Third Chinese Spy Balloon is ‘Operating Near U.S. Interests,’ Officials Won’t Say Where

A third Chinese spy balloon could be lingering near US interests, but officials won’t say where it is.

An anonymous source told the Washington Post a third balloon is likely operating near the US after the first balloon was discovered hovering over Montana on Thursday and another was found above Latin America on Friday.

The first balloon was shot down by an F-22 Raptor out of Langley Air Force base with a single AIM-9X sidewinder missile at 2.38pm today off the coast of South Carolina.

A source told the Post that the discovery of the balloons was an embarrassment to the Chinese, who are ‘freaked’ out by the incident. ‘They’re in a very tough place,’ the source told the outlet. ‘And they have very few cards to play right now.’ 

China had said the first balloon was collecting weather data when it was blown off course. However, on Saturday, two officials told the Washington Post that the balloons were part of a Chinese military surveillance program that relies on technology that helps supply the People’s Liberation Army. 

Officials ‘don’t know’ exactly what the balloons do, just that they have ‘some sophisticated communications gear.’

The first balloon spotted in Montana was hovering over a US military base that houses nuclear missile silos. Officials had worked to make sure the balloon wouldn’t be able to get information from the site but did not elaborate on how.

‘We took very early action to make sure those sites don’t show anything that anybody would find interesting,’ a defense official had told the Post. 

Joe Biden praised the Top Gun fighter jet pilot who shot down the Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina today after he vowed to ‘take care of it.’

Footage showed the jet screaming towards the spy aircraft before firing the missile as stunned locals watched from the coast.

An operation was underway to recover the wreckage and retrieve any valuable intelligence before it sinks into the ocean.

Biden told reporters: ‘I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible without doing damage to anyone on the ground. They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water.’

They successfully took it down it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,’ the President said as he stepped off Air Force One en route to Camp David at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Maryland.

The Pentagon confirmed: ‘The balloon, which was being used by the People’s Republic of China in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters.’

Defense officials estimated the balloon was about the size of three buses and that any debris field would be substantial.

The airspace in the Carolinas has now reopened after the Federal Aviation Authority announced a ‘ground stop’ at Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington’s international airports shortly after 1pm.

The Coast Guard earlier advised mariners to immediately leave the area due to military operations ‘that present a significant hazard.’

Ahead of the strike, a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, as well as F-22 Raptors were observed flying in the area, along with a US Navy P-8a Poseidon patrol aircraft. A Coast Guard HC-130 search-and-rescue plane also took off from Wilmington.

The F-22s flew with the call signs ‘FRANK01’ and ‘FRANK02’ in a possible homage to World War One ace and Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Frank Luke Jr, dubbed the ‘Arizona Balloon Buster’ for taking out German observation balloons.

The Biden administration confirmed the shoot-down order around 2pm after the President this morning vowed, ‘We’re gonna take care of it,’ as he stepped off Air Force One at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, upstate NY.

Biden gave the order as it emerged that a Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, passing over the Panama Canal and moving southeast over Venezuela.

The Pentagon confirmed the second Chinese aircraft Friday night.

‘We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,’ chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said.

But the Biden’s administration’s attempts to hide the blatant US airspace violation from the public for almost a week and inaction over the threat to national security have infuriated Republicans.

‘Communist China’s surveillance balloon violates international law and threatens our homeland,’ Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) told The New York Post.

‘It’s an outrage that the Biden Administration spotted this balloon days ago as it was flying over the Aleutian Islands and did nothing about it,’ she said. ‘The president has not even made a comment about this unacceptable act of aggression by the CCP.’

Biden first became aware of the balloon last Sunday, January 28, when it was spotted over Alaska. The US military tracked it over Canadian airspace and as it re-entered US territory on Tuesday.

The following day, Biden was given a detailed report on the aircraft and its course, attended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.

Biden initially wanted to take it down but Milley and Austin argued the risk from falling debris was too great, sources revealed.

Meanwhile, the administration went to the Chinese embassy for an explanation and continued making preparations for Blinken’s landmark diplomatic visit.

The administration finally told the public on Thursday after local Montana paper, the Billings Gazette, published photos of the balloon.

The emergence of the spy aircraft comes on the heels of a classified report to Congress which outlined advanced new technology that US adversaries were harnessing to spy on the country.

The report last month mentioned at least two incidents of a rival power conducting aerial surveillance with what appeared to be unknown cutting-edge technology, sources told The New York Times.

Although the report did not single out any country, two US officials familiar with the research named China.

The two sites where the unusual surveillance was detected included a military base in the US and another overseas.

Since 2021, the Pentagon has studied 366 unexplained incidents and determined that 163 were balloons.

William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative think tank in Washington, said the balloon could be steered by AI and has superior technology to another developed by the US.


It has a quite large, visible ‘payload’ — the electronics for guidance and collecting information, powered by large solar panels.

And it appears to have advanced steering technologies that the US military hasn’t yet put in the air.

Artificial intelligence has made it possible for a balloon, just by reading the changes in the air around it, to adjust its altitude to guide it where it wants to go, Kim said.

‘Before you either had to have a tether… or you just send it up and it just goes wherever the wind takes it,’ he said.

‘What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that… doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude it can control its direction.’

That could also involve radio communications from its home base, he said.

But ‘if the point of it is to monitor (intercontinental ballistic missile) silos, which is one of the theories… you wouldn’t necessarily need to tell it to adjust its location,’ he added.


Kim said that as satellites become more vulnerable to being attacked from the Earth and space, balloons have distinct advantages.

Firstly, they don’t easily show up on radars.

‘These are materials that don’t reflect, they’re not metal. So even though these balloons expand to quite large, detecting… the balloon itself is going to be a problem,’ he said.

And the payload, if small enough, can be overlooked.

Balloons also have the advantage of holding relatively stationary positions over a surveillance target, compared to constantly orbiting satellites used by spy agencies to take photographs.

‘These things can stay overhead, they can stay over one spot months at a time, compared to the low-Earth-orbit satellites,’ Kim said.


Shooting down a balloon is not as easy as it sounds, said Kim.

‘These balloons use helium… It’s not the Hindenburg, you can’t just shoot it and then and then it goes up in flames.’

‘If you do punch holes in it, it’s just kind of going to leak out very slowly.’

Kim recalled that in 1998 the Canadian air force sent up F-18 fighter jets to try and shoot down a rogue weather balloon.

‘They fired a thousand 20-millimeter cannon rounds into it. And it still took six days before it finally came down. These are not things that explode or pop when you shoot at them.’

He said it was not clear if using surface-to-air missiles would work, because their guidance systems are designed to hit fast-moving missiles and aircraft.