The US military on Tuesday released the first official images of its Chinese spy balloon recovery efforts – as sailors trawled off the coast of South Carolina for wreckage.
Navy personnel were shown removing large parts of the high-altitude balloon — which U.S. officials say measured 200 feet long — from the waters off Myrtle Beach after the surveillance device was shot down on Saturday.
In one photo, half a dozen sailors can be seen dragging the balloon’s white material envelope and metal parts onto a vessel.
Military officials have not yet determined the condition of the device – or how many pieces it may contain – and unmanned underwater vehicles are now being used to track and retrieve the debris.
Air Force Gen. Glenn Van Hurk, head of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORCOM), said Monday that the Navy is taking precautions during recovery in case there are explosives on the balloon.
Van Hurk also said the debris was spread over an area that measured more than “15 football fields and 15 football fields squared”.
Once collected, pieces of the destroyed craft are being transported to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., to be examined by the Bureau and other counterintelligence officials.
US officials have said the successful recovery of the balloon could provide valuable insight into China’s spying capabilities – despite the Biden administration downplaying the downed device’s impact on national security.
“We need a more complete understanding of Chinese surveillance capabilities and systems,” retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the former U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
“Shoot it down [balloon] And then the recovery of parts of the Atlantic Ocean, I think, is very helpful in that regard.”
White House national security adviser Jack Sullivan defended Biden’s decision to wait until it was off the South Carolina coastline before shooting down the balloon, saying military advisers estimated that dropping it on water would ” It became more likely that we could effectively exploit the wreckage. shot down on the ground.”
With post wires
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