Fact Check: Was the Chinese spy balloon shot down? Size, height, dangers and more explored
As the Chinese spy balloon looms over the United States, the Pentagon has announced that it will continue to float for the next few days. By Friday noon, the “surveillance balloon” was at an altitude of about 60,000 feet and was floating over the center of the continental U.S. Citizens nationwide have wondered why it is not being shot down yet.
According to Pentagon’s Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the spy balloon “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” He went on to add that it will continue to be monitored.
Initially, fighter jets were prepared to act against the balloon. However, President Joe Biden was advised against shooting it as the debris from it could pose as a safety threat. When CNN questioned a senior military official about the reason behind not shooting the spy balloon, they explained:
“So the first question is, does it pose a threat, a physical kinetic threat, to individuals in the United States in the US homeland? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not.”
An official went on to add:
“This isn’t like Top Gun where it just explodes and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s large and it's metal, it would put hundreds of Americans at risk.”
The Chinese spy balloon has not yet been shot down
According to a U.S. senior defense official, the balloon is as big as three busses. According to Dimensions and Drawings, a conventional city transit bus in America is about 12 meters long, three meters tall and 2.5 meters wide. If the spy balloon is three times the same, it would be 7.5 meters wide and about nine meters tall. It is important to note that the measurements are approximate and not exact.
Along with the balloon, there is a technology bay present in the peculiar object as well. Speaking about the balloon, Senator Marco Rubio revealed:
“This is not some hot air balloon, it has a large payload of sensors roughly the size of two city busses & the ability to maneuver independently"
For those unversed, a payload refers to the amount of goods or people a vehicle can carry. Till date, there has been no mention of the spy balloon carrying any nuclear or radioactive matter in it.
Balloons like the Chinese spy balloon can usually operate at 80,000 to 120,000 feet above where commercial air traffic flies. However, as mentioned prior, the balloon in question was traveling at 60,000 feet as of Friday.
What did China say about the balloon?
China’s foreign ministry revealed that the balloon was used for “mainly meteorological” purposes. They went on to add that they regretted the “unintended entry” of the balloon into the U.S. airspace.
The country added that the balloon was “affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-sterring capability,” it deviated from its original path.
The spy balloon seems to have caused tension between the two countries as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his upcoming trip to China in response. This will be the first time a Biden administration cabinet secretary will be making a formal visit to the country.