Rough seas slow Chinese spy balloon recovery effort off South Carolina: Pentagon
WASHINGTON — Choppy waters have created a touch-and-go situation for military teams attempting to recover the Chinese spy balloon shot down last week off the South Carolina coast, the Defense Department said Friday.
“Due to less than favorable sea states right now, teams will continue to conduct underwater survey and recovery as conditions permit,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.
Military teams have spent this week recovering portions of the downed balloon, including pieces of its payload. Ryder declined to specify what had been recovered so far, saying the information was classified.
Officials confirmed Friday that recovery teams had located the balloon’s massive undercarriage on the ocean floor, some 50 feet down. The platform is believed to contain surveillance equipment that will be analyzed to provide insight into China’s spy efforts.
“Recovery teams have mapped the debris field and are in the process of searching for and identifying debris on the ocean floor,” Ryder said. “Debris that’s been recovered so far is being loaded on vessels, taken ashore, cataloged and then moved onwards to labs for subsequent analysis.”
The Pentagon has been eager to retrieve the device in hopes that its remnants can be analyzed for further insight into its capabilities, the information it obtained and other intelligence on the Chinese balloon program, which officials believe has been in the works for several years.
The recovery efforts come after the US allowed the balloon to traverse the North American continent for a week before shooting it down on Feb. 4. The balloon hovered above sensitive military sites along its way after NORAD failed to identify it as a military threat when it first entered American airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28.
An Air Force F-22 fighter jet finally shot down the balloon as it passed over the Atlantic Ocean after the military advised President Biden against taking it down over land, citing safety risks to civilians on the ground.