On Saturday, the US Department of Defense confirmed that the F-22 stealth fighter had shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina. This balloon had crossed the continent from Alaska to Canada, then over Idaho and Montana to the Atlantic, and had been detected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28. Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for not shooting the balloon down earlier and for not publicizing the balloon earlier in the week.
The Pentagon said that the balloon posed no “military or physical” threat. However, senior defense officials have stated that there have been four previous known Chinese balloon incursions over the continental US: one early in the Biden administration and three during the Trump administration. Meanwhile, a senior administration official confirmed that the balloon was used for surveillance, and that the US was able to study and scrutinize the balloon for intelligence purposes.
President Biden has come under criticism for not shooting the balloon down sooner. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that the balloon’s deployment was “a deliberate act from China, an attempt to show the US was a declining superpower that can’t be counted on by its allies in the Pacific and elsewhere.”
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, compared the takedown of the balloon over the Atlantic to “tackling the quarterback after the game is over.”
China has confirmed that the balloon spotted flying over Latin America is Chinese and was used for flight tests. The Pentagon has begun recovery efforts for debris with the US Navy and Coast Guard, and F-15 Eagles flying from Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, supported the F-22, as did tankers from multiple states including Oregon, Montana, South Carolina and North Carolina. Canada's military personnel aided in monitoring the balloon's course of flight.
0. “F-22 got its first known air-to-air kill taking out a Chinese balloon” Business Insider, 5 Feb. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/f-22-first-known-air-to-air-kill-chinese-balloon-2023-2
1. “3 Navy Warships, FBI Now Hunting for Wreckage of Chinese Spy Balloon off South Carolina – USNI News” USNI News, 4 Feb. 2023, https://news.usni.org/2023/02/04/3-navy-warships-fbi-now-hunting-for-wreckage-of-chinese-spy-balloon-off-south-carolina
2. “Donald Trump denies Chinese surveillance balloons also flew over U.S. during his administration” Axios, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/02/05/trump-denies-china-balloon
3. “Lincoln Project mocked for posting Biden victory lap about China spy balloon: It's down ‘just like inflation'” Fox News, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/media/lincoln-project-mocked-posting-biden-victory-lap-china-spy-balloon-like-inflation
4. “Opinion | China Floats a Trial Balloon Over Montana” The Wall Street Journal, 3 Feb. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-balloon-surveillance-montana-beijing-biden-administration-xi-jinping-antony-blinken-11675461302
5. “Rubio says China flew balloon over US to send ‘a message': They think America is ‘in decline'” ABC News, 5 Feb. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/rubio-china-balloon-send-message-us-decline/story?id=96898184
6. “Marco Rubio, Mike Turner criticize Biden over suspected Chinese spy balloon” The Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/05/china-spy-balloon-gop
7. “Elon Musk Shares Meme On US Shooting Down Chinese ‘Spy' Balloon. See Post” NDTV, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.ndtv.com/feature/elon-musk-shares-meme-on-us-shooting-down-chinese-spy-balloon-see-post-3757473
8. “F-22 Safely Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off South Carolina Coast” Department of Defense, 4 Feb. 2023, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3288543/f-22-safely-shoots-down-chinese-spy-balloon-off-south-carolina-coast