Damn If You Shoot, Damn If You Don’t Shoot – The Shooting Of “Second Object” Raises More Questions Over Spy Balloon

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Feb 11 2023
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Days after shooting down of a high altitude Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, the U.S. military had scrambled an F-22 fighter jet to shoot down a second “high altitude object” in American airspace – this time off the coast of Alaska on Friday (Feb 10). It is called an object because that’s the best description the White House has right now.


The object was neither an aircraft nor a balloon. Unlike the Chinese balloon, which was hovering between 60,000 and 80,000 feet above Earth, the second unidentified object was flying at 40,000 feet in altitude. And unlike the balloon (the size of three school buses), the latest object (the size of a small car) did not appear to possess any maneuverability.


However, the latest unidentified flying object was quickly shot down because it was a threat to civilian airliners typically cruise at an altitude of 35,000 feet. But regardless whether the objects were shot down “before or after” they entered the U.S. airspace, President Joe Biden’s handling of both incidents has invited criticisms, especially from Republican lawmakers.

F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet - Firing Missile

The second object, of which the ownership cannot be determined, has provided Republican a golden opportunity to mock and insult the president. Before the second object emerged, the Republicans publicly and deliberately pressured Biden administration to explain why it had allowed the Chinese balloon to travel the continental United States before shooting it down.


Republican Senator Tom Cotton condemned Biden – “China sent a spy balloon to fly all across America. The Biden administration had a chance to shoot it down over Alaska and they chose to let it spy all across America. End of story.” Worse, many believed that had it not for Americans who spotted the balloon over Montana, the government would have closed one eye.


But after the second object was shot down, the same Republicans argued that the U.S. military indeed has the capabilities to not only detect the Chinese balloon, but also shoot it down immediately. This proves that Biden could give the order to the U.S. Air Force to shoot down the spy balloon before it entered American airspace, but the president allowed it to invade the U.S. sovereignty.

US President Joe Biden - Clueless

Despite classified briefings behind closed doors, politicians have refused to accept any explanations. They could not understand why the second object with much smaller payload was categorized as a bigger threat – and was promptly shot down – than the first balloon. They also grilled Biden about what his administration will do if the Chinese send another balloon again.


Pentagon could easily explain that the reason not to immediately shoot down the balloon was to study the real objective of the spy balloon by studying its travelling path. It could also argue that it was part of military strategy not to reveal its real strength or how it would retaliate when enemies entered American airspace – even if the U.S. was actually caught with its pants down unprepared.


If China’s real intention of sending its balloon to the U.S. was to create havoc, Beijing has done an excellent job in putting Republican and Democrats at loggerheads. The fact that NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), Pentagon and President Biden were scrambled to decide what to do with the balloon speaks volumes about the level of panic in Washington.

China Spy Balloon Invades US Airspace

Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper which is the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, took the opportunity to mock and ridicule the U.S. – “If balloons from other countries could really enter continental US smoothly, or even enter the sky over certain states, it only proves that the US’s air defence system is completely a decoration and cannot be trusted.”


Not only the balloon – insignificant compared to U.S. spy planes – was sent to demonstrate that China has a sophisticated technological capability to penetrate the U.S. airspace, but it also was a provocation to see how the Americans would react. Beijing probably wanted to send a message that it could retaliate and create troubles if the U.S. keeps crossing the red line.


Despite the U.S. officials’ initial claim that the balloon cannot collect any sensitive data, there have been contradictions. The State Department admitted that the U.S. military had dispatched Cold War-era U-2 spy planes to track and study the balloon before it was shot down with a missile. The equipments on the balloon, included antennas, showed it was for intelligence surveillance.

High Altitude Surveillance Spy Balloon

Interestingly, Pentagon and the F.B.I. are studying the debris of the balloon, which was 200 feet tall and had a payload the size of a regional jet. U.S. officials reveal that their “top priority” is to learn exactly what kinds of communications information the balloon could collect. But was it not the U.S. who had claimed earlier that the balloon cannot collect any sensitive data?


The U.S. military’s eagerness to study the equipments on board the Chinese balloon means not only it can collect sensitive data, but also demonstrates that the U.S. was clueless about China’s capabilities. This could be the reason why Beijing was furious over the downing of its balloon, telling Washington that the balloon belonged to China and should not be kept by the U.S.


The Chinese government is angry because the U.S. might be able to steal and copy its technology. If China’s technology is outdated and inferior, there was no reason for lawmakers like Senator Lisa Murkowski to be furious over the intrusion of Alaska as the nation’s first line of defence, let alone the spying of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana – home to one of only three nuclear missile silo fields.

Malmstrom Air Force Base - Montana

To divert attention, Biden administration has pointed fingers at his predecessor – former president Donald Trump – of keeping silent over similar breaches of China’s spy balloons in the past, which Trump has rubbished as lies. Biden has since played down the balloon crisis, likening it to other intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence efforts across the globe.


Curiously, almost immediately after the U.S. shot down the Chinese balloon, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin tried numerous times to call China Defence Minister Wei Fenghe, who declined the calls. Beijing said the calls over a special crisis line were rejected because the U.S. had “not created the proper atmosphere” for the two parties to dialogue.


The balloon incident also saw U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his visit to China, a trip that Beijing had never confirmed or acknowledged. China now has accused the U.S. of lying to the world by using the balloon to exaggerate the spy story in order to pass a resolution condemning Beijing of spying. China insists it was a civilian weather balloon that had blown off course.

China vs America - Dragon arm wrestling Eagle


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