What is a spy balloon and why are they used?

US OFFICIALS have confirmed that a Chinese spy balloon has been flying over the United States for a few days.

Previously, military leaders advised President Joe Biden not to launch the balloon hovering over Billings, Montana; However, it was eventually shot down on February 4, 2023.

A suspected Chinese spy balloon flies over Billings, Montana


A suspected Chinese spy balloon flies over Billings, MontanaPhoto credit: AFP

What is a spy balloon?

A spy balloon is a piece of equipment suspended beneath a balloon.

Balloons have been used as espionage tools for decades.

For example, during World War II, the Japanese military used incendiary bombs on US territory, using hydrogen balloons designed to float in jet stream air currents.

No military targets were damaged, but several civilians were killed when one of the balloons crashed in an Oregon forest.

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The US military is no stranger to high-altitude spy balloons either.

Project Genetrix or WS-119L was a project intended to raise spy balloons over Soviet bloc territory as well as communist China in the 1950s.

US Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the spy balloon was alarming but not surprising.

Rubio said on Twitter: “The level of espionage Beijing is directing against our country has become dramatically more intense and brazen over the past 5 years.”

The balloon, spotted in the United States on February 2, 2023, was finally flown across the Atlantic near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where local residents reported hearing and feeling the explosion from shore.

Why are spy balloons used?

According to a 2009 report to the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, spy balloons have the ability to scan large areas of territory up close and spend more time over a target area.

Unlike satellites, which require space rockets costing hundreds of millions of dollars, balloons are a low-cost alternative.

However, with the advent of modern satellite technology collecting intelligence data from space, more visible examples such as spy balloons are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

US officials said they have taken steps to ensure the balloon cannot collect sensitive data.

How does a spy balloon work?

This method of gathering information is not controlled directly, but can be roughly guided to a target area by changing elevations to capture different wind currents.

Such balloons are typically deployed at an altitude of 24,000 to 37,000 m (80,000 to 120,000 ft), well above the range at which commercial air travel flies – airliners almost never fly higher than 40,000 ft.

https://www.the-sun.com/news/7297221/spy-balloon-what-why/ What is a spy balloon and why are they used?


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