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Chinese spy balloon used US-made tech, officials say: Report

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023. (U.S. Fleet Forces)
June 29, 2023

The Chinese balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year used American-made equipment to spy on Americans and gather information, including photos, videos and more, U.S. officials said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Multiple defense and intelligence agencies analyzed pieces of the Chinese spy balloon after it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina in February.

Officials found the spy balloon was equipped with American gear, as well as specialized Chinese sensors, indicating the craft’s purpose was spying, not monitoring weather as the Chinese Communist Party previously claimed.

Authorities allowed the Chinese spy balloon to make the nearly week-long voyage across the U.S. due to fears shooting it down would cause damage from falling debris, officials said in February.

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

In the days before it was finally shot down, officials considered bringing the balloon down with either a giant net or a hook, according to the New York Times, but the balloon was so big that the only viable option was firing a missile at it, a senior administration official said. 

The Pentagon said there had been an opportunity to shoot it down over a sparsely populated area of Montana, but fears of injury or property damage from falling debris still kept action from being taken.

Officials said the payload of surveillance tech being carried by the spy balloon was the size of three school buses, and that it was flying at about 60,000 feet, the Associated Press reported

A senior defense official said the U.S. had still been able to glean information about the balloon while it was visible in the air.

“The surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us,” the official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.”

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.