U.S. military shoots down suspected Chinese surveillance balloon2 min read
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media.
Chase Doak via Reuters
The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been transiting across the country for several days.
In a statement Saturday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said a U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the balloon at the direction of President Joe Biden. Lloyd said the balloon was being used by the People’s Republic of China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
Biden gave authorization on Wednesday to take down the balloon as soon as it could be done “without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Lloyd said.
“In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities,” he said in the statement.
TV footage shows the high-altitude balloon, which is estimated to be the size of three school busses, bursting in a small explosion before falling into the water. Officials will attempt to recover the debris, according to NBC News.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina and closed additional airspace on Saturday afternoon. The departures were paused “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” a representative told CNBC.
Biden broke his silence about the balloon for the first time Saturday, telling a group of reporters, “We’re going to take care of it.” Later that afternoon, he told reporters that he had instructed officials to “shoot it down” on Wednesday, but they wanted to wait until it was as safe as possible.
“They successfully took it down, and I want to complement our aviators who did it,” Biden said. “And we’ll have more to report on this a…
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