now, that does not mean that he’s decided to conduct an invasion in 2027, or any other year, but it’s a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition.

A high-altitude Chinese balloon that was spotted flying over Missouri and sensitive areas of Montana - where nuclear warheads are siloed - yesterday, prompting the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence

A high-altitude Chinese balloon that was spotted flying over Missouri and sensitive areas of Montana - where nuclear warheads are siloed - yesterday, prompting the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence

A high-altitude Chinese balloon that was spotted flying over Missouri and sensitive areas of Montana – where nuclear warheads are siloed – yesterday, prompting the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence

‘Our assessment at CIA is that I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan,’ he said, adding that the Chinese leader was likely ‘surprised and unsettled’ and trying to draw lessons from the ‘very poor performance’ of the Russian military and its weapons systems in Ukraine.

Russia and China signed a ‘no limits’ partnership last February shortly before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and their economic links have boomed as Russia’s connections with the West have shriveled.

The Russian invasion had fueled concerns in the West of China making a similar move on Taiwan, a democratic island Beijing says is its territory.

China has refrained from condemning Russia’s operation against Ukraine, but it has been careful not to provide the sort of direct material support which could provoke Western sanctions like those imposed on Moscow.

‘I think it’s a mistake to underestimate the mutual commitment to that partnership, but it’s not a friendship totally without limits,’ Burns said.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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