Are Chinese Spy Balloons Transiting the US Undetected?
If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard that the US military had a “domain awareness gap” that allowed three other suspected Chinese spy balloons to transit the continental United States undetected under the Trump administration. This alarming breach of security has left us wondering what else we may have missed. In this blog post, we’ll explore the details of the Chinese spy balloons, how the Biden administration has responded, and how the US military is working to prevent future incursions.
The Biden administration believes that the Chinese surveillance program has been deployed in countries across five continents over the last several years. As a result, President Joe Biden directed the intelligence community “to increase both our vigilance and the assets that we were deploying to be able to detect Chinese efforts to spy against the United States.” This led to the discovery of past surveillance balloons, as well as the detection of the balloon that was hovering over Montana.
Former Trump administration Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that he was “surprised” by the statement from the Biden administration. He said that he had “never recall[ed] somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States.” Former President Donald Trump also said on Truth Social this week that reports of Chinese balloons transiting the US during his administration were “fake disinformation.”
National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said that there are several factors – like their altitude and speed – that make detecting the spy balloons difficult. He said that the ways to track them are “not constant.” He also noted that the balloon had “propellers” and “a rudder … to allow it to change direction.”
In response to the breach of security, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said that the intelligence community was able to gather intelligence “from additional means that made us aware of those balloons that were previously approaching North America or transited North America.” He also noted that the military operation on Saturday by F-22 fighter jets out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to take the balloon down allowed the US to gather intelligence on it while it transited the US before it was shot down.
It’s clear that the US military is taking steps to prevent future incursions by Chinese spy balloons. However, there is still much to be done to ensure that our airspace is secure. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the situation develops.