Listen to this article Report: Spy Balloon Sent Data to China in Real Time
US media reports state that a Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US earlier this year gathered intelligence from military bases for several days before a US fighter jet shot it down. NBC News, citing US officials, stated that the balloon transmitted data to Beijing in real-time. The craft picked up electronic signals, rather than taking pictures. The incident triggered a diplomatic row and led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to China.
The Balloon’s Flight Path
The balloon was tracked over Alaska and Canada before re-entering American airspace in early February. A public acknowledgement that the balloon was floating over the continental US set off days of tracking, sky watching, and speculation. A US fighter jet shot down the craft, which was approximately 200ft (60m) tall, off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.
Chinese officials claimed that the balloon was a civilian weather balloon and that the US overreacted by shooting it down. However, US officials stated that China was able to control the balloon so that it could make multiple passes over military bases, sometimes flying in a figure-eight loop.
The Balloon’s Intelligence-Gathering Capabilities
US officials also stated that the Chinese balloon was able to gather intelligence from military bases for several days before being shot down. The craft collected electronic signals rather than taking pictures, according to one official quoted by NBC News. Chinese officials have not commented on the claims.
In response to the balloon incident, the US stated that it had limited the balloon’s intelligence-gathering capabilities. A spokesperson for the White House did not confirm the report, but said that the US had managed to limit the balloon’s abilities. After the destruction of the balloon, US fighter jets shot down several other balloons suspected to have originated from China.
China’s Balloon Fleet
The US defense department claims that China operates a fleet of balloons around the world. The balloons are designed to collect intelligence and can remain aloft for extended periods. The US and other countries have expressed concerns over China’s growing military capabilities and increasing presence in the South China Sea.
The incident involving the Chinese balloon that flew over the US earlier this year highlights the growing tensions between the two countries. China claims that the balloon was a civilian weather balloon, but US officials assert that it was a military craft that gathered intelligence from military bases. The incident has raised concerns over China’s growing military capabilities and increasing presence in the South China Sea. The US and other countries will likely continue to monitor China’s activities closely in the coming years.Read more: Report: Spy Balloon Sent Data to China in Real Time