The U.S. Navy has recovered the remains of the alleged Chinese spy balloon after it was shot down over the weekend, according to images released Tuesday. The photos show sailors on a boat off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Sunday. The deflated balloon covers part of the boat and some trails on the water.
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The military shot down the balloon Saturday with a missile fired from an F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet. The Pentagon waited several days before shooting it down to avoid possibly injuring people on the ground with falling debris
The Chinese balloon had been flying at about 60,000 feet over parts of the U.S., including Montana, Idaho and Missouri. U.S. officials said that it did not pose a military threat but did acknowledge that its flight path “carried it over a number of sensitive sites.” Montana—for example—is home to the U.S. military’s land-based, nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missile fields.
The Chinese government has pushed back against allegations that the balloon was intended to surveil the U.S. and said that its purpose was for weather research. The U.S. will focus on learning more about the purpose of the balloon, which was assessed to be 200 feet tall. General Glen VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), compared the size of the payload underneath to the size of a “regional jet.”
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U.S. officials will be looking for hazardous materials that could be used for batteries or explosives, he added. The White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said Monday that there is also a broader aim to provide greater clarity on the surveillance capabilities that the balloons have, as well as China’s intentions with the balloon program amid reports that other balloons may have previously entered U.S. airspace.