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Did the US military shoot down a ham radio balloon it thought was a Chinese spy balloon?

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 8, 2021. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 20, 2023

The U.S. military shot down three additional unidentified aerial objects following its recent takedown of a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month. President Joe Biden said his administration is not sure what the objects were, but now some reports are suggesting that the balloon shot down over Canadian airspace was an amateur Ham radio balloon.

“Unlike latex or rubber weather balloons which inflate and stretch as they rise into lower atmospheric pressures, these mylar balloons can’t stretch, so their fully inflated ground size will be the same as their size at high altitudes, meaning the pico balloon won’t get much bigger than 32″,” according to a report by one radio reporting website.

“The payload was a GPS module, Arduino, SI5351 used as a WSPR and APRS transmitter and a solar panel, all together weighing 16.4 grams. A pentagon memo notes that the object shot down over Canada was a ‘small metallic balloon with a tethered payload’ which fits the description of the pico balloon exactly,” it added.

READ MORE: Biden says gov’t likely shot down 3 civilian devices, not China’s spy tech

The mystery continues following President Joe Biden’s remarks on Thursday about the unidentified aerial objects as he provided few details of what was shot down.

The president said the devices were “most likely” balloons tied to private companies or research institutions instead of Chinese spy balloons.

“And just as critically, we acted out of an abundance of caution and at an opportunity that allowed us to take down these — these objects safely,” Biden said. “Our military and the Canadian military are seeking to recover the debris so we can learn more about these three objects.  Our intelligence community is still assessing all three incidences.”

The first Chinese spy balloon entered U.S. airspace over Alaska beginning Jan. 28. On Feb. 2, a Defense Department official first revealed that the balloon was being tracked. The news came after the balloon was spotted by multiple people over Montana on Feb. 1.

On Feb. 4, a U.S. jet shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina. By Feb. 8, most of the wreckage had been recovered and was being evaluated by U.S. military.

The spy balloon was about 200 feet tall and included technology that could collect and transmit data. Military leaders referred to the equipment as “clearly for intelligence surveillance.”

From Feb. 10-12, three additional aerial objects were spotted above American and Canadian airspace. On Friday, Feb. 10, one object was shot down off the coast of Alaska. Saturday included the takedown of the object over Canadian airspace, while a third object was shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday.