Sunday, February 05, 2023

Going up? Spy Balloon debacle

     This weekend the United States discovered a white object floating 66,000 feet up in the Montana sky, which the Department of Defense claimed to be a Chinese spy Balloon. Over the course of a day or two it was finally decided that it needed to be shot down and was promptly done so after traveling from Montana skies all the way to Myrtle beach, South Carolina. Having traveled two-thirds of the continental United States, I want to explore the potential sensitive military sites it may have gathered evidence from. But first a brief history of spy balloons. 

    Balloons for surveillance and/or research have been used as early as the Franco- Austrian War in 1859, when the French used crewed balloons. During the Civil War both the Union and Confederate forces used crewed and tether balloons. Also during both World Wars Balloons were used for a multitude of capabilities. These earlier forms of "spy balloons" gave way to the more modern forms that are commonly used today. During the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the United States has surveillance blimps called PTDS aerostats, or Persistent Threat Detection System, which help to detect incoming mortar fire or rocket attacks, as well as monitor, via hundreds of cameras, allied troop movements in the area of operation. 

    The cause for concern over the last few days is that while the United States claims it is a Spy Balloon, China vehemently claims that it is a civilian research or weather vessel that strayed off course. In my opinion it is much harder to believe given the linear path the balloon had taken before being shot down. Crossing through 12 different states, the balloon has plenty of sensitive areas that could be photographed. Many nuclear silo sites in the Midwest happen to be around the line that the balloon traveled, as well as most likely having flown over Oak Ridge in Tennessee based on the reported sightings prior to being shot down. Some pundits and talking heads claimed it should've been shot down immediately upon detection, while others were concerned for debris and where it would land.  While this balloon debacle is not cause for major alarm, it does pose a question in terms of National Security. What if it is, in fact, a spy balloon gathering intel on our sensitive nuclear sites? 2 days of travels can gather a lot of intelligence. Does our hesitation to act constitute weakness in the eyes of our enemies? Only time will tell whether this is just another balloon boy hoax from 2009, a research balloon blown off course, or something deeper and more sinister in the game of power and politics.

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