The US military has announced that they have recovered critical electronics from the Chinese spy balloon shot down by a US fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.
Among the fragments recovered from the plane are key sensors believed to be used for intelligence gathering, the U.S. Army’s Northern Command said Monday.
The revelation comes less than a week after Navy sailors were photographed pulling parts of a Chinese spy balloon from the frigid waters of the Atlantic — with the Pentagon releasing sensational photos of the retrieval operation.
The Chinese balloon, which Beijing denies was a spy craft, flew over the United States and Canada for a week before being shot down on the orders of US President Biden — a decision that officials reportedly spent days arguing over, fearing the already weak relationship between the two countries.
The spy balloon was the first of four airborne targets to be shot down by the US in eight days.
Recovered fragments from the balloon shot down on Feb. 4 contain key sensors believed to be used for intelligence gathering, the U.S. Army’s Northern Command said.
The Pentagon has released photos showing the Navy retrieving a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean
Ultimately, the episode created unavoidable tensions between Washington and Beijing, and led to a sprawling U.S. military force searching U.S. skies for other objects of interest — leading to an unprecedented shooting down of three suspected spy craft. between Friday and Sunday.
On Monday, the U.S. Army’s Northern Command, the agency charged with defending the U.S. homeland, revealed in a statement that the debris from the first craft contained sensors likely used for intelligence gathering.
“Crews were able to recover significant debris from the site, including all identified priority sensor and electronics components, as well as large parts of the structure,” the statement said.
While much about the more recent unmanned aerial vehicle remains unknown, officials this week said they continue to search for debris.
On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sought to allay Americans’ fears regarding the possible risks posed by the three other unidentified objects.
“I want to reassure the Americans that these objects do not pose a military threat to anyone on the ground,” Austin told reporters as he landed in Brussels for a NATO meeting.
“However, they do pose a risk to civil aviation and may pose a threat to intelligence gathering.”
The US military has said targeting the latest objects has been more difficult than shooting down the Chinese spy balloon, given its smaller size and lack of a traditional radar signature.
The suspected spy balloon was the first of four airborne objects shot down by the US in eight days
An example of the difficulty is that the downing of an unidentified object on Sunday by an F-16 fighter jet fired two sidewinder missiles – after one of them failed to bring down the target, a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Austin said the US military has not yet recovered debris from the three most recent objects shot down, one of which fell into ice and snow off the coast of Alaska. Another shooting occurred over Yukon territory in Canada.
US officials have so far shied away from saying the incidents are linked.
On Monday, however, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that the four aerial targets shot down in recent days are somehow connected, but he did not elaborate on why his agency believes they are.
“There’s clearly a pattern to it, the fact that we’re seeing this to a significant degree over the past week is cause for interest and attention,” Trudeau told reporters at a news conference not far from where the plane was shot down. in Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon.
Search and recovery efforts for the first vessel, shot down Feb. 4 off the coast of South Carolina, had to be halted late last week due to bad weather over the frigid Atlantic
The search at Myrtle Beach began not long after the vessel’s debris hit the water on Feb. 4. The balloon will be pulled out of the water by sailors on February 5.
The downing of the first balloon, meanwhile, created waves both figuratively and literally through the American public, at the end of a week in which the craft was seen multiple times during its journey across the mainland US.
Most of the unrest took place behind closed doors as Biden and other White House officials engaged in heated talks over whether or not to shoot down the suspected surveillance craft, which Beijing said was designed for “meteorological purposes.”
The public quickly became aware of the incident – as well as the possible implications it had regarding the increasingly stormy situation relationship between the US and China.
To make matters worse, the Pentagon later confirmed that another suspected “Chinese surveillance balloon” had been spotted over Latin America, near the Colombian port city of Cartagena, and was also under investigation.
General Glen VanHerck, the head of US Northern Command, said last week that the Defense Department “did not detect” the balloons sighted after the one near South Carolina, saying the intelligence community was instead informed. had been brought through other means of information gathering. .
Defense officials subsequently revealed that there had been five more suspected spy balloon sightings during Trump’s presidency, seemingly swept under the rug to keep up the facade of a favorable relationship between the two countries.
Adding to the unrest is that several similar balloons were also recently spotted at at least two highly sensitive military sites in Virginia and California, but were ignored as UFOs by the intelligence community at the time.
Navy and Coast Guard officials descended on a stretch of ocean to look for the fallen balloon
The episode inevitably strained ties between Washington and Beijing, and sparked a sprawling US military battle across US airspace searching for other objects of interest — leading to an unprecedented shooting down of three suspected spy craft between Friday and Sunday.
The balloon’s downing has created waves both figuratively and literally this weekend, coming at the end of a week in which the craft was spotted multiple times on its journey across the mainland US, with another balloon over Latin America
China has not commented on those sightings, but insists the craft shot down near South Carolina was a civilian balloon used for meteorological research.
However, officials have declined to say which government agency or company the balloon belongs to.
On Monday, the U.S. military made a new move in recovering wreckage from the first plane, after pausing the effort last week due to bad weather and rough seas.
That said, the Navy and Coast Guard resumed the retrieval mission this week and successfully recovered a significant portion of the balloon’s payload from the ocean floor on Monday, defense officials confirmed Monday.
The cargo was about 30 feet (9 m) long and reportedly contained much of the craft’s high-tech equipment and several surveillance antennas.
Regarding the object shot down over Canada, officials said the Canadian government has since taken the helm of that operation, but has yet to locate the debris.
The search for the object shot down over Michigan on Sunday also continues, the official said, in a joint effort between the US Coast Guard and Canadian authorities.
Officials said officials already have a good idea of where the plane may have landed and are confident the wreckage will be recovered.
All incidents are currently under investigation.