Chinese Balloon downed by US Air Force reportedly aimed for Guam & Hawaii, but was blown off course

WASHINGTON (Agencies): The US military shot down four unidentified aircraft in its airspace last week in the span of just a few days, with Washington insisting that the first of these, downed on February 4, was a Chinese surveillance balloon, despite Beijing’s insistence that it was a civilian aircraft carrying out science research.

The Chinese balloon brought down by a US Air Force F-22 fighter jet over American territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina on February 4 had been on a flight trajectory taking it over Guam and Hawaii, according to US media reports.

However, strong winds from a cold front had factored in, and blew the alleged spy balloon way off course, across Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Canada and, subsequently, the central United States, said a US official cited by the media.

Thus, US analysts are believed to be considering the possibility that the errant craft’s flight over American territory might not have been intentional.

Guam houses two strategic US bases: Naval Base Guam in Santa Rita, and Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo, along with the Guam Army National Guard. Hawaii has around 12 military installations and bases across the state supporting the US armed forces, with Schofield Barracks the largest.

Reports of the high-altitude balloon that Washington has attributed to Beijing’s surveillance program and China insists was a civilian research vessel first surfaced on February 2.

At the time, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed to the public that intelligence officials had been tracking a perceived surveillance balloon over the Montana airspace. Finally, at orders from President Joe Biden, a US jet destroyed the Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Beijing has since blasted the speculation surrounding the incident, explaining the aircraft was used for civilian meteorological research.

The incident has fed into the ballooning anti-China hysteria as Washington stated that the retrieved device would be further studied to “exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned.” On February 13 the US military said it had recovered “critical electronics” from the balloon, as well as large sections of the aerostat.

Furthermore, the US Commerce Department blacklisted six Chinese companies that, according to Washington, facilitate development of China’s aerospace industry, including the production of balloons. This prompted Beijing to vow countermeasures in response to US sanctions.

“China strongly opposes this and will take countermeasures against relevant US entities that damage China’s sovereignty and security in accordance with the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday.

Courtesy: sputniknews