For beach-walking South Carolinians, it’s going to be a Saturday afternoon spectacle.
Two American fighter jets armed with air-to-air missiles soared above them. Then launch.
From 58,000 feet, One of the two jets fired a Sidewinder short-range missile. It was 2.39pm ET.
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, witnesses at the scene captured a moment that rocked U.S.-China relations.
400 miles north of the Pentagon in Virginia, military commanders oversee a complex operation.
The impact of the missiles is evident from amateur photos taken on the beach. At 11 miles above, the hit was correct.
The balloon was a point in the sky that caused days of intrigue, entertainment, and diplomatic drama, only to deflate seconds later.
The payload below it fell rapidly, falling more than 60,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean below.
In Beijing, it was almost 4:00 am. Officials there would know immediately that their “weather balloon” had been shot down. No doubt they’ve been watching (if not controlling) its every move.
But hours later, their foreign office issued the expected angry statement “Strong dissatisfaction and protest Oppose the use of force by the United States to attack civilian drones.”
As the sun rises over Beijing, it is disappearing on the east coast of the United States. But six miles off the coast of South Carolina, a fleet of ships had begun to arrive.
In an area of about seven miles, ships and experts from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and FBI began collecting debris.
In the coming days, divers and unmanned submarines will be combing the seabed in shallow waters a little over 40 feet. The weather is fine for the next few days, but it’s still a tricky operation.
It takes at least a day or two for specialized recovery boats to be in place to lift larger wrecks out of the water.
The goal is to extract a potential goldmine of information and data from the shards. Investigators will likely try to reconstruct the balloon’s payload and learn from it.
Among the things they will be interested in finding out: Is there any American technology in the Chinese equipment?U.S. officials have long suspected China or commercial and technological theft.
But aside from the spectacle on Carolina Beach, and the gags on cable news channel Balloon Watch, there’s no question that this is a deadly serious moment.
There is no more important geopolitical relationship than China and China U.S..
It’s a relationship that affects us all, and it went badly before the strange white blob appeared in the Montana sky.