The Chinese spy balloon that entered American airspace earlier this year collected vital information on military assets, according to United States military sources.
Senior U.S. officials and a former Biden administration representative came to the conclusion that the balloon, which flew into Alaskan territory in February and floated aimlessly over the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana for days, was capable of gathering data on the electrical signals used by weapons navigation systems. The balloon then transmitted data in real time to Beijing.
The balloon was commanded to be brought down by the Biden government after several days in the air. Chinese authorities downplayed any association between the balloon and covert spying techniques, despite the fact that the aircraft had a self-destruct feature that its controller could activate remotely if they so desired.
The three representatives defended the Biden administration’s attempts to restrict the amount of data the balloon gathered by avoiding a number of possible targets. Officials also turned off the targets’ electrical signals.
To NBC News, the Defense Department reaffirmed that any data gathered by the aircraft was of “limited additive value” and was not superior to that which China could gather using low-orbiting satellites.
The balloon’s speed had risen as it started to float outside of American airspace on February 2, the day it was first widely reported. Chinese authorities frequently asserted that civilian operators lost control of the balloon as it veered off course. Defense officials decided to wait and fire the balloon down once the wreckage was less likely to cause harm on the ground due to the balloon’s size, which was almost as long as three school buses.
It wasn’t the first time that spy balloons coming from China entered American territory. Officials from the Biden administration observed four comparable balloon encounters, totaling two while President Joe Biden was in office and three while President Donald Trump was in office.