On Monday, General Glen VanHerck of the U.S. Air Force revealed to reporters that the Chinese spy balloon shot down off South Carolina's coast on Saturday may have carried explosives for potential self-destruction. The Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM stated that the balloon was approximately 200 feet in height and weighed more than a few thousand pounds.
Wow: Northcom chief Gen. VanHerck says the balloon was up to 200 ft tall, with a payload the size of a jetliner. It weighed "in excess of a couple thousand lbs" and potentially carried explosives " to detonate and destroy the balloon."
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) February 6, 2023
While the military usually lacks the authority to gather intelligence within the U.S., special permissions were granted in this instance to gather intelligence on the balloon. Despite its large size and weight, General VanHerck reported that it did not present a physical military threat to North America and that its ability to maneuver was limited.
"It was my assessment that this balloon did not present a physical military threat to North America. This is under my NORAD hat, and therefore I could not take immediate action [against the balloon] because it was not demonstrating hostile act or hostile intent," said VanHerck.
A National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, added that the spy balloon was equipped with propellers and a rudder for navigation, but its maneuverability was limited. General VanHerck went on to explain that the Chinese utilize their balloons' limited maneuverability to strategically position themselves to utilize the winds and traverse portions of countries they want to observe for collection purposes.
Gen. VanHerck of NORAD/NORTHCOM offers more on how these balloons navigate: "They utilize their maneuverability to strategically position themselves to utilize the winds to traverse portions of countries that they want to see for collection purposes."
— Matt Seyler (@MattSeyler) February 6, 2023
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