US races to secure spy balloon debris field ahead of China, salvage vessel to take TWO days: report

The nonchalant attitude of President Joe Biden’s administration toward the Chinese spy balloon entering United States airspace appeared equally matched to their willingness to let it slip away as concerns have mounted an American salvage vessel could take days to arrive.

Saturday, after completing a journey crossing the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, Canada and much of the continental United States, the balloon carrying Chinese surveillance equipment was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

“The balloon, which was being used by the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters,” the Pentagon announced.

Reported days of planning to take out the balloon above water still looked to have fallen short as the military has deployed naval warships to create a perimeter around the wreckage seemingly to keep the Chinese from recovering it themselves.

U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News confirmed from a Navy official that three warships had been dispatched to surround the crash site after a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor had shot down the balloon which was approximated to be the size of three school buses.

With wreckage spread across a debris field of seven miles and depths approximated at 47 feet, the guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79), amphibious warship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) arrived on scene along with numerous U.S. Coast Guard vessels to monitor the area until the arrival of a Navy salvage ship that was estimated to be two days out.

“We have…capable Navy divers to go down if needed,” a senior military official said. “We’ll also have unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship. We’ll have the FBI on board as well, under the counterintelligence authorities for categorizing and assessing the platform itself.”

While the Navy works to recover whatever they can from the wreckage of the spy balloon, an endeavor for which a timeline has yet to be reported, a senior defense official claimed that they were able to gather intelligence about the surveillance equipment as it flew over the United States while also protecting the American people from being surveilled.

“I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect agains the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us,” the official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.”

That same report took aim at former President Donald Trump, who had called out Biden for his delayed response, as the Defense Department leveled, “The balloon did not pose a military or physical threat. Still its intrusion into American airspace over several days was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty. The official said Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration.”

Kevin Haggerty


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