Electronic signals intercepted
China’s balloon allegedly spied on US military sites
4/3/2023, 6:18 p.m
In late January, a spy balloon flew over the United States from Beijing. US authorities tried to prevent him from spying on military bases. According to a US television station, this was only partially successful.
The Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States in early February was able to collect intelligence from several American military sites. This is reported by the US television station NBC, citing statements by two senior US officials and a former senior government official. The efforts of the authorities to prevent the balloon from espionage therefore partially failed.
China was able to steer the balloon so that it flew over some of the locations several times, for example in the shape of a figure eight. The information collected was transmitted to Beijing in real time, the three officials said. The espionage was therefore largely achieved by intercepting electronic signals that can be received by weapon systems or from communications by base personnel.
China could have collected much more information from sensitive locations if the government had not tried to jam the balloon’s electronic signals. The Department of Defense declined to comment again on the spy balloon. Instead, it cited comments in February in which senior officials said the balloon had “limited additional value” for the Chinese government’s intelligence gathering “beyond what [China] probably collect from things like satellites in low earth orbit”.
Balloon flew over site with nuclear facilities
China has repeatedly said the balloon was an unmanned civilian airship that accidentally went off course. Beijing said the United States overreacted by shooting him down. After the balloon was launched in February, government officials said it was able to collect signals.
The balloon had a self-destruct mechanism that China could have triggered remotely. According to the officials, it is not yet clear whether this happened because the mechanism did not work or because China decided not to trigger it. The balloon first entered US airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28. Within the next few days, the balloon flew over Montana, among other places – more precisely over the Malmstrom Air Force Base, where the USA stores some of its nuclear plants.
The US shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, officials are still analyzing the recovered debris. At the time, the US government said it waited until it was over the sea before launching it to avoid damage. “U.S. military commanders had determined that launching the balloon above the ground posed an unreasonable risk to people over a wide area because of the balloon’s size and altitude and its surveillance burden,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a written statement after the launch balloons.