An F-22 fighter flew in to intercept the balloon. Above the Atlantic coast of the United States, it rose into the stratosphere, to a height of more than 17,000 meters. The balloon was nearly 20,000 yards away. The target, which had been over North America for about five days, was hit by a single Sidewinder missile.
It only raised more questions. Why couldn’t they slaughter the same way before? Does the United States have enough air defense systems, especially surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down targets in the stratosphere)? For what purpose, then, did this balloon cross the whole continent? Doesn’t China have better intelligence methods?
US President Joe Biden gave the order to shoot down the balloon on February 1. According to the head of the White House, the Pentagon decided to wait for the balloon to reach the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid destruction on the ground by falling debris. We waited for February 4. Meanwhile, the plane, in particular, was seen over less densely populated areas of Montana. However, they did not shoot him there.
“The United States could get a good look at this probe just by letting it pass. It was possible to analyze the quality of the data it collects and the way the information is transmitted,” said Ivan Eland, director of the Center of the Independent Institute on Peace and Freedom, in an interview with the Russian media service. And it looks like it was still manageable. I believe it is a reconnaissance balloon. But I don’t understand why China is going there right now. »
The balloon was discovered in the sky over North America just before US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to Beijing. The visit never took place precisely because of the discovery of the balloon. Blinken himself made a statement about this: “The presence of a reconnaissance balloon over American airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty and of international law. This is an irresponsible act by the PRC on the eve of my planned visit, and it is detrimental to the substantive dialogue we were about to have.
Former CIA analyst Dennis Wilder (former CIA China analyst), who has dealt with China, says there have been similar examples in the history of Washington-Beijing relations. According to him, the Chinese army could well carry out a reconnaissance operation in the American sky without informing the political leaders.
“When Robert Gates, in his capacity as US Secretary of Defense, arrived in Beijing in 2011,” Wilder recalls, “China announced successful tests of its latest stealth fighter. Gates asked then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao, “Are you trying to confuse me like that?” Hu laughed nervously, turned to his military advisers and asked, “Did you really do those tests?” And the head of the Pentagon, Gates – and he could perfectly read body language – was sure that Hu Jintao had no idea about the tests.
Beijing claims the balloon ended up in US airspace by accident. “It happened due to uncontrollable external factors,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a press briefing. – The US Department of Defense said the balloon posed no military threat, but insisted on its destruction. We consider such a reaction to be excessive and we oppose such measures.
Few in the US intelligence community believe it was a weather balloon that swam across US airspace at the behest of the winds. Moreover, according to experts interviewed by media, this is not the first such case.
“During Donald Trump’s presidency alone, at least three of these balloons flew over the United States,” said Ivan Eland. “But regarding the current incident, I think we still overestimate its importance. China has a lot of intelligence gathering capabilities. They have satellites that can take really good quality pictures. I think the real The reason for the resonance is that this balloon got caught in the camera lenses. Everyone could see it from the yard of their house. These photos have been seen on TV and social media.
Behind the scenes was the filling of the balloon, which now represents the main plot. If the wreckage is in good condition, it will become clearer what kind of aircraft it was, for what purpose it actually flew over the United States and whether the American air defense system can be considered reliable after this incident.
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