Chinese probe in the American stratosphere. Source: molva33.ru
Xi Jinping's response
It turns out that two people can play the game of trampled sovereignties. Last August, old Nasni Pelosi pointedly spat in the direction of Beijing and landed in Taiwan. American tabloid headlines mockingly broadcast the words of the State Department:
"Pelosi's visit does not violate China's sovereignty."
The only question was how and when Xi Jinping would respond.
And now, on February 3, 2023, American diplomacy declared its own sovereignty, which the Chinese balloon so boldly trampled. As it turns out, not the first. The response of the Chinese Foreign Ministry makes you stand up and applaud:
"PRC has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and has never intentionally violated anyone's airspace."
One of the best images of the probe so far. Source: telegarm
And what actually happened?
A giant balloon filled with helium entered the airspace of the United States in late January at an altitude of 25 to 37 kilometers. The balloon moved along with the air currents of the western transfer, crossed the Pacific Ocean, slipped through Alaska and Canada and came to visit from the northwest. The first time civilians saw the balloon was in Billing, Montana.
Official photos of the facility came from the US National Weather Service (NWS) in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. At the same time, the military probably led the violator of airspace at the very moment of crossing the US border. But the height of the balloon was prohibitive, and it was impossible to do anything with it. Therefore, it is better to remain silent, perhaps on the ground they will not notice. But American taxpayers turned out to be big-eyed, and pictures of the Chinese weather balloon went around the world.
After the fact, the Pentagon admitted that the balloon entered US airspace in Alaska on January 27, it appeared over Canada on January 30 and in the US mainland northern Idaho on January 31. And only on February 1, Joe Biden gave the order to destroy the objects.
The helium scout was not alone in the Western Hemisphere - balloons were watching over Costa Rica and Venezuela. Balloons carry a solid set of equipment - solar panels and compartments for special equipment are visible in common photos. The Americans complain that the Chinese can place cameras, highly sensitive sensors and other intelligence equipment under the balls. How relevant such a technique is for meteorological research, according to the PRC, is an open question.
The representative of the Chinese diplomatic department Mao Ning described the balloon as harmless
"far off course civil airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes, with limited ability to self-control."
The helium balloon ended up over the United States solely due to force majeure.
Of greatest concern is the apparatus under the helium balloon. Potentially, both reconnaissance equipment and nuclear warheads can be suspended here. Source: Telegram
But the Americans are in a very nervous situation. Just think about it - a helium balloon, stuffed with equipment, floats calmly over the "power No. 1", and the famous Air Force cannot do anything. A KC-135 Stratotanker tanker aircraft, F-22 Raptors fighters, a P-8A Poseidon patrol and a US Coast Guard HC-130 search and rescue aircraft were lifted into the air for the sake of a harmless weather balloon.
For four days they could do nothing. Reasons were invented to justify impotence. At a special briefing, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said that the military deliberately refuses to shoot down the ball. According to him, the fragments of the product can do a lot of trouble on earth.
Wonderful logic, and if it really works, then nothing can be shot down over the territory of America. You never know where, for example, the strategic Tu-160 can fall? And if he also has missiles, then in general he will have a “green corridor” through all the states.
At the same time, on the route of the balloon movement there were huge spaces with a low population density, and sometimes completely deserted. A downed scout could fall completely without consequences.
The military points to the ability of the balloon to actively maneuver and change its height - pumps and cylinders with compressed helium are probably installed in the suspended compartment. At the briefing, soothing words were also heard:
"North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] continues to closely monitor the balloon."
The height of the balloon is sufficient, and it does not pose any danger to air traffic. The representative of the Pentagon tried to convince the listeners that the reconnaissance balloon would not bring anything new to the Chinese - Beijing has enough satellites, and they provide comprehensive information. However, this is deceit.
Stratospheric reconnaissance from balloons opens up unique opportunities.
Firstly, there is only 20–40 km of atmosphere under the cameras, which means less distortion and more detail in all spectra.
Secondly, modern helium balloons can not only approach the object of interest, but also hover over it, as well as move against the wind. Satellites are not capable of this.
In the end, the balloon in terms of "cost-effectiveness" completely surpasses all space surveillance systems. The Americans understand this very well and have been working on such equipment for a long time. The Raven Aerostar company at one time tested Loon stratospheric balloons as repeaters. The Pentagon conducted several exercises with balloons equipped with reconnaissance equipment.
Among the indisputable advantages of such products is an impressive battery life - up to 30 days or more, as well as the actual inaccessibility to the enemy. Until the probe drops below 20 kilometers, no air defense system can do anything with it. Our protagonist from China found himself within range of air-to-air missiles just off the east coast of the United States. For which he was shot down with pomp.
Hangar in northwest China. Perhaps "weather probes" for the United States are being assembled here. Source: thedrive.com
China, judging by open data, has become the world leader in the global aerostat industry. In 2021, the Americans published satellite images showing a huge hangar in which "you can hide a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier." The structure was discovered in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in northwest China near a classified air force test base.
Observers rightly believe that such a large hangar is redundant for winged equipment, but is ideal for the construction of balloons. Perhaps the same one that plied the stratosphere in the strategic depths of the United States.
The two main questions troubling the American public are what to do with the Chinese balloons, and why has no one warned about them before? The Pentagon said that this is not the first time that Chinese balloons have worked over the territory of the country, but only now the object has become visible to mere mortals. Most likely, no one would have known about this ball, but China sent a very healthy copy to its potential adversary.
One can clearly see the demonstrative behavior of Beijing, which actually lowers the White House into a puddle. The boomerang launched in August by Nancy Pelosi has returned to Washington.
By the way, the intelligence officer paved his route over the American bases of the strategic aviation deep within the United States. One of the first was Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where the B-2 Spirit and tactical nuclear weapons are based. weapon.
Biden, until the moment of the defeat of the balloon, flew in from ill-wishers. US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green accused the presidential administration of sexual impotence against the backdrop of impunity for Chinese balloons. Speaker of the House and Republican Kevin McCarthy:
"China's brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing act that must be fought, and President Biden cannot remain silent."
Donald Trump, in his own manner, spoke simply and loudly:
"Shoot the balls!"
Apparently, the American air defense heeds the advice of the ex-president - the inhabitants in the state of Montana filmed the consequences of the explosion over the town of Billings. The footage shows a contrail, most likely from a rocket engine. For the first time since World War II, air defenses are operating in the continental United States.
The missiles of the air defense missile system worked unsuccessfully - the balloon "lost its course" continued its movement towards the strategic objects of the Americans. As soon as the appearance of a foreign aircraft in the sky of America became public knowledge, its destruction became a matter of US prestige. But it is very difficult to bring him down, if not impossible. The balloon, although large, practically does not reflect radio waves, which does not allow a classic air defense missile to be aimed at it.
But even if the ground systems manage to orient the anti-aircraft missile to the balloon, the object is at the limit of reach in height. For example, the Patriot air defense system is not capable of shooting down objects above 25 kilometers. This is according to the passport. In fact, the effective height does not exceed 20 km. Do not get balloons from fighters, which also do not rise above 20 km.
Only U-2 can get closest to the balls
Only the U-2 scout with a practical ceiling of 22 km is able to get close. But he is absolutely toothless in front of the balloon and is able to harm him only by ramming, and then only if the balloon descends to the required height.
A number of experts from the Russian aviation community believe that only missiles with thermal homing heads have a chance of hitting a balloon. To do this, you must wait until the polymer shell of the ball heats up from the sun.
In theory, the wait is not long - a little heating is enough. The target will be quite thermally contrasting - at altitudes of 25–30 km, the temperature drops to 42–54 degrees below zero. It’s just not clear to the end what kind of missile with a seeker is capable of reaching a balloon at such a height. All that remained was to wait.
The Americans very carefully followed the trajectory of the object, and at a certain moment it began a critical descent for itself. The simplest extrapolation showed that the probe would be in range off the east coast of the United States, and was immediately thrown out история about the "safe" destruction of a balloon over the sea.
There is nothing surprising in the decline of the balloon - it inevitably loses helium over time and eventually lands. Or splashed.
Below 20 km, the probe descended on Saturday, and was immediately destroyed by a Sidewinder AIM-9X missile fired from an F-22. As predicted by Russian experts, in particular, the author of the Fighterbomber telegram channel, a missile with a thermal imaging homing head was used. They shot down beautifully, under the cameras. The wreckage of the "meteorological" equipment lies at a depth of 14 meters and will be studied by the FBI in the very near future.
The Pentagon later opened up about early incursions by Chinese probes into US airspace. At least three balloons have been recorded that have passed over America in recent years. Two of them happened during the Trump administration, and the third happened at the beginning of the Biden administration. And here is the fourth, as the military assures, the longest of all.
In the wake of triumph, the Pentagon reported that they had done everything to
"stop and mitigate data collection from the balloon by neutralizing its intelligence value and preventing data from being sent back to China when it flew over classified sites."
Naturally, without any specifics, how this can be done at altitudes of more than 20 km.
The moment of the defeat of the Chinese probe over the east coast of the United States. Source: youtube.com
Despite the euphoria associated with the destruction of the balloon, Americans can no longer sleep peacefully. And the point here is not even in reconnaissance equipment suspended under a helium balloon. The question is the potential ability to bring nuclear weapons to the very heart of America. As can be seen from the latest story, none of the existing missile defense systems in the world will save this threat.
The F-22 shot down the probe only after it calmly circled all the planned objects and transmitted the information received.
Ordinary Americans can only be sympathized and advised to look up less often.
Perhaps Xi Jinping had an outstanding response to Taiwan's humiliation last year. Loud and unrelenting applause.