The U.S. military operation to shoot down a Chinese “spy balloon” that had been hovering over U.S. airspace came at a tense moment for the two superpowers, whose relations have been rocky for years.
but how us successfully shoot it down with a missile – What information are they now hoping to find in the wreckage?
A rapid underwater search is underway to find the remains of the balloon, which the U.S. believes will show that the Chinese are lying about their purpose in U.S. airspace.
China It has previously said it was being used for meteorological research and veered off course due to strong winds, and that it was unable to correct itself due to limited “self-steering capabilities”.
However, the Pentagon said the balloon carrying sensors and surveillance equipment was steerable, and suggested it could change course in the event of an accident. hang out sensitive areas or Montana Where the nuclear warheads are stored.
The balloon was then seen over Kansas City and later York County, and the Sheriff’s Department had to warn the public not to shoot it with its own guns: “Your rifle rounds won’t reach it. Take charge. Things that go up will come down, including you.” bullets.”
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The fact that the U.S. military was able to bring down the balloon with a single missile is significant.
Missiles usually go right through the balloons because they’re not strong enough to launch them.
In 1998, British, Canadian, and American forces failed to bring down an actual rogue weather balloon over the North Pole.
The Canadian Air Force pumped over a thousand 20mm rounds into it and it still didn’t deflate.
“They’re designed to hit something solid,” said Sky’s defense and security analyst Professor Michael Clarke.
“Getting it done with a missile shows a certain amount of confidence and ingenuity.”
The missile could have been fused and detonated exactly three seconds after launch, or it could have been detonated by higher air pressure. Either way, this isn’t a case of “trial and error”.
Prof Clark said F-15 Eagle jets from Massachusetts were accompanied by F-22 Raptors during military operations, which could deter “nosy” countries who want to “look”.
“It’s not out of the question that the Russians, the Chinese, or others send out a few planes to look around and see what’s going on.”
A second balloon has now been spotted, this time over Latin America, the Pentagon said.
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Professor Clark said it was a relic of Cold War espionage and a “false stunt”.
He said it was likely “someone in Beijing thought it was a good idea” in retaliation for the US announcement that it would reopen military bases in China. the Philippines.
He said the move was intended to “insult Americans.”
America is really insulted Secretary of State Anthony Blinken abruptly cancels a highly anticipated trip to Beijing.
“They’ve lost control of the problem because they’re now completely wrong,” Professor Clark said.
“They violated the airspace, it was shot down, the surveillance equipment will be recovered, I’m sure it will be proven to be surveillance equipment, so they will be proven to have been lying.
“And they’ve lost the Blinken visit – for the time being. The Blinken visit will go on, but it could be months or more away.
“They’re wrong. Americans can squeeze as much as they want.”
But this is not the first time a Chinese spy balloon has entered foreign airspace — there have been three similar incidents during the Trump administration, when media attention was relatively low.
China could have remotely ‘cleared’ spy balloons
Professor Clark said it was unlikely the US was concerned about what intelligence the balloons were gathering.
“The missile range in Montana is a sensitive facility, and there are a lot of military installations there,” he said.
“But there’s nothing there that you can’t get from satellites. While they’re sensitive, there’s nothing new happening there.”
The US planes started circling the balloons as soon as they appeared and may have been using military equipment “to either download whatever the Chinese have or jam it in some way”.
“You have an aircraft hovering 10,000 feet below the balloon — you can jam all the signals it’s sending or receiving, or simply suck up any signals above it,” he added.
“The unwritten story of this little fiasco – [which] Coming out in the next few months – [is] Electronic warfare as a balloon floats over Montana. “
But he said China would likely wipe the spy balloon clean so the U.S. might not recover much software from the wreckage.
Instead, the hardware “will prove that the Chinese used surveillance equipment, listening equipment, communication signals, intelligence equipment. They will be able to prove that this is clearly not a weather balloon”.
Finding these devices would show that “the Chinese have been lying”.
What’s happening now?
With President Joe Biden delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he will likely want to retrieve the balloon in time for him to mention the discovery.
Mr. Biden has so far been relatively silent on the operation, and made only brief statements on the issue during his arrival at Camp David.
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t use this on Tuesday to show what kind of president he is,” Professor Clarke said.
“He wasn’t outgoing, he wasn’t hysterical, he just got the job done.”