Some politicians are claiming that the Pentagon shot down the Chinese balloon. That invaded American skies, but security experts told todaystrend News. On Friday that that’s easier said than done.
The United States has missiles in its arsenal capable of destroying balloons even at 60,000 feet. But falling debris could pose a danger to people on the ground, they said.
“You also have to look at the optics,” says Joshua Fitt.
A security expert at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, DC-based think tank. “What if we miss? It’s still a tricky target. And popping a balloon like this isn’t as easy as you might expect.”
Brian Tannehill, an analyst at the Rand Corporation, agreed. Using a missile to launch the balloon is “a risky proposition.” Because most available weapons, including. The Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). And the surface-to-air Patriot missile, are not used on targets. At such a height, he said.
“These are precision weapons systems designed for high-end purposes. But balloons were never part of that purpose,” Tannehill said. “The Patriot and the AMRAAMs are like a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. — Super high-end, super expensive — but you don’t take them both to an off-road rally.”
There may also be safety concerns if the missile goes off course.
“Even on a good day, missiles don’t hit 100% of the time,” Tannehill said. “When you miss something at that altitude, the missile is going to continue on quite a trajectory and there’s not a lot of predictability on where it’s going to come down.”
Still, such incursions by the Chinese call for a decisive response from the U.S. government, said Tom Caracco, who directs the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I know the Chinese are saying it’s a weather balloon, but anyone in the Pentagon believes that,” Karako said, adding that Chinese surveillance of the United States has become aggressive in recent years.
“It’s possible to shoot it down and , we should,” Caracco said. “Letting this go sets a very bad precedent.”
Experts weighed in after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced Friday
. That he was postponing a trip to Beijing next week. While a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers. As well as former President Donald Trump. Called on the Biden administration to shoot down the balloon.
“This is a gross violation of American sovereignty,” Sen. Josh Hawley. R-Mod., said in a letter to Homeland Security. And Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Gary Peters, D-Mich. “China’s entry into US sovereign airspace is troubling and calls for immediate investigation.”
The Chinese government expressed regret for the incident. And insisted that the balloon was for civilian research. And “deviated too far from its planned path.”
But, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier Dr. Gen. Pat Ryder said. The Department of Defense is confident the balloon is being monitored as it flies east. Across the continental United States at an altitude of 60,000 feet.
So far, the US military has taken no action to knock it out of the sky because.
Karako agrees that shooting it down poses a legitimate risk to people on the ground. “You don’t want to do it in a populated area,” he said.
But the US could use lasers to blind surveillance cameras on balloons, he said.
“You can jam the heck out of it,” Caraco said. “This can be a teachable moment because the cost of doing nothing is high. Blinken did exactly the right thing by canceling the Beijing trip.”
Canceling Blinken’s visit to China “is more damaging to Beijing. Than blowing up one of their ‘spy’ balloons,” Fitt said.
Tannehill said it was unclear why China was using balloons for surveillance.
“Why use a balloon when you can use a satellite?” she said. “What you achieve using a balloon may be a little better than a satellite in some cases, but not as attractive.”
Balloons are much cheaper for intelligence gathering, Karako said. And are able to stay in a specific area for a long time, unlike a satellite orbiting the Earth.
The Chinese balloon appears to have solar panels. And a small “payload” close to its body, said Rob Fessen, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth.
Still, Fessen said, the public images he’s seen have nothing to suggest. It’s a spy craft, as opposed to a lost research balloon.
“Why does the military think it’s a spy thing? What makes this a spy balloon? I don’t know that,” Fessen said.
This particular balloon is spherical and does not appear to have a propeller.
Which likely means its maneuverability is limited, he said.
“You can do some tricks with a regular balloon by losing gas. And changing altitude,” Fessen said. Taking advantage of different wind directions at different altitudes.
China isn’t the only country deploying research balloons, Fessen added.
NASA, in the past, has launched much larger. “Yankee Stadium-sized” research balloons 80-90,000 feet above Earth’s surface. He said. Generally, they can be used by scientists to study cosmic rays. Infrared light and particle physics.
To land a balloon like the Chinese one that put the Pentagon on high alert. Fessen said, researchers trigger a small explosive, which deploys a parachute. That allows the payload to float to the ground or the ocean.
“They can detonate the payload and capture it or not capture it at sea,” Fessen said.