US sends divers to recover downed Chinese spy balloon

State of the Union What to Watch
In this photo provided by Chad Fish, the remnants of a large balloon drift above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Feb. 4, 2023. The downing of the suspected Chinese spy balloon by a missile from an F-22 fighter jet created a spectacle over one of the state’s tourism hubs and drew crowds reacting with a mixture of bewildered gazing, distress and cheering. (Chad Fish via AP, File)

US sends divers to recover downed Chinese spy balloon

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The United States sent Navy divers to salvage the wreckage of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, which was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

U.S. officials are interested in recovering the wreckage in order to assess China’s spying capabilities, and see if the balloon used any U.S. technology, an official familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The government is expecting to find advanced sensors and high-quality photographic equipment, he added.

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The salvage operation was announced in a press briefing on Saturday.

“So recovery operations have begun already. Multiple vessels, as I conveyed, are already on-scene and a few things up off the surface right now,” a senior military official said. “Once the salvage ship comes up, your question specific to divers, absolutely. We have divers that will be capable Navy divers to go down if needed. We’ll also have unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship.”

The official added: “There, it will be a collaborative effort. We’ll have FBI on board as well under the counterintelligence authorities to also be categorizing and assessing the platform itself.”

The parts of the wreckage of interest are submerged under 50 feet of water and scattered across a 7-mile area off Myrtle Beach. Divers from the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Salvage and Diving Unit 2, assisted by cranes on naval vessels, are expected to recover the wreckage fully in the coming days.

The mission is being accompanied by a sizable naval contingent: The dock landing vessel USS Carter Hall will be accompanied by the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin, and three U.S. Coast Guard cutters, the USCGC Venturous, the USCGC Richard Snyder, and the USCGC Nathan Bruckenthal, according to Bloomberg.

The senior military official said that in addition to establishing a security perimeter, the Navy and Coast Guard vessels would also be searching for any floating debris that could serve as a danger to civilians.

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He added that the recovery operation will be “fairly easy, actually. We planned for much deeper water.”

The spy balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday after floating across the continental U.S., beginning its route over Alaska and Canada. The Biden administration has since come under fire for not moving to shoot the balloon down sooner, even as it flew over sensitive military locations. The Pentagon has since revealed that several Chinese balloons have made incursions over the U.S. in the past few years.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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