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Report: U.S. Tracked China’s Spy Balloon as it Lifted Off of Hainan Island

Report: U.S. Tracked China’s Spy Balloon as it Lifted Off of Hainan Island

So they knew all along? What a shock.

The Washington Post reported that the U.S. tracked the first Chinese spy balloon right after it took off from Hainan Island.

The officials tracked the balloon for a week before reports came out about it over Montana.

The balloon didn’t enter U.S. airspace until January 28. The officials confirmed the balloon on February 2nd.

The military didn’t shoot down the balloon until February 4th over the Atlantic Ocean:

U.S. monitors watched as the balloon settled into a flight path that would appear to have taken it over the U.S. territory of Guam. But somewhere along that easterly route, the craft took an unexpected northern turn, according to several U.S. officials, who said that analysts are now examining the possibility that China didn’t intend to penetrate the American heartland with its airborne surveillance device.

The balloon floated over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands thousands of miles away from Guam, then drifted over Canada, where it encountered strong winds that appear to have pushed the balloon south into the continental United States, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence. A U.S. fighter jet shot the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, a week after it crossed over Alaska.

But the officials are also “confident it was intended for surveillance.” They can’t ignore that the balloon hovered “over nuclear sites in Montana.”

Therefore, even if entering the American mainland was an accident, “Beijing apparently decided to seize the opportunity to try to gather intelligence.”

The Washington Post explained when the balloon was about 1,000 miles south of Japan on January 24, “it began to gain speed and rapidly veer north,” quite possibly because “of a strong cold front that had unleashed exceptionally frigid air over northern China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan.”

Officials said the balloon is part of a Chinese surveillance program based on Hainan Island that began years ago. The balloons fly higher than commercial flights, “between 60,000 and 80,000 feet.” Officials don’t know how many balloons China has in the program:

They take advantage of technology provided by a private Chinese company that is part of the country’s civil-military fusion effort — a program by which private companies develop technologies and capabilities used by the PLA.

In a news briefing Saturday, senior Pentagon officials alluded to the PLA program, noting that balloons had been operating elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. “These balloons are all part of a PRC fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which also violated the sovereignty of other countries,” said one senior defense official.


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Baloonacy…at its best.

I don’t believe much our government has to say and even LESS of what CBS has to say.

Accident? I doubt it

I wrote this on Facebook, but I’ll copy it here.

I thought as much.

I think both countries allow each other to spy on each other, probably as a matter of good faith, however the recent recognition of China as an economic, and more recently, military threat, has turned the American public sour on Chinese spying in America, even if it was mutually condoned (because I’m sure we spy on them too). In fact, I think this is rather normal for allied countries to allow each other’s spies to basically have freedom of operation in each other’s countries, provided they keep their operations tidy, polite, and most importantly, out of the public eye.

But, China is increasingly not our ally, despite many businessmen’s (or politician’s, or both-in-one) most fervent wishes, and it turns out a big ole spy balloon is hard to miss from the ground, and as soon as the American public realized, the Executive Branch was forced to take action to shoot it down, AFTER it was allowed to do its thing. And it turns out they couldn’t just come out and say “oh yeah, this happens all the time” because, again, China is increasingly not our ally, but instead a mega trading partner, mostly out of convenience, and admitting you let your economic and increasingly military competitor spy all over your country is going to lose you some points, from everyone (Ds and Rs both). I would guess anticipated support from at least the dominant political party (and a friendly media willing to turn a blind eye) is enough to let federal agencies do whatever they please, but in this case, Democrats are increasingly joining Republicans in their judgement of China. So, no more support, from anyone, hence sending the F-22 to sidewinder the balloon.

That explains why China was like “Hey! Why did you shoot down our, uh… civilian balloon!?! We followed the script just like we always do! We want it back!”

And now that the cat’s out of the bag, well, we’re just shooting them down left and right now, assuming those other things are all spy-capable aircraft of some sort.

Just my theory, but it makes sense.

    henrybowman in reply to SinkerOfBoats. | February 15, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    “So, no more support, from anyone, hence sending the F-22 to sidewinder the balloon.”
    Hey, didja notice? They couldn’t take down the first one becausw “it might damage some populated area,” but the latest one they shot two missiles at… because the first one MISSED.
    So where did the first missile end up? Absolutely nobody is asking that question. Nobody.

      WindyHill in reply to henrybowman. | February 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

      Well, they were 6 miles offshore when they shot it down, so the presumption would be the other missile ended up in the ocean, wouldn’t it?

      taylorlaw67 in reply to henrybowman. | February 16, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      It took a single shot for the balloon over South Carolina. It took two for the smaller balloon over the Great Lakes. The first missile is at the bottom of Lake Huron.

    Communist China has never been our ally. One could maybe argue that it was so in WWII against the Japanese, but I’d consider them cobelligerents instead. Like the Soviets then as well.

The baby got thrown out with the bath water.

Remember the first Intercontinental Bomber was a Japanese paper balloon launched in WWII. And, hundreds are believed to have reached American airspace.

The Washington Post does not score very high on the credibility meter. I suspect that the balloon was launched from the roof of the UPenn building housing the Biden center.

First can’t make me believe any so called privet company in China isn’t working for the Chinese Communist Party.
Second nothing from our government they recovered anything put parts from this balloon, and suspect that was the plan.

Sorry, US airspace started at Guam, which is a US territory and has a military base. Then it flew over Hawaii, which has a military base.

This is an entire dereliction of duty by this false administration. They’ve done more damage than any prior administration and I’m including the absolutely damaging Obama administration. But hey, most Americans will ignore this so let the Leftist destruction continue. Eventually they will get it…I just hope it is not too late.

You can’t trust a single word coming out of the mouths of the vile Dumb-o-crats holding political office and in the military brass. All that they can be relied upon is to perennially display incompetence, stupidity and mendacity.

The Gentle Grizzly | February 15, 2023 at 3:40 pm

Tracked. Just like the FBI monitoring of people, often for years, who ultimately do something very nasty.

“But somewhere along that easterly route, the craft took an unexpected northern turn, according to several U.S. officials”
Unexpected to who? And how would they know?

Subotai Bahadur | February 15, 2023 at 4:58 pm

1) Intelligence resources are limited. Unlike the fire balloons used by the Japanese which were launched en-masse in hopes that enough would would reach the US somewhere and cause damage; there are only so many balloons of that type and sensor packages. They ain’t cheap and there is no indication of there having been mass launches.

2) Balloons, in theory unless they have some sort of guidance and power packages, drift with the wind and are out of control once launched. This particular balloon demonstrated at the very least some control over altitude while it was over our mainland. That control, and the fact that it was a limited resource that was expended, implies the path was planned and controlled.

3) Look at the map labelled “Approximate path of Chinese spy balloon” at the top of this posting by Mary Chastain. Look at all the critical US installations it flew over in sequence. My last course in probability and statistics theory was over a half century ago, so I admit that I don’t remember all that much of it. But some of the other Gentle Readers here may be more current. Can someone offer the odds of a single, specialist-rigged, intelligence gathering balloon being launched and by sheer chance flying over all of those specific targets in sequence directly?

4) There is a reasonable conjecture that it was NOT pure chance. Which has implications, Either a) it was not the first and only such espionage device to make the trip so they could believe that they could do it, or b) that it was in fact a controlled device, and its flight path was planned. The nature of the flight path inclines toward 4b being more likely.

5) As noted by “chrisboltssr” above, it became subject to shoot down once it entered Guam’s airspace, Guam being sovereign US territory. Note carefully that the balloon is NOT subject to the practice of allowing satellite overflights, because sovereign airspace extends to the edge of the atmosphere, and satellites are above the atmosphere by their nature. This balloon, at its highest, by its physical nature and the mechanics of balloon flight was in our sovereign airspace.

6) If we were tracking it from launch on the Chinese island of Hainan, its survival while over Guam, and all other US territories that it crossed, and over all US strategic military installations had to be either with the specific approval of the US National Command Authority or by the deliberate or negligent failure of the US military to pass the word up the chain of command. More years ago than I care to remember, I used to have a sideline of writing for professional military journals. And as a result of that, back when NORAD was still inside Cheyenne Mountain, I was invited there for a set of briefings. Back in those ancient days, you could wager your glucose-infused gluteal musculature that it was tracked. And open source improvements in detection and tracking systems since make it all the more certain.

7) The detail that the shoot down order was deliberately delayed until the balloon’s mission was completed and there was time to transmit the results via satellite telemetry and there was time to be sure that nothing would survive for analysis after capture raises its own set of questions.

Subotai Bahadur

    henrybowman in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | February 15, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    “The nature of the flight path inclines toward 4b being more likely.”
    The fact that it interrupted its “random flight path” to hover over multiple Montana nuke installations to take vacation selfies pretty much scraps any other explanation.

The Dumb-o-crats’ balloon story is changing every five minutes, all with the goal of making dotard-marionette, Biden, appear to be competent, aware, decisive and in charge. But, this tracking story makes him look still worse. If the balloon indeed was being tracked from its flight’s inception, this makes Biden’s and the U.S. military’s failure to shoot it down as soon as it crossed Alaskan airspace even more feckless, incompetent and indefensible.

    henrybowman in reply to guyjones. | February 15, 2023 at 9:47 pm

    It’s almost as if Milley were on the phone to his Valentine sharing the experience.

    randian in reply to guyjones. | February 16, 2023 at 4:58 am

    Incompetent? That implies consideration I don’t think Biden merits here. I would argue that the failure to shoot down the balloons before they hit CONUS airspace was a deliberate gift to the CCP.

William Downey | February 16, 2023 at 9:02 am

CCP, honest, it was an accident—horse hockey.

The balloon just happened to pass over Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, part of Canada, hover over Montana, and then drift near several other sensitive sites. What do all of those sites have in common? They all have military installations. How convenient for the Communists.

NORAD/NORTCOM decided it did not pose a military risk. Since when does espionage not pose a significant military risk? Whose head rolled over this disaster?

My genuine concern is that a balloon that size can be equipped with a nuclear device with a payload equivalent to the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Detonated at 60,000 feet, the explosion would generate an EMP that would devastate our electrical infrastructure.

Thank you to the sharp eyes in Billings, Montana; otherwise, we would never have known about the balloon or the existence of the balloon and the Communist base on Hainan.

Balloon’s path from Hainan Island to Guam is the path the low-flying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads will follow. Guam has nuclear-capable attack aircraft along with submarines and surface ships that can loft warheads upon Chinese targets. Guam may become our era’s Pearl Harbor.

Dolce Far Niente | February 16, 2023 at 11:00 am

If in fact the balloon actually overflew Guam and Hawaii, which are almost infinitesimal specks in a vast ocean, then it was not a balloon at all, but a powered military drone which is carried beneath a gas canopy.

The more we learn about it, including explanations to make it not look so bad, actually make it look worse.

Insufficiently Sensitive | February 16, 2023 at 12:53 pm

But somewhere along that easterly route, the craft took an unexpected northern turn, according to several U.S. officials,

All these ‘US officials’, and the oh-so-smart reporters too, seem unconcerned, or oblivious, or are concealing the fact that this balloon apparently had means of horizontal maneuvering. How else would it loiter over the US facilities it was spying on, and make ‘unexpected left turns’?