Chinese Spy Balloons

Elaine L (Year 9)

We’ve heard it all: spies, top secret hacking jobs, FBI agents. But a flying balloon collecting data on all the people below? This may be where we draw the line.

When a Chinese Spy Balloon floated across the US earlier this month, it ignited a firestorm of concern on Capitol Hill. This ultimately led to the cancellation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China amid already tense relations between the two countries.

China has maintained its original response, stating it was a weather balloon that veered off course. But, in the US, a different story can be told.

Since then, there have been a number of incidents involving flying objects, causing more concern.

Here’s the timeline of what the media has released about China’s Spy Ballon and other Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs):

Jan 28: China’s spy balloon entered US airspace near Alaska before passing over Canada and then the continental US.

Feb 2: The Defence Department announced it was tracking the balloon as it flew over the continental US stating it had been over Montana a day earlier. Following this announcement, the balloon stopped loitering and quickly proceeded towards the East Coast.

Feb 4: A US fighter jet shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina. It is said the height was comparable to the Statue of Liberty, about 200 feet tall.

Feb 5: Recovery of the balloon began. Underwater pictures of the debris field show the wreckage remarkably intact given its fall from 60 000 feet. The debris was in relatively shallow water and upon collection, it was given to FBI officials to forensically examine.

Feb 10-12: Three more objects were spotted over US and Canadian Airspace. One was shot down in Canadian Airspace on the 11th, and another was shot down over the Great Lakes region that Sunday, February 12th. They did not pose a kinetic military threat but the altitude they were flying at could’ve been a hazard to civilian aviation, thus raising concern.

Feb 13: Recovery efforts resumed after being postponed because of bad weather. A significant portion of the balloon’s antenna array was recovered from the ocean bottom and these were sent to an FBI lab in Quantico.

Feb 14: US intelligence tracked the spy balloon that was shot down earlier in the month when it lifted off from Hainan Island, off the south coast of China. It had drifted east in the direction of Guam and Hawaii and then proceeded north towards Alaska. Given the path, it is very possible it was indeed a weather balloon that had just veered off course.