The United States military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, according to reports. The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that garnered headlines earlier this week when it was floating over Montana at 60,000 feet made it to the East Coast, but was shot down. The Federal Aviation Administration shut down airports because of a "national security effort" related to the mysterious balloon.
A U.S. military operation shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon the size of two to three school buses off the East Coast. There were reportedly U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the area to collect debris in the Atlantic Ocean.
Purported video shows the moment that U.S. aircraft shot down the suspected spy balloon as it exploded in the air.
Fox News national security correspondent reported that an F-22 fighter jet shot down a purported Chinese spy balloon with an air-to-air A9X sidewinder missile. The F-22 reportedly took off from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.
(CAUTION: Explicit language)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement, "This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high-altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace."
Austin added, "The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters."
Austin said U.S. military commanders determined that shooting down the large airship would pose a risk to "people across a wide area." The decision was made to take down the balloon over U.S. waters.
He accused China of carrying out an "unacceptable violation of our sovereignty."
After the balloon was shot down, President Joe Bidensaid, "On Wednesday when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down — on Wednesday — as soon as possible."
Earlier on Saturday in Syracuse, New York, Biden was asked about the Chinese spy balloon, and he simply said, "We're going to take care of it."
A Bloomberg report stated that the Biden administration became aware of the Chinese spy balloon on Jan. 28.
Before the operation on Saturday afternoon, the FAA paused departures and arrivals at three international airports on the East Coast. The FAA grounded flights to and from South Carolina airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, as well as Wilmington in North Carolina. The closures of the airports were carried out to "support the Department of Defense in a national security effort."
The New York Times previously reported, "Military leaders advised then against shooting down the balloon, which was roughly the size of three buses, because of the possibility of harm to civilians and infrastructure while it was over land. But the arrival — and extended stay — of the balloon over American territory prompted furious calls from senior U.S. officials to their Chinese counterparts, and the cancellation of Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s planned visit to China."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that the airship was a weather balloon that entered U.S. airspace by accident.
The Washington Post noted, "Experts in national security and aerospace said the craft appears to share characteristics with high-altitude balloons used by developed countries around the world for weather forecasting, telecommunications, and scientific research."
On Thursday, a senior Pentagon official said, "First, our best assessment at the moment is that whatever the surveillance payload is on this balloon, it does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit."
This is a breaking story and will be updated when new details become available.
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