The moment the Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down by the U.S. government on February 4, 2023, was captured on video.
In a statement, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said that a 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.”
“We successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” President Joe Biden said, according to Reuters.
See more video of the balloon being shot down here:
Biden gave the order, the government’s statement says.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Chinese Surveillance Balloon Was ‘Brought Down Above U.S. Territorial Waters,’ the Government’s Statement Says
“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,” the statement says.
According to the statement, Biden, on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, “gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”
Reuters reported that the balloon was shot down shortly after flights along South Carolina’s coast were stopped for a “national security effort.”
According to The Associated Press, the Chinese government argued the balloon was used for meteorological research and ran off path “due to winds,” but the United States government called it a Chinese “spy balloon,” and the Secretary of State cancelled a visit to China when it floated into U.S. airspace.
The AP reported that the U.S. government believed the balloon was “maneuverable” and was hovering over sensitive sites in Montana with nuclear warhead silos. The balloon “was carrying sensors and surveillance equipment,” according to The AP.
The Government Says the Chinese Surveillance Balloon Was Shot Down in a ‘Deliberate & Lawful Action’
The government’s statement says that, after “careful analysis,” U.S. military commanders “had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.”
“In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities,” the statement continued.
“This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America,” the government wrote.
“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” the statement said.
Reuters reported that one of its photographers observed the balloon being shot down and explained that “a stream came from a jet and hit the balloon, but there was no explosion. It then began to fall.”
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