The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was monitoring a Chinese spy balloon that was flying across the US. Spy balloons have been used for decades and, according to experts, their usage is expected to grow in the future, even if they may not carry the same allure as a pinhole camera or arsenic concealed in a tooth.
All About Chinese Spy Balloon Incident
What occurred Friday over the US?
Prior to US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s anticipated trip to Beijing, US sources stated a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon had been seen hovering over the country for a few days.
Although fighter planes were prepared, military officers cautioned President Joe Biden against firing the balloon out of the sky out of concern that flying debris may endanger his safety. Biden heeded their advice, according to US sources.
The balloon is now flying at a height considerably above commercial air traffic, according to a statement from the Pentagon, and it does not pose a military or physical threat to those on the ground.
Canada’s National Defence issued a statement later on Thursday stating that it was keeping an eye on a “possible second event.”
What do spy ballons use?
The term “modern spy balloon” refers to a piece of spy gear, such a camera, hung underneath a balloon that flies above a certain region while being carried by wind currents. The apparatus that’s attached to the balloons may include solar power and radar.
Airliners seldom go higher than 12,000 metres, which is much beyond where balloons generally operate (24,000–37,000 metres, or 80,000–120,000 feet).
Why not utilise satellites instead of spy balloons?
“Satellites have been standard equipment for the past few decades. John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University and author of the book Revealing Secrets, claims that satellites were the solution. But there is a rebirth of interest in balloons now that lasers or kinetic weapons are being developed to target satellites. They are quicker to recover and considerably less expensive to launch than satellites, but they don’t provide the same amount of ongoing observation. A space launcher is required to put a satellite into orbit; this piece of machinery often costs hundreds of millions of dollars.
Why is China operating in this direction?
According to Blaxland, it is improbable that the Chinese didn’t anticipate being discovered; in fact, being discovered was probably the intended consequence in mind. He thinks that the balloon’s primary motivation was to humiliate the US; if it also happened to gather intelligence along the way, so much the better.
It’s difficult to see how they could have believed that it wouldn’t have been discovered. American airspace is “highly scrutinised airspace, it’s researched so extensively by the US civil aviation authority, by the US air force, by the US space force, by the weather networks,” he claims.
The second reason is to inform the US that China has been covertly catching up with and copying US technology.
“Chinese security organisations are experts at copying behaviour. They are excellent at identifying what technology is and then attempting to duplicate it, claims Blaxland.
According to Blaxland, it’s a matter of “whatever you can do, we can do better,” and it’s only the “top of the iceberg.” China spies “on an industrial scale,” gathering and disseminating minute amounts of information in several ways. These come together to create complete visuals.
Alexander Neill, a security expert based in Singapore, told that while the balloon was likely to cause further friction in relations between China and the US, it was likely to have little information value in comparison to other tools China’s military was using to modernise.
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