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HomeNewsPentagon Releases Selfie of Chinese Spy Balloon Taken by US Pilot

Pentagon Releases Selfie of Chinese Spy Balloon Taken by US Pilot

Pentagon Releases Selfie of Chinese Spy Balloon Taken by US Pilot

The US Department of Defense has released a selfie taken in the cockpit of a U-2 spy plane as an airman flew above the Chinese surveillance balloon that the US military shot down earlier this month.

The U-2 pilot’s selfie reveals the shadow of the aircraft on the balloon as well as a clear image of the balloon’s payload as it crossed the continental United States. CNN was the first to report the selfie’s existence.

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The US military shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina after spotting it for the first time on January 28, after it had crossed the country.

Earlier this month, a senior State Department official stated that fly-bys “demonstrated that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations.”

Due to the balloon’s size, officials decided against shooting it down over the United States out of concern that falling debris could harm civilians or property on the ground.

Later, the commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Gen. Glen VanHerck, stated that the balloon was 200 feet tall and carried a couple of thousand pounds of cargo.

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Officials also asserted that the balloon was incapable of conducting significant intelligence collection, in part because the United States had taken precautions against it as soon as it was discovered.

According to the Air Force, the U-2 is a single-seat, high-altitude reconnaissance, and surveillance aircraft with “glider-like characteristics.” Because planes are routinely “flown at altitudes above 70,000 feet,” pilots “must wear a full pressure suit similar to what astronauts wear.”

The photo released on Wednesday depicts the pilot flying above the balloon, which was spotted hovering at 60,000 feet over Montana.

A week after the balloon entered US airspace near Alaska, NORAD dispatched fighter jets to positively identify the object, according to defense officials.

However, officials tracking the balloon saw no cause for alarm. The balloon was expected to sail over Alaska and continue on a northern trajectory that intelligence and military officials could track and study, according to US officials at the time.

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Instead, shortly after the balloon crossed over land, it made an unexpected turn south, alarming officials.

Officials argued that once the balloon was over US territory, the benefits of gathering additional intelligence on it outweighed the risk of shooting it down over land.

U-2 spy planes were dispatched to track the balloon’s progress, according to US officials.

On February 4, after the balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean, recovery efforts commenced immediately and lasted until February 17. The debris was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia for further examination.

Wednesday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh announced that the balloon’s payload had been recovered.