Spy balloon sent real-time data to China – report
The Chinese balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year managed to gather intelligence from military bases for days before it was shot down, reports the American media.
The balloon is capable of transmitting real-time data to Beijing, NBC News reported, citing US officials.
According to an official quoted by the network, the vehicle was recording electronic signals instead of taking pictures.
The White House has not confirmed the report.
But US officials said they managed to limit the balloon’s intelligence-gathering abilities as it soared over the country.
On Monday, a Department of Defense spokesman said the FBI was still investigating the balloon crash.
“We know that the balloon can be maneuvered and targeted along its path,” said spokeswoman Sabrina Singh, who declined to say which military installations the balloon might hover over.
“We are still assessing the information that China has been able to gather, but we know that the steps we have taken have added little value to what they were previously able to gather from satellites,” she said.
Where does the balloon fly?
US officials said they tracked the balloon over Alaska and Canada before it re-entered US airspace in early February.
Public confirmation that the balloon was flying over the continental United States prompted days of tracking, sky-watching and speculation. The approximately 60 m high vehicle was shot down by an American fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina on February 4th.
American officials later said they recovered the balloon. Chinese officials said it was a civilian weather balloon and the US overreacted by shooting it down.
Officials told US media that China can control the balloon so that it can fly over various military bases and sometimes fly in figure eights.
The incident sparked a diplomatic controversy, which led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to China.
In the weeks after the balloon was shot down, US fighter jets shot down several more balloons that they suspected were from China. The US Department of Defense says China operates a fleet of balloons around the world.