US military says it has recovered ‘significant’ electronics from downed Chinese ‘spy’ balloon

Officials however have not yet retrieved debris from three ‘objects’ downed over the weekend

Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 14 February 2023 04:42 GMT
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Related video: White House says balloons shot down over US are part of China military programme

The US military has recovered “significant debris” from the downed Chinese “spy” balloon, according to its officials.

The Chinese balloon, which Beijing denies was a government spy vessel, flew over the US and Canada for a week before president Joe Biden ordered for it to be shot down on 4 February as it flew over the South Carolina coast.

A US fighter jet had downed the balloon and spurred the US military to begin salvage operations.

The military has also been busy searching for additional unidentified aerial objects that were not picked up by radar, something that led to three unprecedented shootdowns over the last weekend.

On Monday, the military said it recovered significant information, including key sensors and electronic components, from the site of the downed Chinese balloon.

“Crews have been able to recover significant debris from the site, including all of the priority sensor and electronics pieces identified as well as large sections of the structure,” the US military’s Northern Command said in a statement.

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said the military has not yet retrieved any debris from the three most recent objects that were shot down, one of which fell off the coast of Alaska and the other over the Yukon territory in Canada.

Officials also recently revealed that targeting the latest “objects” was more challenging than taking down the “spy” balloon due to their smaller size and lack of a typical radar signature.

For instance, an F-16 fighter jet had to use two sidewinder missiles to down one of the “objects” on Sunday because the first missile had failed to do so, an official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The objects are believed to pose a risk to civil aviation and a potential intelligence collection threat.

Mr Austin, however, reassured Americans that they did not pose a military threat to anyone on the ground.

He acknowledged that much about the three objects remains unknown, including who built them, how they stayed aloft and whether they were collecting intelligence.

“I want to reassure Americans that these objects do not present a military threat to anyone on the ground,” Mr Austin told reporters in Brussels ahead of a Nato gathering.

“They do, however, present a risk to civil aviation and potentially an intelligence collection threat.”

While US officials have refused to connect the incidents, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said he believed there could be a pattern in the four objects being shot down, but did not explain further.

Mr Trudeau said “there is some sort of pattern” and added that the significant number of incidents over the past week was “a cause for interest and close attention”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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