There's A Chinese Spy Balloon Floating Over Montana & I Can't Believe Nobody's Had A Few Beers & Shot It Down Yet
The Pentagon has confirmed that a big-ass Chinese spy balloon's been loitering over the Northwest for several days now.
When the balloon was detected by U.S. intelligence, the official said the military acted swiftly to guard against the Chinese collecting sensitive information. “The current flight path does carry it over a number of sensitive sites,” the official told reporters. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps.” The official wouldn’t detail what those actions were.
Montana is one of five states that host the U.S. military’s land-based, nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missile fields.
In recent years, “a handful” of surveillance balloons have been spotted, but this one “is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time,” the official said.
They announced that despite the longer than usual hangout time, they will not be shooting it down since its altitude is too high to pose a threat to aircraft, it has 'limited value in collecting intelligence' & they don't want debris to hit anyone (but isn't Montana pretty big & empty?). So I say, Montana - the ball is in your court. Crack open a couple crispy boyz, aim those 12 gauges to the moooooon and start blastin'.
Gotta say, it is a little nerve-racking that we've got about 400 nukes spread out amongst Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska, and a balloon from China can just cruise on over to check out the scene and there's nothing we can really do about it? One of my first idiot thoughts was, "What if they strapped a bomb to that thing? Is that possible? Can they just send a balloon over here & drop a little nuke ball into the Super Bowl stadium?" Someone smart please let me know.
On the upside, we also have our own weather balloons program so I'd like to think we've floated a couple over them, too.
Over the past two years, the Pentagon has spent about $3.8 million on balloon projects, and plans to spend $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023 to continue work on multiple efforts, according to budget documents.
The high-altitude inflatables, flying at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, would be added to the Pentagon’s extensive surveillance network and could eventually be used to track hypersonic weapons.
(Hypersonic weapons are one of the latest developments in war tech & there's an arms race going on between Russia, China & the U.S. to perfect them first. Russia claims they've already used theirs three times in Ukraine (but who knows with them), apparently China has at least one and is working on more, and we're set to debut ours sometime this summer after a few kinks along the way. Like Politico noted, the hope is that these balloons could eventually help detect & even deter them from entering our airspace.)
The US has also used high altitude balloons for nationwide surveillance. In 2019 they launched 25 of them across the country at 65,000ft with hi-tech radars "designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather". They were fitted with "small, satellite-like vehicles housing sophisticated sensors and communication gear". I went to a couple NASCAR races that year so hopefully the CIA does't have some grainy blimp image of me flashing my boobs on top of an RV at Talladega on file.
Since the DoD announced this wasn't the first time China's sent a balloon over us I'd like to imagine our rival balloons passing each other that summer of '19 in a cool breeze, none of us below any the wiser to any of it. Simpler times.
As for my own government balloon experience, I don't have much faith in their overall effectiveness. On my second tour in Afghanistan back in 2012, the base I was on began using a 70ft aerostat balloon to monitor the area. It was supposed to keep a watchful eye and deter the Taliban from planting bombs nearby and/or getting close enough for direct attacks. I was a physical security specialist for the base, and I remember when the balloon arrived & got set up everyone was excited and we went to take 'a tour' of it & see all the capabilities it had. The grunt units stuck standing post around the perimeter were stretched so thin that some of the posts only had rubber human silhouettes in them (ahh) and this balloon was supposed to help relieve them a bit. Well, despite that expensive-ass balloon decked out with high tech radar & various cameras, 15 Taliban dressed as US soldiers cut through the wire and proceeded to cause $200M in damage & kill two Marines in the process.
I'm assuming that eventually we'll get China's balloon out of the sky & examine the components & hopefully find that more than anything warfare-related it was just a great way for them to poke at us and make us argue amongst ourselves ahead of Secretary Blinken's visit there this weekend.. but yeah, not great. Who knows.
For more Pentagon/mil news check out ZeroBlog30. It comes out twice a week on Tuesdays & Fridays and we try to keep things light and fun and not like the massive downer I threw in the end of this blog.