Chinese Spy Balloon Had ‘Self-Destruct’ Capability That Wasn’t Activated: Report
The Chinese spy balloon that was eventually shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4 after sailing over the continental U.S. was apparently blown off course and had a “self-destruct function” that wasn’t activated before reaching Alaska, according to a new report from the New York Times. It’s not immediately clear what would have allowed the balloon to self-destruct or whether that capability would’ve posed a danger to anyone on the ground if it was done over U.S. airspace.
The balloon, one of four objects shot down over the U.S. and Canada in the past two weeks, was deployed by China to spy on Hawaii and the territory of Guam, according to senior defense officials who spoke to the Times. But it’s believed the spy balloon was blown off course over the Pacific Ocean, sending it up to Alaska before crossing into Canada and then down through Montana, where it was first spotted by civilians over Billings.
“It took almost three days after the public crisis over the balloon erupted for Chinese officials to tell U.S. counterparts that the controllers of the balloon were trying to speed it out of American airspace, an apparent effort to defuse tensions that baffled Biden administration officials and demonstrated how badly Beijing had misread the United States,” the report from the Times explains.
The U.S. officials don’t know if the Chinese operators of the balloon tried to activate the balloon’s self-destruct function and it failed or they simply wanted to save the balloon for more surveillance on its new course, according to the new report. Either way, the communication about the balloon from China was lacking, to say the least, and kicked off a media spectacle for the entire world to witness.
The balloon was apparently launched in late January from Hainan Island, the country’s southernmost point, and the U.S. government had been tracking it from its launch—a detail that only came to light in a new report from the Washington Post on Tuesday.
The Chinese government has previously denied the balloon was used for surveillance, and has said the U.S. flew balloons into its airspace 10 times since the start of 2022 without permission. But U.S. defense officials still seem confused about who was actually piloting the spy balloon that crossed the U.S., speculating it may have been a civilian-run company affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army. Or, that’s just what they’re telling the Times at this point.
What about those three other balloons that have been shot down, including one in northern Alaska, another in Canada’s Yukon, and another over Lake Huron near Michigan?
“U.S. officials said they are still trying to make a definitive conclusion on what the objects were, and do not think they will reach one until more debris is collected,” the Times reports.
“Some senior officials said that based on preliminary work, they believe the three objects were likely designed for scientific or weather research and had ceased to function, becoming akin to airborne trash,” the report continues.
Weather balloons that are basically just floating trash? Good thing we blasted those out of the sky.