U. S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement Saturday that a balloon that had been spotted over Montana, Missouri and by numerous airliners, had been shot down by the U. S. after it entered airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. President Joe Biden reportedly told the Pentagon earlier in the week to take down the large balloon, “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Secretary Austin said in a statement (see his full statement below).
The Department of Defense looked for safe options where bringing the balloon would not risk lives or property on the ground. They settled on taking it down over U. S. territorial waters. U. S. fighter jets shot down spy balloon with a single missile, reports say.
Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
“This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace. The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters. On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path. After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload. In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities. This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America. Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”