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US failed to identify earlier Chinese spy balloons: Air Force general

A senior US general who was in charge of bringing down a Chinese surveillance balloon claimed on Monday that there was an “awareness gap” in the military’s ability to identify spy balloons before the one that emerged above the US on January 28.

Chinese spy balloons have briefly flown over the United States at least three times during President Donald Trump’s administration and once before, according to the Pentagon’s report over the weekend.

The most recent balloon was 200 feet (60 meters) tall, with cargo that weighed a few thousand pounds, according to Air Force General Glen VanHerck, who is also the commander of the US North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.

He omitted data about earlier balloons, such as where they soared over the United States. I will admit that we missed those dangers, and it indicates a domain awareness gap, stated VanHerck.

Without going into greater detail as to whether those “other ways of the collection” of intelligence would have involved human sources, telephone intercepts, or cyber espionage, VanHerck said that US intelligence discovered the earlier flights after the fact.

Senior US officials have offered to advise former administration members on the specifics of earlier balloon overflights that took place while Trump was president.

The Pentagon informed Republican Representative Michael Waltz, a member of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, that multiple Chinese balloon mishaps had occurred in recent years, including some over Florida.

The alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down by a US Air Force fighter jet on Saturday, a week after it first crossed US airspace and set off a dramatic and widely publicized spying story that deteriorated Sino-US relations.

VanHerck said he had no proof of explosives being aboard the balloon, but he also could not rule out the possibility. However, he planned to shoot the balloon down over the open sea because of that risk.

One F-22 fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fired the shot at 2:39 p.m. with a single AIM-9X supersonic, heat-seeking air-to-air missile. Several fighter and refueling aircraft were part of the mission.

The debris, according to VanHerck, had been gathered from a region measuring around 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) by 1,500 meters, and many military vessels had assisted in the operation.

A temporary security zone is being implemented, according to the US Coast Guard, in the waters around Surfside Beach, South Carolina, where the balloon was shot down.

The integrity of the espionage sensors carried by the balloon’s cargo, which might determine whether or not the shoot-down was successful in terms of acquiring intelligence, was not disclosed by officials.

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