A top Pentagon official said the Chinese was 200-feet tall and had a payload the size of a jetliner
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, divulged new details about the downed balloon on a call with reporters Monday
The delay ‘afforded us a terrific opportunity to gain a better understanding, to study the capabilities of this balloon’ said the general
As Navy divers work to recover debris from the downed Chinese spy balloon, a top general said Monday that the U.S. is investigating whether it was carrying explosives, describing it as 200-feet tall, weighing thousands of pounds and with a payload the size of a jetliner.
‘So, I can’t confirm whether it had explosives or not. Anytime you down something like this, we make an assumption that that potential exists,’ said Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, on a briefing call with reporters.
‘We did not associate the potential of having explosives with a threat to dropping weapons, those kinds of things, but out of a precaution, abundance of safety for not only our military people and the public, we have to make assumptions such as that.’
Questions remain over purpose of balloon spotted above ballistic missile sites in Montana
Mr Kim said balloon looked like a normal weather balloon but had distinct characteristics.
It has a quite large, visible “payload” — the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels. And it appears to have advanced steering technologies that the US military has not yet put in the air, he told AFP.
Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Mr Kim said.
“Before you either had to have a tether … or you just send it up and it just goes wherever the wind takes it,” he said.
What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude it can control its direction
“What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude it can control its direction.”
That could also involve radio communications from its home base, he said.
But “if the point of it is to monitor [intercontinental ballistic missile] silos, which is one of the theories … you wouldn’t necessarily need to tell it to adjust its location,” he added.
Mr Kim said that as satellites become more vulnerable to being attacked from the Earth and space, balloons have distinct advantages.
Firstly, they do not easily show up on radars.
“These are materials that don’t reflect, they’re not metal. So even though these balloons expand to quite large, detecting the balloon itself is going to be a problem,” he said.
And the payload, if small enough, can be overlooked.
Balloons also have the advantage of holding relatively stationary positions over a surveillance target, compared to constantly orbiting satellites used by spy agencies to take photographs.
“These things can stay overhead, they can stay over one spot months at a time, compared to the low-Earth-orbit satellites,” Mr Kim said.
He said there was a “real possibility” that a Chinese balloon may have been intended to collect data from outside US boundaries or from much higher, but malfunctioned.
“These balloons don’t always work perfectly,” he said.
The balloons usually operate at altitudes of 20,000-30,000 metres, and this one was detected at around 14,000 metres, he said.
“That’s definitely a little low. If you wanted it to be harder to spot, if you want it to be harder to shoot down, then it would make sense to operate at higher altitudes.”
The Pentagon said it did not intend to shoot down the balloon as it moved east over the US mainland, citing the risk from falling debris, but Mr Kim said doing so would not have been easy as it sounds.
“These balloons use helium. It’s not the Hindenburg — you can’t just shoot it and then and then it goes up in flames.”
“If you do punch holes in it, it’s just kind of going to leak out very slowly.”
Mr Kim recalled that in 1998 the Canadian air force sent up F-18 fighter jets to try to shoot down a rogue weather balloon.
“They fired a thousand 20-millimetre cannon rounds into it. And it still took six days before it finally came down. These are not things that explode or pop when you shoot at them.”
Other experts suggested that, rather than surveillance, the purpose of the balloon was to gauge Washington’s response.
“This is a way to test how does the other side respond, not in a military sense. But politically, what do you do about it? Do you keep it quiet?” said Dean Cheng, senior adviser to the China programme at the US Institute of Peace.
“If there have been in fact many and this is not the first time, then it raises an interesting question. What happened to the previous ones? Did we shoot them down?” he said.
Mike Rounds, a Republican member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News it would be good to recover the balloon to see “if it was designed to actually collect data or if it was designed to test our response capabilities”.
Andrew Antonio, co-founder of high-altitude balloon start-up Urban Sky, said the wind currents that high-altitude balloons depend on for steering on long-distance trips were least favourable in the winter, suggesting China’s intentions might not have been be to target any specific location in the US.
“Specifically targeting a certain military base with that balloon from a launch in China, in January or February, in the Northern Hemisphere, is very difficult to do, if not impossible,” Mr Antonio said, speculating that the balloon’s venture into US airspace could have been the result of a failed experiment, or some failure in its self-termination system.
Videos from the state of Montana appeared on American social networks, showing an explosion and a trail in the sky. It is alleged that the video was filmed several hours ago and is associated with a Chinese balloon, which the Pentagon called a reconnaissance vehicle.
Initially, it was reported that the Joe Biden administration ordered the military to ban shooting down a balloon, as this could lead to “risk to people on the ground.” Now, in connection with the explosion filmed on video, there are speculations about whether the decision of the US presidential administration could change.
There were suggestions: the Chinese balloon was either shot down, or a version of its self-destruction worked, moreover, after it, according to some American experts, managed to transfer to the operators all the necessary information about military bases in a number of US states, including the state of Montana.
At the same time, suggestions were made that the Chinese air object was still shot down by American air defense. Such an assumption was made a few hours after it was announced that the United States may simply not have effective means capable of shooting down such objects at altitudes of 20 km without risks to the lives of people on the ground and for civilian aircraft.
American journalists asked the governor of Montana about the causes of the explosions and what it was all about. Gregory Gianforte stated that he did not have specific data and that he himself learned about the explosion in the sky “just now.”
There’s Something Strange About The Chinese Spy Balloon
Was this Chinese spy balloon a test run for an EMP detonation? In this video, we examine some of the histories of nuclear weapon-equipped balloons and the potential consequences of a balloon-launched EMP event.
BREAKING!!! CHINESE SPY SATELLITE IS JUST THE BEGINNING! WHAT COMES NEXT WILL BE FAR WORSE
Chinese SPY BALLOON is actually an EMP weapons platform
Capitol Hill Is In Bed With The CCP And America’s Sputnik Moment
It took a balloon for millions of Americans to finally realize that we really are on the brink of war with China. When a four-star general recently warned that we would be fighting a war with China in 2025, that didn’t create too much of a stir. And when U.S. Representative Michael McCaul stated that odds of a war between the United States and China over Taiwan are “very high”, that barely made a blip in the news cycle. But the giant “spy balloon” that just floated across our country really got people fired up. Despite the fact that China has been relentlessly spying on us in countless other ways for years, many of our leaders are suddenly acting as if some huge change just happened. They are issuing all sorts of very angry statements and they are demanding action from the Biden administration. Meanwhile, the Chinese are pissed that we just shot down their “civilian airship” and they are warning that they have “the right to respond further”.
What this means is that we are now closer to war with China than we have been in decades.
And that is the real significance of this entire saga.