Military Intel Was Collected by Chinese Spy Balloons

Military Intel Was Collected by Chinese Spy Balloons

( – When a Chinese spy balloon flew right across the US in February, many feared it was stealing our military secrets. The Biden administration, which refused to destroy the balloon, insisted it wasn’t able to collect sensitive information. It turns out that claim wasn’t true.

On January 28, a 200-foot balloon with an underslung payload bay entered US airspace near the Aleutian islands. For the next week, it wandered across the US and western Canada before finally crossing the South Carolina coast on February 4 and promptly being shot down by a USAF fighter. Along the way, it loitered near US military installations, including the strategic missile site at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana. At the time, the Biden administration claimed it had taken “all necessary steps” to prevent the balloon from collecting defense data. But did it?

On April 3, two high-level officials and a former senior administration official admitted the balloon had picked up intelligence on its travels. They said China was able to steer it to some extent, including flying it in figure-eight tracks over military bases, and that it had been able to record electronic signals and transmit them back to China in real-time.

Electronic intelligence, or ELINT, is very valuable in modern warfare. By collecting signals from the enemy’s radar and communication equipment, it’s possible to develop new stealth technology, work out how to jam guided weapons, and analyze how communications are encrypted. China already has working quantum computers, which could allow it to crack US encryption systems; allowing it to scan communications links around our missile bases is potentially disastrous.

The Biden administration knew of the balloon as soon as it entered US airspace but tried to hide it from the public, likely to avoid disrupting Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit to China. In the end, the visit was canceled after the story broke.

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