Posted 41 days ago
A trio of Navy warships, service divers and the FBI are on the hunt for the wreckage of a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon that was shot down on Saturday by an Air Force F-22 Raptor off the coast of South Carolina, Defense Department officials told reporters Saturday.
“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U. S. territorial waters,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a Saturday statement. “On Wednesday, President [Joe] Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”
The Raptor from the 149 Fighter Squadron, based at Langley Air Force Base, used a single AIM-9X Sidewinder, fired from 58,000 feet in the air, to shoot down the balloon that was operating at 62,000 feet, a senior military official told reporters on Saturday afternoon.
The remains of the surveillance balloon, about the size of three school buses, is spread over a seven-mile debris field in shallow water in the Atlantic, a senior military official told reporters.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79), guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) and amphibious warship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) are on station near the crash site. Coast Guard cutters and boats are also on the scene to assist in the recovery, a message left with a Coast Guard Atlantic Area spokesman was not immediately returned.
Navy divers are currently embarked aboard the warships off the coast, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News. FBI counter-intelligence agents are also part of the investigation, Pentagon officials said Saturday.
“We have… capable Navy divers to go down if needed. We’ll also have unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship,” the senior military official said.
“We’ll have the FBI on board as well, under the counterintelligence authorities for categorizing and assessing the platform itself.”
According to the same senior military official, a Navy salvage ship will be on station within the next two days.... (Read more)