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Friday, March 24, 2023

Balloons over America

What is known about the air corps that violated the airspace of the United States and Canada

On January 31, a reconnaissance balloon, created and used by the PRC, entered continental United States airspace from the Pacific Ocean and was detected by air defense systems. The ball crossed the territory of the country.

US President Joe Biden has ordered the balloon destroyed, but to do so in a way that does not harm the people of the country. On February 4, the balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina; its fragments, totaling about a ton, were collected and delivered to the FBI laboratory.

According to officially published information, the balloon flew at an altitude of more than 17.5 km. It was equipped with a solar panel, steering blades and propellers, thanks to which it could change the height, direction and speed of movement.

On February 13, Michael McCall, head of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, which has access to classified information, said the balloon was being used to collect data on nuclear facilities: it It was previously noted that it was flying over regions where intercontinental ballistic missiles are deployed.

China said it was a civilian probe, mainly used for weather research. However, no evidence of this has been presented, and such explanations are traditionally used to mask intelligence activities.

The United States believes that this type of equipment has long been used by the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA). The appearance of a balloon in American airspace has caused a new crisis in relations between Washington and Beijing. On February 10, the United States imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese companies involved in the development and production of such equipment to order from the PLA.

why balloon

Balloons have long been used for reconnaissance, but with the advent of aircraft and space satellites, their importance has declined significantly.

However, a lighter-than-air aircraft has a number of advantages over more modern aircraft. The balloon is relatively inexpensive and capable of carrying a large load over long distances. The balloon is barely visible by radar: especially in flight at very high altitude.

The destruction of such probes is a serious problem. Of all the fighters in US service, only the F-22 can reach such a high altitude – according to official reports, they were used by the US Air Force.

Targeting an air-to-air missile is also a problem – again, due to the balloon’s relative stealthiness for radars and guidance systems (most of these missiles use infrared sensors – they target the heat generated by the engine from the plane). It was reported that the United States used a Sidewinder missile with an optoelectronic guidance system to destroy the balloon.

In addition, the use of such weapons is dangerous for civilians: if a rocket explodes over a densely populated area, fragments falling from a high altitude can kill people and cause significant damage to buildings.

Machine guns and cannons are also ineffective, especially at extremely high altitudes. In 1985, the Canadian Air Force destroyed a windblown weather balloon over Newfoundland. The fighter used more than a thousand shells – a helium-filled balloon that lost altitude very slowly.


On February 2, the US Department of Defense claimed that similar incidents had been observed for several years and that at least five balloons would have flown over American territory during Donald Trump’s presidency.

On Feb. 9, the US State Department said China had a long history of using reconnaissance balloons that had violated the airspace of more than 40 countries on five continents.

In January, the US Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint report on Unidentified Flying Objects.detected in US airspace from March 2021 to August 2022. The report contains information on 510 such incidents, of which 163 airborne objects are referred to as “aerostats or balloon-shaped air bodies”.

After shooting down the first balloon, US and Canadian air forces discovered and destroyed three other unidentified flying objects that flew into their airspace. Work is underway to find their wreckage.

On February 13, the United States National Security Council reported that the aerial targets shot down over Alaska and Canada did not resemble the balloon shot down off South Carolina and were much smaller.

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