On Saturday, February 4th, 2023, a U.S.A military fighter jet shot down an airship suspected to be a spy balloon owned by China flying off South Carolina’s coast. This was one week after the airship entered U.S. airspace triggering a public and intense spying saga that made Sino-U.S.A relations worse.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he had asked the military to shoot down the suspected spy balloon on Wednesday. However, officials at the Pentagon advised the U.S. military to wait until the shooting down could occur over open water so that the debris crashing to the ground from several thousand feet above commercial air traffic could not injure civilians.
Biden said the U.S.A military took down the balloon successfully, and he complimented the aviators who did so. Several refueling and fighter aircraft engaged in the mission, but only one aircraft shot down the balloon using one AIM-9X heat-seeking, supersonic, air-to-air missile.
When the U.S. military discovered the balloon, a diplomatic crisis occurred. Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, immediately called off a weekend trip to China because of the act, stating it was irresponsible.
China condemned the military strike strongly on an airship it used for meteorological and other scientific reasons. China said that the airship had accidentally strayed into U.S. airspace. U.S. officials, on the other hand, flatly dismissed the claims.
The U.S. military shot down the balloon about 6 miles off the United States coast of the Atlantic Ocean, over somewhat shallow water. U.S. officials said that this potentially aided the effort to retrieve elements of the surveillance equipment in the coming days. The officials said the debris spread over 7 miles of ocean, and there were several military vessels on site.