The Chinese spy balloon has been shot down by the U.S. military while hovering over the Atlantic Ocean off of the South Carolina coast.
via: NBC News
The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been transiting across the country for several days.
In a statement Saturday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said a U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the balloon at the direction of President Joe Biden. Lloyd said the balloon was being used by the People’s Republic of China “in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.”
Biden gave authorization on Wednesday to take down the balloon as soon as it could be done “without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Lloyd said.
“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,” he said in the statement.
TV footage shows the high-altitude balloon, which is estimated to be the size of three school busses, bursting in a small explosion before falling into the water. Officials will attempt to recover the debris, according to NBC News.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina and closed additional airspace on Saturday afternoon. The departures were paused “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” a representative told CNBC. Normal operations began resuming later that afternoon, the FAA said on Twitter.
Flights to and from Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR) and Charleston International (CHS) airports are resuming.
Other airspace has been reopened.
Normal operations resuming.
— The FAA ?? (@FAANews) February 4, 2023
Biden broke his silence about the balloon for the first time Saturday, telling a group of reporters, “We’re going to take care of it.” Later that afternoon, he told reporters that he had instructed officials to “shoot it down” on Wednesday, but that they wanted to wait until it was as safe as possible.
“They successfully took it down, and I want to complement our aviators who did it,” Biden said. “And we’ll have more to report on this a little later.”
The balloon was initially spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday. Defense officials said the Pentagon considered shooting down the balloon earlier this week but decided against it after briefing Biden. The decision was made in consultation with senior leaders, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.