Efforts Underway To Study Chinese Surveillance Balloon After Downed
UNITED STATES - After the United States Air Force carried out the operation to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon, efforts are underway to study and scrutinize both the balloon and its payload.
Senior Defense official told reporters that waiting to shoot it down has given the US the opportunity to "study and scrutinize" both the balloon and its payload (equipment).
While the Defense official said that studying the balloon and its contents was not the primary reason for waiting to shoot it down, they did say that it was an "added benefit" of waiting until it was over the water.
"We have learned technical things about this balloon and its surveillance capabilities. And I suspect, if we are successful in recovering aspects of the debris, we will learn even more," the official said.
Before the balloon was shot out of the sky, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for airports in the following location in North and South Carolina: Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and Wilmington in North Carolina.
The Federal Aviation Administration also restricted airspace near Myrtle Beach in order to "support the Defense Department in a national security effort".
The United States Air Force then deployed an advanced F-22 fighter jet from the Langley Air Force Base located in Virginia and fired one missile at the Chinese surveillance balloon at approximately 2:39 p.m. Eastern time Saturday night, according to a senior US official who briefed reporters.
The Department of Defense released a statement that said, "An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon"
The statement added, "The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt".
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard had assets standing by in order to recover the balloon and its payload so that they could be recovered quickly, according to a statement reportedly made by a Defense official to CNN before the operation was carried out.
The senior military official who spoke to reporters Saturday said, "The debris is in 47 feet of water, primarily -- the recovery, that will make it fairly easy".
They added, "Actually, we planned for much deeper water. So as far as the specific timeline to recovery, I can't give you that right now".
Two people who were reportedly briefed on the matter said that the FBI had plans to send the balloon and its payload to an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia so that it can be analyzed by the FBI and intelligence agencies.
A senior Defense official said that the Pentagon is undergoing a "collaborative effort" with the FBI and "counterintelligence authorities" in order to categorize and assess the platform.
The DoD statement cited Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III as saying, "Long before the shoot down, U.S. officials took steps to protect against the balloon's collection of sensitive information, mitigating its intelligence value to the Chinese".
It also said the recovery of the balloon will enable U.S. analysts to examine sensitive Chinese equipment.
"I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon's collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us."
"I can't go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable."
The U.S. State Department said that the balloon being in US airspace was "a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable that this has occurred".
A statement made by U.S. President Joe Biden said, "On Wednesday, when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down, on Wednesday, as soon as possible".
Biden added, "They decided — without doing damage to anyone on — on the ground. They decided that the best time to do that was as it got over water, outside — within our — within the 12-mile limit".
"They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it. And we’ll have more to report on this a little later".
In a statement on Saturday Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters".
The statement added, “On Wednesday, President [Joe] Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path".
China's Response To The Shoot-Down
China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to the shoot-down of the balloon that said, "The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure, which was completely accidental. China clearly requires the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner".
The Chinese statement continued by saying, "A spokesman for the US Department of Defense also stated that the balloon will not pose a military or personal threat to ground personnel. Under such circumstances, the U.S. insists on using force, obviously overreacting and seriously violating international practice. China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of relevant companies, while reserving the right to make further necessary reactions".
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