What we know about the Chinese spy balloon

What we know about the Chinese spy balloon


A flying device suspected of being a Chinese spy balloon has been detected in U.S. airspace, the Pentagon says. 

Beijing said Friday it “regrets” the breach “unintentional” use of US airspace by an unmanned “civilian aircraft” after the Pentagon announced that a Chinese spy balloon had been detected.

Here is what we know about this information, which alerted the army and the American and Canadian intelligence services.

Where is he?

A US defense official said the balloon entered US airspace “a few days ago”, but its exact location was not released.

The balloon flew over the Aleutian Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean, then crossed Canadian airspace to the United States, where it flew over the state of Montana, at an altitude much higher than that of the planes of line, according to US media citing defense officials.

It was as big as three buses put together, these sources say.

Is that a balloon Chinese?

“It is a civilian aircraft used for research purposes, mainly meteorological”, “coming from China”, acknowledged a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release. 

“The Chinese side regrets the involuntary entry of the aircraft into US airspace, a case of force majeure,” he added.

“We have no doubt that it is a PRC balloon,” said a senior Pentagon official who requested anonymity, using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.

In Beijing, the Chinese government assured that “a verification is in progress” about this information.

not help in an appropriate resolution of the file”, warned a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The question that arises is: 'Is it a balloon that is used to spy or a scientific platform that has drifted?'”, underlines Xavier Pasco, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research ( FRS) and specialist in space issues, interviewed by AFP.

What could the balloon spy on?

Its trajectory flew over a number of sensitive sites, according to the Pentagon official. “Clearly, he flew over these sites to gather information.

Montana is home to nuclear missile silos, among other things.

Why didn't was he not shot? 

The balloon is large enough that its destruction will cause debris on the ground that could endanger residents, US officials said.

The Pentagon considered several options, including shooting down the ball when flying over a sparsely populated area, but he felt the risk was still too high, according to a senior defense official.

“Does he pose a threat to civil aviation? We believe that is not the case. Does he pose a significantly increased threat from an intelligence perspective? Our assessment at this time is that it is not,” he added.

“We believe that the risk of shooting it down, however low (…) was not worth no need to be caught.”

Is this the first balloon Chinese spy over the United States?

China has sent many balloons over the United States in recent years, the senior Pentagon official said.

However, he said, this is the first time that 'a Chinese balloon stays in American airspace for such a long time.

Haven't satellites made spy balloons obsolete?

Airships and Tethered balloons have been used for long-time military, espionage and surveillance purposes. In particular, they were widely used during the First World War.

But the conquest of space and the progress of aviation enabled satellites and spy planes to observe enemy territory in a more reliable.

Balloons are a cheap way to get information, however.

“In the future, we will have balloons above our heads for several months in a row, which could compromise our activities at a lower cost than in space,” said General Frédéric Parisot, Vice-Chief of the French Air Force.