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US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin announced in a written statement that a US Air Force fighter jet safely shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon.

“The balloon, used by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to spy on strategic areas in the United States continent, was lowered over US territorial waters,” Austin said.

As featured in C4Defence last week, a surveillance balloon was detected in the US airspace.  According to the statement from the Pentagon, the balloon was safely dropped.

US officials first detected the balloon and its cargo when it entered US airspace near the Aleutian Islands on January 28. The balloon re-entered US airspace over Idaho, passing through Alaska and Canada. An F-22 Raptor fighter jet from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon.  The balloon crashed in about 47 feet of water, about six miles offshore.  No one was injured in the incident.

US President Joe Biden ordered the action on Wednesday, but the action was delayed while the balloon floated off South Carolina to avoid harming Americans on land. The action was carried out with the coordination and support of the Canadian government. “We thank Canada for its contribution to monitoring and analysing the balloon through North American Aerospace Defense Command as it passed through North America,” said Austin.  Referring to the People’s Republic of China, Austin said, “Today’s deliberate and legal action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first, while effectively responding to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.’’

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