The US military says it recovered important sensors from the downed Chinese spy balloon

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US military said on Monday it had recovered critical electronics from the suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down by a US fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, including key sensors believed to be for collection of information was used.

“Crews were able to recover significant debris from the site, including all identified priority sensors and electronics, as well as much of the structure,” the US military’s Northern Command said in a statement.

The Chinese balloon, which Beijing denies was a government spy ship, flew over the United States and Canada for a week before President Joe Biden ordered its launch. The episode strained relations between Washington and Beijing and prompted America’s top diplomats to delay a trip to China.

It also caused the US military to scan the sky for other objects not picked up by radar, resulting in three unprecedented kills in the three days between Friday and Sunday.

The US military and the Biden administration have acknowledged that much remains unknown about recent unmanned objects, including how they stay aloft, who built them and whether they may have gathered information.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Monday tried to reassure Americans about the risks posed by the unidentified objects.

“I want to reassure Americans that these objects pose no military threat to anyone on the ground,” Austin told reporters as he landed in Brussels for a NATO meeting.

“However, they pose a risk to civil aviation and a potential threat to intelligence gathering.”

The US military said targeting the latest objects was more difficult than shooting down the Chinese spy balloon due to their smaller size and lack of a traditional radar signature.

An example of the difficulty is the recent downing of an unidentified object by an F-16 fighter jet on Sunday, which shot down two Sidewinder missiles – after one of them missed the target, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

Austin said the US military has yet to recover debris from the three most recently shot down objects, one of which fell in ice and snow off the coast of Alaska. Another shooting occurred over the Yukon Territory of Canada.

US officials have declined to connect the incidents.

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the four aerial objects shot down in recent days were somehow linked, without elaborating.

“Obviously there’s some sort of pattern, the fact that we’ve seen this in a significant way over the past week is a cause for interest and special attention,” Trudeau told reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse, the Yukon capital.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)


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