Spy Balloon? What a Maroon

The mass media has been all abuzz about the transit of what was reportedly a “Chinese Spy Balloon”, over the continental United States (CONUS). There were plenty of conflicting reports. And the Biden Administration did a pathetic job of showing any resolve in defending our airspace.

This media circus began on Wednesday evening (February 1, 2023) with some fuzzy pictures taken by residents of Billings, Montana. This news story was released the following morning: Chinese surveillance balloon left Montana, drifting across middle of U.S., Pentagon confirms.

And then we learned: Flight data: 3 military aircraft from Spokane went to Montana following discovery of Chinese balloon.

A news conference confirmed that the DoD vetoed shooting it down for fear of the craft falling on population. But that seemed to be a specious argument, if we are talking about central Montana, which is very lightly populated. We can see from the flight tracks of the F35s that they had plenty of opportunity to shoot the balloon down, if they had been ordered to do so. The balloon was at 60,000 feet.  The “official” service ceiling of an F22 is 65,000 feet and the “official” service ceiling of an F35 is just 50,000 feet, but I’m fairly confident that can fly higher, and I’m certain that their weapons systems can engage targets up at 60 Grand.

A Balloon, Not a Blimp

Allow me to backtrack a bit, and clarify the reports of this “maneuverable” balloon “hovered over” the city of Billings. Some balloons can change their altitude, but only blimps or dirigibles (with propellers and tailfins) can alter their course away from the current wind direction or hold their position relative to the ground. Otherwise, any lighter-than-air craft is at the mercy of the winds. Given Bernoulli’s Principle, adjusting the course of a spherical balloon is just about impossible. A sphere does not create compression, in air.

Internet Punditry

The Internet was full of wild speculation about the balloon carrying an EMP-tailored nuke, or a biological weapon. Yes, those were both theoretically possible, but there was no evidence of that intent.  The balloon was described as “three times the size of a bus”, so that would give it plenty of lift capacity.  But if it was at 60,000 feet AGL (as reported) then that would only give it line of sight to a relatively small EMP footprint. With their ICBMs, the Chinese have much better delivery systems available to put an EMP bomb in just the right place at the right time. For maximum effect, an altitude of 200,000+ feet is more apropos for propagating EMP over a wide footprint. And, given the ten of thousands of mailorder packages from China arriving daily in the U.S., there are much more efficient methods of delivering a bioweapon, right down to specifically targeted ZIP codes.

Thankfully, the Internet also has a few well-informed and well-reasoned analysts. The fine folks over at S2 Underground, posted this video on Friday, February 3rd: Emergency Update: Chinese Spy Balloon.

Also reported on the evening of February 3rd: “Massive Explosion”: Something Is Happening in the Skies of Montana. That was followed by some more details on the sighting: Billings woman describes purported explosion she captured on video. Hmmm… That looks like just a contrail, to me. Perhaps she merely heard and felt a sonic boom, when a fighter pilot got a little heavy on the throttle, at high altitude. As background: I used to hear a lot of sonic booms, growing up in the 1960s. Per SOPs, both Air Force and Navy pilots are now more careful not to transition through Mach 1 when they are flying over any populated areas. Broken windows are considered bad public relations. But when zipping around at 600+ miles per hour at 40,000+ feet of altitude, it doesn’t take much of a touch on the throttle to push a jet fighter up to Mach 1.0. According to the charts, at sea level, Mach 1 is reached at 761 mph. But at 50,000 feet, it is just 660 mph. (To be more precise, I must mention that temperature also plays into the equation.)

On Friday evening, reporters for Time posted this: The Alleged Chinese Spy Balloon Is Now Over Missouri. Here’s What We Know About Its Path.

On Saturday, it was reported: A second ‘Chinese surveillance balloon’ has been spotted over Latin America, according to Pentagon officials.

Then came the Chinese denial: Chinese spy balloon over US is weather device says Beijing.

Another headline from Saturday: Chinese spy balloon – live: Beijing mocks US ‘hype’ over airship incident.

As I’m writing this, the first balloon that was reported is probably now heading out into the skies over the Atlantic Ocean. We can only hope that if there is a repeat incursion of CONUS airspace by a large surveillance balloon that there will be a lot less dithering and a lot more decisiveness.

Biden, The Moron

All-in-all, the messaging about the spy balloon drifting over CONUS was very poorly handled by the Biden Administration. They should have at least made a definitive statement.  And even better, they should have forthrightly taken down the craft, to gather technical intelligence about the sensors onboard, and the entire electronics package.

In modern times, part of a nation’s sovereignty is defending its airspace. The Bidenista’s limp-wristed response looked pathetic and even moronic.  To quote Bugs Bunny: “What a Maroon.”

Update:  On Saturday afternoon, just after I drafted this article, there was a news report showing the balloon being shot down over the Atlantic. This was apparently a belated face-saving measure. So now, instead of being able to gather some valuable tech intelligence, the electronics will all likely end up fathoms-deep.  (In the video, you can see that the electronics package and the PV panels separated from the balloon envelope, as it fell.)   The Bidenistas are so incompetent, they could mess up a two-car funeral procession. – JWR