The Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina is currently being recovered by US Navy divers.
The high-altitude balloon, which was about the size of three buses, was destroyed by an air-to-air missile called a Sidewinder that was fired from an F-22 jet fighter. At 14:39 EST (19:39 GMT), it came down six nautical miles off the US shore.
US TV networks captured the missile’s impact and the enormous white object’s subsequent descent to the water after a brief explosion.
They weren’t expecting the debris to drop in such shallow water, but it did, and it’s spread out over seven miles (11km).
Explaining the decision to shoot the balloon down, a US defence official said in a statement, that “while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC [China] surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of US territory was of intelligence value to us.”
China’s foreign ministry protested “the US’s use of force to target civilian unmanned aircraft” with “strong discontent.”
The Chinese government vowed to “resolutely preserve” the rights and interests of the firm that operates the balloon in a written statement, adding that it had the right to “make further responses if necessary.”
The US thinks the balloon was keeping an eye on critical military locations, and senior military officials think the hunt for debris will be relatively swift so that experts can start examining the balloon’s technology.
The incident involving the balloon sparked a diplomatic crisis, leading US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his weekend trip to China in response to the “irresponsible act.”
The Chinese government argued that it was a meteorological ship that got lost rather than being employed for espionage.
On Sunday, February 5, former US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen expressed his suspicion that the Chinese military may have deliberately launched the balloon to obstruct Mr. Blinken’s visit to China. The first high-level US-China summit there in years would have taken place during his visit.
Mullen denied China’s claim that it might have deviated from its trajectory, claiming that it could be maneuvered since “it has propellers on it.”
“This did not happen by chance. This was planned. It was sage advice, “Added he.
When the plan to bring down the balloon was first approved by Biden on Wednesday, he chose to wait until it was over water in order to avoid endangering anyone on the ground.
The event has worsened tensions between the US and China, according to the Pentagon, which also called it a “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty.