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Pentagon confirms suspected spy balloon over the U.S. 'right now'

Stevicus

Veteran Member
Premium Member
Pentagon confirms suspected Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. ‘right now’ - UPI.com

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the military has been tracking a high-altitude spy balloon over the United States.

"The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now," Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.

Ryder said that the U.S. government, including North American Aerospace Defense Command, continues to track and monitor the balloon, which is presumed to be from China.

"The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," Ryder said in the statement.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other top leaders recommended not to take "kinetic action" to shoot down the balloon "due to the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground," the official said.

The balloon was first spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday, after it passed over the Aleutian Islands and Canada before entering the airspace above Montana.

"Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective," the defense official said.

It sounds rather ominous - a Chinese surveillance balloon is floating above US soil right now. I wonder why they would send a balloon, though. It seems that if they wanted aerial photographs of US territory, there might be easier and less conspicuous ways of doing so.
 

The Hammer

Wyrd Wide Web
Premium Member
Wonderful.

And of course they want aerial photography.

That's how you mark targets (not that it means they will be attacked). More than likely just be a collection of "what ifs/just in cases."
 

Brickjectivity

Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
Staff member
Premium Member
A balloon is something you track but not something particularly special. It sounds more like something that a student would do. PRC already has spy satellites, as do we.
 

Twilight Hue

Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.
A balloon is something you track but not something particularly special. It sounds more like something that a student would do. PRC already has spy satellites, as do we.
Agree. With satellite surveillance already in existence, a balloon certainly seems like a political statement more than any real threat.

Still, it would be fun to just shoot it down unless of course it's in international airspace.
 

Twilight Hue

Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.
If we know it's there, I wonder why not just capture it?
Ruses.

I would like to personally volunteer to set up some nice photo opportunities for the peoples Ballon on strategic Intel.



Incidentally, why can't I order that on Amazon?
 

Subduction Zone

Veteran Member
If we know it's there, I wonder why not just capture it?
Pretty difficult at that altitude. It would be easy to shoot down, but if we could get a jet that high it would be rather difficult for a jet with a supersonic air speed to throw a net over a stationary balloon.
 

Valjean

Veteran Member
Premium Member
Pretty difficult at that altitude. It would be easy to shoot down, but if we could get a jet that high it would be rather difficult for a jet with a supersonic air speed to throw a net over a stationary balloon.
One bullet through the canopy and a slow gas leak would bring it to the ground. It could then be put on display in the Air and Space Museum.

Noöne seems particularly worried about it. Apparently there's not much useful intelligence it could gather that couldn't be obtained from the ground or from satellite surveillance.
 

Debater Slayer

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
Pentagon confirms suspected Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. ‘right now’ - UPI.com







It sounds rather ominous - a Chinese surveillance balloon is floating above US soil right now. I wonder why they would send a balloon, though. It seems that if they wanted aerial photographs of US territory, there might be easier and less conspicuous ways of doing so.

In this day and age when there are a myriad ways to obtain information, does a technological and military superpower really need a blatantly visible balloon for espionage? I wonder whether this is an intentionally visible stunt. I'm not sure what the purpose would be, though.
 

Revoltingest

Pragmatic Libertarian
Premium Member
Breaking news!
The balloon was just an errant Amish balloon.
Those have become popular at barn raisings,
after their introduction a couple years ago.
 

Stevicus

Veteran Member
Premium Member
A Balloon Is Spying on the U.S. From the Sky. Here’s Why China May Be Using Old-Fashioned Surveillance Technology When Satellites Exist (msn.com)

How unusual are spy balloons?
This isn’t the first time in the past year that a balloon from China has been spotted by foreign security officials.

After the sighting this week, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement: “Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years.”

Last February, authorities in Taiwan said they discovered weather balloons deployed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army floating above the self-governing island that China claims as its territory. While some speculated the balloons could be used for surveillance, officials in Taipei accepted that they were meant for meteorological purposes only.

China has been developing new balloon surveillance technology for years, but it’s not the only country to do so.

Why use balloons when satellites exist?
China has an extensive satellite network. In a Nov. 2022 report, the Defense Department said China’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance-capable (ISR) satellite fleet had more than 260 systems, second only to the U.S., as of the end of 2021. A senior defense official noted on Thursday that, for China, the balloon flying over Montana “has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective.”

Yet even with satellite technology surpassing some abilities of balloons, James Char, a research fellow with the China Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, tells TIME that spy balloons have some operational advantages. For example, balloons can weather extreme conditions, he says, and are less expensive to deploy and operate compared to satellites. Chinese Academy of Science scholars found in 2020 that, despite harsh environments at more than 68,000 feet above ground, “the high-altitude balloon has long endurance time, which can achieve sustained and wider coverage for regional observation and detection.”

“It is harder to be spotted by radar as well, given the fact that they’re simpler in terms of technology,” Char adds. U.S. officials admitted the balloon flying over North America this week was first spotted by civilians on a plane.

High-altitude balloons can also be “trucks for any number of platforms, whether it be communication and data link nodes, ISR, tracking air and missile threats — and without the predictable orbits of satellites,” Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Politico.

And though the technology is old, says Bec Shrimpton, director at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, balloons can complement surveillance technology in orbit, while they can be built and deployed at a fraction of the cost. According to a 2020 analysis in defense publication Armada International, the development, launch, operation, and insurance of a single satellite can cost up to $300 million.

Another potential edge for balloons, Shrimpton tells TIME, is how unlikely defense officials may have been prepared for it to be used, especially by China. “It’s probably better because it’s unexpected,” she says. “It’s not that we haven’t seen this before, but we are expecting far more from Chinese surveillance efforts.”

So, I guess balloons are cheaper.
 

Revoltingest

Pragmatic Libertarian
Premium Member
I've been reading that the balloon might be
research on the feasibility of using it as a
delivery mechanism for a nuclear EMP strike.
A balloon over 100K feet would be difficult
to detect, & could wipe out electrical &
electronic devices over a large area.
Is this realistic?
I don't know.
 

Watchmen

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Balloons are making a comeback in the world of espionage. They can do things satellites cannot and are more difficult to detect than drones and aircraft.
 

Clizby Wampuscat

Well-Known Member
No matter if this is nefarious or not it should not be allowed to fly over the US. Unless there is a reason not to disable it we should. If there is they should give us the reason. Our own government said it was a surveillance balloon. Afraid of people on the ground getting hurt is a ridiculous reason. They said they have been tracking it for days over Alaska. They should have done something then. Montana is not a heavily populated state either.
 

Stevicus

Veteran Member
Premium Member
Blinken cancels China trip as Beijing offers excuse for balloon over Montana - UPI.com

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- China's Foreign Ministry said Friday that the Chinese balloon seen flying over Montana is a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that deviated from its planned course.

The excuse didn't prevent U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken from later Friday announcing that, in response to the incident, he was postponing his planned trip to China.

So, the Chinese are saying it's a weather balloon which went off course, but it seems the U.S. government isn't buying it.

Calling the balloon's presence "unacceptable," Blinken said, "We are convinced this is a Chinese surveillance balloon."

China, however, explained it differently.

"The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course," the Chinese statement said. "The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

China's Foreign Ministry statement said China will "continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation."

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the U.S. military has been tracking the "high altitude surveillance balloon" flying over the continental United States.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said earlier that she hoped the two nations would respond to the incident "in a cool-headed and prudent manner."

"China is a responsible country and we always act in accordance with international law. We have no intention to violate the territory or airspace of any sovereign country," she said.

The Chinese balloon was first seen flying over Billings, Montana, Wednesday. Despite speculation that it is a spy balloon, a senior U.S. defense official said it has limited intelligence collection value.

So, it was just some kind of accident, the Chinese are saying. Maybe it was. In any case, there doesn't seem to much the U.S. can do about it except either shoot it down or let it fly away.
 

Stevicus

Veteran Member
Premium Member
I also noticed that they called it an "airship" and not a "balloon."

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