Yesterday afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. F-22 fighter aircraft, assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace.
The balloon, which the Pentagon says 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. On Wednesday, President 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. After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.
In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over U.S. territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities. This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. The Pentagon has thanked Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America.
The Defense Department said its deliberate and lawful action to take down the balloon demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty.
U.S. Navy divers are working to recover the wreckage of the balloon.
The Defense Department had been tracking the balloon for some time and said it “had custody of it the entire time it has been over U.S. airspace”. Officials became concerned as it appeared to be loitering for longer periods and over sensitive areas. On Friday it was spotted flying over the center of the United States and the Pentagon said a second balloon, which it also deemed to be a Chinese surveillance balloon, had been sighted over Latin America.