The US detects a second ‘spy balloon’ from China… but now in Latin America

The United States detected another “spy balloon” from China and assured that it is flying over Latin America, it reported this Friday February 3 the Pentagon.

“We are seeing information from a balloon that is flying over Latin America. We now assess that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesman General brigada Patrick Ryder.

The Costa Rican newspaper La Nación had just published an article about a white flying object, which looked like a hot air balloon, and which had been sighted over the Latin American country.

In addition, a senior Pentagon official said the balloon sighted over Latin America does not appear to be heading for the United States.

The Pentagon announced that it was tracking the movements of a Chinese “spy balloon” that was flying over the state of Montana (northeast United States), where one of the three existing nuclear missile silo fields on US soil is located.

The other two atomic silo fields are located in two states bordering Montana: North Dakota to the east and Wyoming to the south.

As explained by the Pentagon, the balloon has moved in the last few hours in an easterly direction and is now in the center of the country, about 60 thousand feet from the surface (18,288 meters).

What do we know about the ‘spy’ balloon that flies over the US?

The high-altitude balloon now hovering 60,000 feet above the United States is part of a larger Chinese spy program that has seen many of these devices sent into the nation, including some during the Trump administration, according to US officials.

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People familiar with the matter believe that the balloon is maneuverable, because they have detected that it changed course, and anticipate that it will likely remain in US airspace for several more days.

However, they have decided not to try to take it down for now, arguing that the risk to the public from falling debris is too high, as its payload is the size of several buses.

They flatly dismiss China’s claim that it is a weather-monitoring vehicle given its size, previous Chinese espionage activity in the same vein, and Chinese officials’ private acknowledgment of its true nature.

New details offer new insight into an unprecedented spy wave that forced the secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, to postpone a trip to Beijing that had been scheduled for next week.

Administration officials have minimized intelligence risk that the device represents, saying it has only limited value, and that the United States took steps to further restrict the intelligence it could collect.

The balloon’s flight path has taken it over areas where the United States believes that China already operates satellites They are better equipped to take high-resolution images of infrastructure and military bases.

They also say it poses no physical threat to military assets, American civilians on the ground, or aircraft operating tens of thousands of feet lower in the atmosphere.

Still, officials believe that Chinese balloons can photograph installations from different angles than satellites, giving it a unique advantage. The one seen this week was lingering over Idaho and Montana, home to sensitive US nuclear missile silos and research facilities.

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The United States also believes that the Chinese have tried to buy property near the National Laboratory of Idaho Department of Energy, where the government conducts sensitive military research and development.

The balloons can also be deployed unexpectedly, giving the United States less time to hide assets it hopes to keep secret, and they often have infrared sensors that provide different information than satellites. Blinken said Friday that the US wanted to continue talking to China, but that “job first” was to move the balloon away from his nation.

When conditions permit, I plan to go to China, but the most important thing right now is to see this surveillance asset move out of our airspace,” Blinken said.

The United States is taking steps to guard against the collection of sensitive information and gain information by tracking the balloon and discerning what abilities it might have, a White House official said.

What characteristics do ‘spy balloons’ have?

The makers of the US spy balloons say their devices have the ability not only to capture images, but also to intercept communications, as well as extend cell service and the range of drones and other military assets. Experts say they expect the Chinese to have similar capabilities.

“It could work in a number of ways,” said Greg Falco, an aerospace expert at Johns Hopkins University. “They may have developed a spread spectrum receiver to intercept a variety of bands and were trying to capture the side lobes of some communications coming out of a target.”

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