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Chinese ‘spy balloon’ that flew over US gathered intelligence from sensitive military sites, officials say

Officials have confirmed that the Chinese spy balloon flew above the US and was able to collect intelligence from several American military sites.

China was able steer the surveillance balloon to make multiple passes over certain sites and transmit the information back to Beijing, as reported by our news partners NBC.

According to two former senior US officials, this is despite the White House trying stop it.

It was first spotted by the US on 28 Jan, and then was shot down on 4 Feb off the coast South Carolina.


Tensions between the US & China flared after the spy balloon incident. Beijing claimed that the balloon was an unmanned civilian aircraft that had accidentally strayed from its course and Washington overreacted by shooting the balloon down.

Image: US Navy sailors rescue the balloon from the coast of South Carolina. Pic by Associated Press

According to the officials, the balloon would fly in a figure-8 pattern over sites while collecting information. This information can be picked up by weapons systems or communications from base personnel.

They claimed that China could have gathered more intelligence from sensitive locations if it weren’t for Joe Biden’s efforts to move around potential targets, and to obscure the ability of the balloon to pick up electronic signals from them by stopping them broadcasting or emitting signals.

Image: U-2 pilot of the US Air Force looking over at the Chinese spy balloon above Montana on February 3, 2012. Pic by the Department of Defense/US Air Force

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The US recovers key sensors from a Chinese spy balloon

What is a spy balloon?

Officials said that the balloon had a self destruct mechanism that could have been activated remotely from China. However, it wasn’t clear if this happened because the mechanism was malfunctioning or because China chose not to trigger it.

After the balloon was shot down, crews were able to retrieve significant amounts of debris . This included “all of the priority sensors and electronics pieces as well as large sections” of the structure.

The US has yet to confirm details, but China’s account is becoming more difficult to sell

It was only a matter time before American analysis of the balloon debris made the news. Although this information has not been attributed to any specific sources, it will undoubtedly exacerbate an already stressful situation.

The administration sources provide a lot more detail about how the balloon was controlled and moved.

The Chinese will likely respond by repeating the Chinese line that it has used throughout: that the balloon was unmanned civilian weather balloon that was accidentally floating above the US and that its downing was an overreacting inflammatory reaction on the Americans’ part.

However, the details will make it more difficult to sell.

Although it is not clear if the US authorities will confirm the details, it is an incident that has already caused significant damage to the already fragile trust between the countries and will most certainly not be repaired.

According to NBC, officials tried to rebuild the balloon using the debris that was found.

The US government published a photo of the balloon, taken from the cockpit a spy plane of the United States before it was shot down.

The incident was followed by three additional unidentified objects that were shot down in North American airspace.


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