US Navy Sailors Recover Remains of Chinese Spy Balloon but We Still Have Lots of Questions and No Plausible Answers

Sailors of EOD Group 2 retrieve wreckage of Chinese spy balloon. Public Domain image. CREDIT EOD GRU 2 Facebook —

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Tuesday, sailors from the US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2, based a Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and working from aboard the dock landing ship USS Carter Page, started recovery operations at the site of the downing of a Chinese spy balloon about six miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, SC in less than 50-feet of water.


It was brought down by a flight of F-22 Raptors, using the callsigns FRANK01 and FRANK02 in honor of the World War 1 “balloon buster” and Medal of Honor recipient Frank Luke, firing a single AIM-9X Sidewinder. They were backed up by a pair of F-15C Eagle fighters, just in case…

You can hear the audio of the interception here.

These images come from the Facebook page of EOD Group 2.

Our national media were fixated on that balloon for a good portion of last week. But, in fairness, it was not just any balloon. It was a Chinese surveillance platform towering some 200 feet high with a jetliner-sized array of antennae and solar panels dangling beneath it. The balloon was, it seems, launched from a Chinese government facility in central China.

It first entered the national consciousness on February 1 when ranchers in northern Montana noticed something in the skies that shouldn’t have been there (US Government Tracking Chinese Spy Balloon Over Continental United States). But, as the map shows, the balloon had first entered US airspace about two days earlier, west of the Aleutian Islands.


When it was first reported, comedy ensued. Kevin McCarthy rightfully demanded to know what the hell was going on; see NEW: Speaker McCarthy Requests ‘Gang of Eight’ Briefing About Chinese Spy Balloon. Soon after this, the leaks began. The Biden White House knew for a week that the Chinese spy balloon would enter US airspace; they seem to have decided to say nothing and hope no one noticed; see Biden Admin Knew About the Balloon for a Week, but Couldn’t Decide What to Do. Then Joe Biden claimed that he had ordered the balloon shot down, but the military had refused; see Biden Says He Told Military to Shoot Down Balloon on Wednesday, They Said to Wait and Moore to the Point – Who’s the Boss?. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin verified that with some mush-mouthed excuses about “risks;” see Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Statement on Downing of Chinese Balloon Is Ironic Comedy at Its Best. The same people who can take away your livelihood because they know the world will be 0.1°C higher 50 years from now can’t predict where a 2,000-pound object will land if it falls from 60,000 feet above one of the most sparsely populated areas of North America.

Almost predictably, the Deep State apparatchiks tried to protect their Precious from harm by claiming that at least three such balloons had transited the US under OrangeManBad. However, when Trump Administration officials challenged this version of fake history (Trump and His Team Shoot Down Report About Chinese Balloons During His Term), the story changed.


Florida Congressman Michael Waltz had as close to a “Leeeroy Jenkins” moment as you can get when he repeated an anonymous claim that former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis knew about the balloon incursions but refused to tell President Trump because he was afraid of Trump’s response.

Suddenly, the story changed from “Trump knew” to the Chinese balloons during the Trump administration were only recently discovered (There Are Big Problems With Biden Team’s Evolving Story About Prior Chinese Balloons). So naturally, they were “discovered” by the intelligence community, which hadn’t bothered telling the Department of Defense until it became necessary to deflect blame from Biden’s incompetence (Biden Team’s ‘Prior Chinese Balloons’ Narrative Changes Yet Again; Tom Cotton Blasts Claim That Biden Admin Was ‘Acting in Good Faith’ Regarding Trump Balloon Accusations).

And so we let the Chinese intelligence gathering balloon mope its way across the ICBM fields of Malmstrom AFB, MT, Minot AFB, ND, and F. E. Warren AFB in Wyoming.

Every crisis like this produces a man who can crystalize the problem in just a few words; this one was no different. NORTHCOM/NORAD commander General Glen VanHerck had this to offer, “I will tell you we did not detect those threats [the previous alleged Chinese violations of US airspace] and that’s a domain awareness gap we have to figure out.” Domain awareness gap. Right.


Several of my colleagues have posed questions that need to be answered, so let me treat you to my own.

Why, if, in the words of General VanHerck, the balloon was not shot over the Pacific because it posed no threat, was it necessary to shoot the balloon down over the Atlantic? The balloon had completed its mission and undoubtedly uploaded its information to a server somewhere in China.

What was the danger posed that prevented shooting down the balloon over mostly empty areas of Alaska, the Canadian provinces of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Alberta, northern Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming? Are we supposed to believe that there is no place in those areas where you can drop a (maybe) 100-foot-long gondola without hitting people or homes?

Who is the commander-in-chief? Under what set of circumstances does the president give a legal order, and the military responds with, “yeah, no?” I’d thought that was a unique feature of the Deep State’s interactions with President Trump, but now I think there may be a much larger problem. Is there a policy manual on this somewhere? Because I think we’d all like to know.

Did the Department of Defense really think it could let this balloon transit the US with no questions asked? The answer seems to be yes. If so, there is a desperate need for a house cleaning in the Department of Defense. Is it US policy to allow this kind of activity without mentioning it to the public unless it is pointed out to the media by random civilians?


How is it possible that with all the billions and billions of dollars sunk into the Department of Defense, Chinese incursions during the Trump years were only discovered through some magical retrospective data review by the intelligence community?

Who, exactly, told the media that the same events had happened under the Trump administration, and why do they still have a job?

What are General VanHerck and his band of merry (whatever it is they have in the USAF these days) doing about the “domain awareness gap?”

Is it our practice to only show curiosity about things like large, sensor-laden balloons originating in China once they have entered US airspace? Shouldn’t someone have anticipated that a Chinese balloon over the Pacific might follow the Jet Stream into US airspace?

The byword after the 9/11 attack was that “the most important failure was one of imagination.” How can any institution devoted to our national security fail to see the risks of allowing a surveillance balloon belonging to a hostile power to transit our skies (Balloons Aren’t Just for Kids’ Parties—They Can Launch Bombs, Drone Swarms and Even EMP Attacks)? Why would we ever assume anything like a Chinese spy balloon was benign?


Did anyone consider the message we are sending to the rest of the world, especially in the wake of Afghanistan and increased Chinese aggression in the Western Pacific? Did anyone care?

It is clear from the events of last week that our national defense establishment is a barking shambles. The name of the game is meddling in national electoral politics, not protecting the country. The Republicans have control of the House. Will they have the moral courage to demand answers from Defense and the intelligence community on what the hell went on between January 28 and February 4?


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