It had to be the strangest crisis of the Biden administration: America’s top-of-the-line jet fighters were being sent up to shoot down, of all things, a balloon—a Chinese spy balloon—that was drifting across the country, which had the nation and its politicians in an uproar.
Seven months later, General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informs “CBS News Sunday Morning” that the balloon was not spying.
“The intelligence community, their assessment – and it’s a high-confidence assessment – [is] that there was no intelligence collection by that balloon,” he explained.
So, why was it flying over America? There are several possibilities, with at least one leading to the conclusion that it was blown off course.
What’s Behind The Chinese Spy Balloon?
The balloon was en route to Hawaii when the winds at 60,000 feet took over.
“Those winds are very high,” Milley stated, adding, “The particular motor on that aircraft can’t go against those winds at that altitude.”
The balloon flew over Alaska and Canada before landing in Billings, Montana, where photographer Chase Doak, who studied photography in college, captured it from his driveway.
“I just happened to notice a white spot in the sky out of the corner of my eye.” “Of course, I came up with the most logical explanation: it was an extraterrestrial craft!” he joked.
“I took a photo, a quick video, and then I grabbed a few coworkers to double-check that I wasn’t seeing things and had them look at it.”
Martin said, “You’ll probably never take a more famous picture.” “No, I don’t think I ever will!” Doak stated.
He tipped off the Billings Gazette, which ran its photo, and he promised anyone who asked that they could use his photo for free. “I didn’t want to make anything of it,” Doak explained. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a trip to China as a U-2 surveillance plane watched the 200-foot balloon.
When Was The Spy Balloon Deployed Over The United States?
On February 3, he described China’s move to deploy a spy balloon over the United States as “unacceptable and irresponsible.” President Joe Biden directed the Air Force to shoot it down as soon as it reached the Atlantic Ocean. Colonel Brandon Tellez devised the February 4 mission, which called for shooting down the balloon once it was six miles off the coast.
“On paper, it appears to be this colossal mismatch – one of this country’s most sophisticated jet fighters against a balloon with a putt-putt motor. Was it a foregone conclusion?” Martin remarked.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Tellez answered.
“Yes, sir, it would have! But if you saw that first shot miss, there would have been three or four immediately following it that would have solved the situation,” Tellez added. But it only took a single missile to zero in on the heat reflected off the balloon.
Technical specialists confirmed the balloon’s sensors had never been engaged while over the Continental United States after the Navy recovered the wreckage from the bottom of the Atlantic.
However, the harm to US-China relations had already been done.
On May 21, President Biden said, “This silly balloon carrying two freight cars’ worth of spying equipment was flying over the United States, and it got shot down, and everything changed regarding talking to one another.”
“Bottom line, it was a spy balloon, but it wasn’t spying?” Martin wondered.
“I would say it was a spy balloon that we know with a high degree of certainty got no intelligence and did not transmit any intelligence back to China,” Milley responded.
What do you think about it? Do let us know in the comments.
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