US Navy releases image of debris of the alleged Chinese spy balloon
The U.S. Navy has released images of the debris of the alleged Chinese spy balloon on the Facebook page of the Fleet Forces Command, two days after the balloon was shot down off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The news of the balloon became public when it was spotted over the skies of Montana, where the U.S. military has three siloes of its nuclear missiles. The U.S. military had then said that it was "very confident" that the balloon belonged to the People's Republic of China and was used for surveillance purposes, a charge that the latter has denied.
Recovering the debris of the balloon
Having assessed that the balloon did not pose an immediate threat, the U.S. military allowed it to travel over the mainland U.S. and then shot it down as it crossed into the territorial waters. This made the recovery difficult since the debris was scattered over an area of seven miles (11 km) in the Atlantic Ocean.
The U.S. Navy then pressed two naval ships into action and unmanned underwater vehicles as part of the search effort for the debris. Experts believe that analysis of the wreckage could provide the U.S. with further details of the kind of surveillance equipment carried onboard and how it transmitted the information. However, there were also fears that the equipment could be laden with explosives that could harm the U.S. personnel that engage with it.
The balloon was described as being 200 feet (60 m) tall, and its payload was estimated to be thousands of pounds in weight, comparable to a regional airliner, the BBC said in its report. For its recovery, the U.S. Navy also deployed a ship equipped with a huge crane. However, images showed personnel recovering the balloon by hand on a smaller boat.
The discovery of the balloon in the U.S. skies, which allegedly went unnoticed on earlier occasions, has now sparked a diplomatic row between the U.S. and the Chinese. While China is adamant that the balloon has a civilian function and entered U.S. airspace "by accident," the matters have now been complicated after the spotting of another balloon over Latin America.
Unnamed officials from the U.S. intelligence agencies have now told The Washington Post that these balloons are part of a vast aerial surveillance program of the Chinese that has been deployed over strategically important countries such as Japan, India, Taiwan, and the Philippines in the past.