The Chinese-owned balloon shot down in U.S. airspace in early February was not spying, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CBS News.
“There was no intelligence gathering with this balloon,” he said, citing the intelligence community’s essment.
According to one of the versions cited by Milly, the balloon could have gone astray. The balloon was headed toward Hawaii, but the winds at 60,000 feet “apparently took over,” CBS wrote. “The engine of this aircraft cannot withstand the wind at this altitude,” the general said.
However, Milley added that it was still a spy balloon that “did not receive any intelligence and did not transmit any intelligence back to China.”
The United States shot down a Chinese balloon on February 4 over the Atlantic Ocean, about 12 miles off the coast of North Carolina. According to the Pentagon, he was collecting “critical information” about the location of military installations. After this, Beijing expressed a strong protest and called for avoiding further actions that escalate tensions and harm the interests of the PRC. Because of the balloon incident, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first visit to Beijing since 2018, scheduled for February 5-6, was cancelled.
The US military shot down another object on February 10 over Alaska near the Canadian border. A third unidentified object was hit over Canada on February 12, and on the night of February 13, a US F-15 shot down an object in the Lake Huron area near the Canadian border. The Pentagon then noted that it was flying over military infrastructure and posed a threat because of its “potential reconnaissance capabilities.”
The Pentagon has previously reported that the downed balloon did not collect or transmit intelligence data. Department official Patrick Ryder spoke about this at the end of June. According to him, the facility contained reconnaissance equipment, but the Pentagon concluded that it “was not engaged in collection while flying over the United States.”