The Chinese spy balloon that traversed US airspace before being shot down over the weekend was roughly 200 feet tall, weighed thousands of pounds — and may have carried explosives meant for self-destruction, a top US general revealed Monday.
The since-obliterated spy craft’s payload was approximately the size of a regional jet airliner, Air Force General Glen VanHerck, head of US North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORCOM), said as he disclosed fresh details about the surveillance device.
“The balloon assessment was up to 200 feet tall for the actual balloon,”He told journalists during a media briefing.
“Of the payload itself, I would categorize that as a jet-airliner type of size, maybe a regional jet such as a ERJ [Embraer Regional Jet] or something like that. [It] probably weighed in excess of a couple thousand pounds.”
A US Air Force F-22 fighter jet eventually shot down the Chinese balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday — days after it first entered US airspace and the military advised President Biden against shooting it down over land, citing safety risks to civilians on the ground.
“From a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky,”VanHerck claimed. “That’s really what we’re kind of talking about.”
VanHerck responded to questions regarding potential risks if the balloon were dropped over land. “glass off of [its] solar panels; potentially hazardous material, such as material that is required for batteries to operate in such an environment as this; and even the potential for explosives to detonate and destroy the balloon that could have been present.”
However, he did not confirm that the balloon contained explosives.
“Anytime you down something like this, we make an assumption that that potential exists,”VanHerck claimed.
“We did not associate the potential of having explosives with a threat to dropping weapons, those kinds of things, but out of a precaution, abundance of safety for not only our military people in the public, we have to make assumptions such as that.”
The balloon’s debris was scattered over an area of approximately 3.5 x 3.4 m. “more than 15 football fields by 15 football fields,”The Pentagon official also added.
The emergence of the Chinese craft, which had loitered over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed before sailing east, has quickly ignited a spying saga between Washington and Beijing.
China claimed that the balloon was a weather instrument. “airship”This was a mistake, and US officials quickly made surveillance allegations.
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