Mil Intelligence US alleges Chinese spy balloon flew over sensitive military sites

Bogeyman 

Experienced member
Professional
Messages
8,259
Reactions
59 29,020
Website
twitter.com
Nation of residence
Turkey
Nation of origin
Turkey
2023-02-03T014624Z_1307592946_RC2I2Z9AKFMQ_RTRMADP_3_USA-CHINA-SPY.jpg



The Pentagon says it is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over United States’ airspace, reviving tensions between the two powers just days before the top US diplomat’s visit to Beijing.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters on Friday.

“The balloon is currently travelling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

US officials claimed the balloon was flying over sensitive sites to collect information. There are reports military leaders decided against shooting it down over the state of Montana because of the risk of falling debris.

Montana is home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base, where there are some 150 silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the nuclear-capable Minuteman III.

The US took “custody” of the balloon when it entered its airspace and had observed it with piloted US military aircraft, an official told Pentagon reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity.


The Pentagon spokesperson said similar surveillance activity has been seen in the past few years, adding the US had taken steps to ensure the balloon did not collect sensitive information.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, while visiting the Philippines, convened a meeting of senior Pentagon officials on Wednesday to discuss the incident.

Republican US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would request a “Gang of Eight” briefing, referring to a classified national security briefing for congressional leaders, and Republican and Democratic leaders, of the intelligence committees.

The defence official said the US has “engaged” Chinese officials through multiple channels and communicated the seriousness of the matter.

The Chinese foreign ministry in its first reaction said it was working to verify the facts around US claims that Beijing flew a spy balloon over its territory, warning against “hype” over the issue.

“Verification is under way” over the reports, foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing, adding that “until the facts are clear, making conjectures and hyping up the issue will not help to properly resolve it”.

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said some Chinese experts in their commentary on state media doubted Beijing was floating a surveillance balloon, essentially calling it a “hot air” balloon.


“We know that China and US spy on each other using satellites. Over the past years, China has expanded its satellite arsenal from 250 to 500. And experts have been saying that it’s unlikely that this surveillance balloon will be able to glean any information that satellites do not already know about.”

Purpose unclear​

Glenn Carle, a national security expert, told Al Jazeera that the balloon flight was curious.

“They have satellites that are sophisticated and it’s not clear to me what intelligence advantage they could gain by doing this,” said Carle, former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats at the CIA. “Perhaps it fits in with the ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy that China has pursued: being aggressive in pursuit of its interests until there is a strong pushback.”

The Pentagon announcement comes days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China. It is not clear if this will affect his travel plans, which the State Department has not formally announced.

Al Jazeera’s Yu said the timeliness of the balloon being found is surprising given that Blinken is scheduled to visit China for high-level talks in a few days.


“These are the most important meetings we have had with US officials since the beginning of the pandemic. And it comes amid China showing conciliatory tones towards the US. The talks are supposed to be a re-setting of very tense ties.”

The US is expanding its military presence in Asia in a string of moves aimed at countering Beijing and reassuring Indo-Pacific allies it will stand with them against threats from China and North Korea. On Thursday, Austin announced an expansion of military cooperation with the Philippines, a longtime US ally in Southeast Asia.

The senior defence official said the US had mobilised fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if ordered by the White House.

The Pentagon ultimately recommended against such action, noting that even though the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough to potentially put people at risk.

The official said the current flight path would carry the balloon over several sensitive sites but did not give details.

Another US official said the “spycraft” had been tracked near the Aleutian Islands and Canada before entering the US.

In a statement later, Canada’s Ministry of National Defence confirmed that a high-altitude surveillance balloon had been detected and its movements were being “actively tracked” by NORAD, a binational military command with the US.


“Canadians are safe and Canada is taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident,” the statement said.

The US official would not specify the size of the balloon but said it was large enough that, despite its high altitude, commercial pilots could see it.

On social media, people near Billings shared photos of pale, round objects high in the sky that were separate from the Moon. The Pentagon provided no visuals.

Spy balloons have flown over the US several times in recent years but this balloon appeared to be lingering longer than in previous instances, the official noted.

Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said such balloons were seen as a low-cost method of gathering intelligence and had been widely used by the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“The timing of this incident is curious, coming only days before Secretary Blinken’s planned travel to Beijing,” he said.

 

Khagan1923

Contributor
Messages
893
Reactions
12 3,850
Nation of residence
Germany
Nation of origin
Turkey
China humiliated the biggest armed forces in the world with one balloon. I'm sure we will soon get dozens of articles by pentagon connected "journalists" how this is nothing to be bothered about and actually how in reality the US didn't get humiliated.
 

Old Codger

Active member
Messages
104
Reactions
28
Nation of residence
Australia
Nation of origin
Australia
At 60,000 feet plus it s a BIG job getting a missile etc that high.

The target is just a bit of fabric and/or plastic, and a bullet hole will take far too long to leak the gas. I am fairly sure the balloon is unpowered and subject to winds and stratopheric conditions to progress. It will go where nature takes it.

I doubt that they can do much about it.

OC

an afterthought,

Modern spy satellites, of which they all have, are amazing in the detail they can produce of something only inches across. I will bet China already knows the exact details of all silo based ICBMs etc.
Gloating about "humiliation" is a childish response.
 
Last edited:

Rooxbar

Contributor
Think Tank Analyst
Messages
463
Reactions
41 1,487
Nation of residence
Nethelands
Nation of origin
Turkey

They're making a mountain out of a molehill with the media hype machine as always; these kind of news most of the time are kept secret, unless state department wants it out. I bet I could find news stories about American spy balloons in China if I knew mandarin.
 

Old Codger

Active member
Messages
104
Reactions
28
Nation of residence
Australia
Nation of origin
Australia
The US "humiliation" is now over, the thing has been downed by the humiliated USAF.

Well done considering the type of target and the situation.

I wonder if we will find out just what the gear was in/on it?

OC
 

Heartbang

Experienced member
Messages
2,339
Reactions
7 3,542
Nation of residence
Turkey
Nation of origin
Turkey
Why using ballons where you have satellites ?

Just gonna attach this here, strongly recommend you reading it
 

Anastasius

Contributor
Moderator
Azerbaijan Moderator
Messages
1,329
Reactions
3 2,925
Nation of residence
United States of America
Nation of origin
Azerbaijan
Oh goody, we finally put it down after letting it hover in US airspace for what, 2 days?

Just gonna attach this here, strongly recommend you reading it
I'm not sure how seriously I can take a guy claiming that these balloons are difficult to spot when people on the ground could literally see it.
 

Heartbang

Experienced member
Messages
2,339
Reactions
7 3,542
Nation of residence
Turkey
Nation of origin
Turkey
Oh goody, we finally put it down after letting it hover in US airspace for what, 2 days?

I'm not sure how seriously I can take a guy claiming that these balloons are difficult to spot when people on the ground could literally see it.
He might be referring to spotting it with radar.
 

Chocopie

Contributor
South Korea Correspondent
Messages
527
Reactions
32 1,915
Nation of residence
Germany
Nation of origin
South Korea
Geez, the Chinese 🤡 🤡 🤡 , should‘ve painted the balloon red and disguised it with a McDonald‘s-logo 🇨🇳

Interested, how the US will retaliate in PRC airspace. Good old Cold War times coming back!
 

Old Codger

Active member
Messages
104
Reactions
28
Nation of residence
Australia
Nation of origin
Australia
"Interested, how the US will retaliate in PRC airspace. Good old Cold War times coming back!"


Weather patterns travel from West to East, so a US balloon is a non starter. Unless it is launched from Europe of course.

When the US finally wakes up, they will win a new Cold War just like they won the last one.

OC
 

Follow us on social media

Top Bottom