Pentagon confirms Chinese surveillance balloon did not gather data over US soil

The statement followed the analysis of the balloon wreckage by federal agencies.
Ameya Paleja
Image of the balloon captured over Myrtle Beach shortly before it was shot down
Image of the balloon captured over Myrtle Beach shortly before it was shot down

Russotp/Wikimedia Commons 

The Chinese surveillance balloon shot down by a US fighter aircraft over the Atlantic earlier this year did not collect any information while flying over the country, Pentagon confirmed on Thursday. The statement comes after federal agencies analyzed the wreckage of the balloon.

On January 28, a surveillance balloon reportedly entered US airspace over Alaska and flew over sensitive military assets such as the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana which houses nuclear weapons.

Upon monitoring the situation, the White House confirmed that the balloon had Chinese origins and ordered it to be shot down once it flew off the coast of South Carolina. The entire episode further escalated tensions between the two nations and delayed a planned trip by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Beijing.

Is China a habitual offender?

In the wake of the balloon being spotted over the US mainland, further reports of China using similar technology to invade Japanese and Taiwanese airspace have also emerged. Incidents of China using such technology date back to 2021 leading to the assumption that China has deployed a global surveillance program using this technology.

On its part though, China declined that the balloon was intended to carry out any surveillance activity. Instead, it was a weather balloon meant for research activities and had strayed off course. The Chinese government had then called the US action to shoot down the balloon "excessive".

The bad blood between the two nations over the episode still persists - US President Joe Biden claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping was very "upset" since the latter did not know where it was before the US shot it down, CNN reported. Biden called the episode an "embarrassment" for the Chinese President.

The balloon contained US and Chinese parts

A recent report has claimed that the balloon contained some off-the-shelf components available in the US as well as some specialized sensors built in China. The equipment was built to collect photo and videographic information and also be able to transmit it back to China.

Pentagon confirms Chinese surveillance balloon did not gather data over US soil
View of the balloon from the fighter jet before it was shot down

The report published by the Wall Street Journal flies in the face of Chinese claims that the balloon was meant for scientific observation. Additionally, it clearly showed the use of readily available and sophisticated equipment to conduct specialized observations. The balloon could also be remotely maneuvered in a figure-eight pattern, confirming the intentions behind its presence in the US airspace.

The findings have come after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies completed their analysis of the wreckage recovered from the sea. The Pentagon has, however, added that the balloon was not successful in transmitting any data captured over the US mainland.

The defense department has attributed this to the countermeasures taken by the military when the balloon was transiting over the US. The WSJ report stated that electronic warfare interventions taken by the US or perhaps a malfunction onboard the balloon prevented any data from being transmitted.

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