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What is known about the mysterious 'Chinese' balloon in the skies of the United States: Why would Beijing use it to spy instead of a satellite?


How big is? How high does it fly? Where he came from? Where it goes? Can it be knocked down? Some answers here.

It was in the last hours of Thursday that the news began to appear on news portals around the world.

The United States reported that it

had discovered a spy balloon

, supposedly belonging to China, flying over the State of Montana, a finding that has already opened a front of tension between the two countries and triggered multiple questions that still have no answer.

It was the Pentagon that reported that the presence of the flying object had been detected, which had been

flying over US territory for

several days .

The Department of Defense added that it had decided not to shoot down the balloon because

there was a risk that its parts would fall on civilians


The timing of the disclosure of the incident is particularly relevant, given that it comes just days before US Secretary of State

Antony Blinken is due to travel to China

, where he will meet with President Xi Jinping.

The Pentagon reported Friday that it had detected the spy balloon Thursday hovering over Montana.

Photo: AFP

Blinken, the highest-ranking member of the current government to visit China and

the first Secretary of State to do so in six years,

will arrive in Beijing at a moment of singular tension, just as the US announces an

expansion of its presence in the Philippines

, a strategy that experts say is directly related to its intention to improve its capacity in the face of a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China asks to investigate

China, for its part, said it is verifying the information but called not to "conjecture" or "exaggerate the issue until the facts are not clear."

At this time, uncertainty abounds and there are few certainties.

For security analysts, it is not clear why China would use

such a rudimentary means

to collect information, since it has satellites with infinite capacity to carry out the task.

There is also speculation as to what

might be in Montana worth spying on

What is a spy balloon and how big is it?

Based on the hot air balloon, the invention developed by the Montgolfier brothers, spy balloons fly over a certain area

in order to gather information


They are equipped with spy gadgets, especially a camera.


flight height ranges between 24,000 and 37,000 meters

, much higher than that of commercial aircraft, which do not exceed 12,000 meters.

In addition to the possibility of including a radar, they are propelled with solar energy to control their flight.

The first use of hot air balloons in the military field dates back to the American Civil War (1861-1865), when they took advantage of the height to monitor enemy lines.

According to the Pentagon officials who gave the press conference, the spy balloon detected over Montana is about the size of "three passenger buses." 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Xi Jinping soon in Beijing, a meeting that is expected to discuss the spy balloon issue.

Photo: AP

Why would China use a spy balloon and not a satellite?

It is the question that circulates the most at these hours.

The spy balloon was a

widely used tactic in the Cold War

, but with today's technology, it has become obsolete.

Pentagon officials stated in their press conference that the information that can be collected with it is

very limited


However, some experts suggest that the slower speed of the balloon also allows it to monitor a specific area for longer periods.

A satellite, on the other hand,

is limited to its orbital path.

For some analysts, the balloon

was actually a signal from Beijing to Washington


A subtle way of showing the United States what technology it has and what it is willing to do.

"It is possible that the ultimate goal was for it to be detected. China could be using the balloon to demonstrate that it has a sophisticated technological capability to penetrate US airspace

without risking serious escalation

. In this regard, a balloon is quite an option." ideal," Arthur Holland Michel of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs told the BBC.

"China has other means to spy on US infrastructure, or any information they wanted to get. The balloon was to send a signal to the Americans, and also to see how they reacted," Benjamin Ho, coordinator of China's China program, told the British outlet. the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

A soldier prepares a spacer on an intercontinental ballistic missile at the Montana air base.

Photo: AP

China has several satellites that orbit more than 480 kilometers above Earth.

Like their US counterparts, Chinese satellites

can take pictures and monitor the launch of weapons

, US officials described.

Why was he flying over Montana?

Another crucial question is

what is in Montana

that could be of interest to China.

In the State there is the Missile Arm 341, at the Malmstrom Air Base,

one of the three US bases that operate and handle

intercontinental ballistic missiles.

For some analysts, the most likely scenario is that the balloon is collecting

information on the communication system and radars


"Some of these systems use extremely high frequencies that are short-range, and therefore can be absorbed by the atmosphere.

It is possible that a balloon would work better

than a satellite for this specific type of data collection," he told the chain. CNN Peter Layton, a fellow at Australia's Griffith Asia Institute and a former officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.

When discussing the balloon's trajectory, Pentagon officials claimed that it had

traveled from China to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska


It then continued through northwestern Canada before arriving somewhere over Montana on Wednesday.

The spy balloon is about the size of "three passenger buses."

Photo: AFP

Has China ever used spy balloons over the United States?

The Pentagon said that while this

was not the first time China had sent spy balloons

to the United States, this particular object appears to have been hovering over the country for longer.

Both countries have a history of spying on each other


US officials visiting China on diplomatic missions are known to expect their conversations to be monitored.

Source: The New York Times, EFE, BBC and CNN

look also

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Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-02-03

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