Chinese balloon recalls precedents for downing intruders in Soviet, Chinese air space

by WorldTribune Staff, February 5, 2023

On Saturday, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet out of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile to take out the Chinese spy balloon which had sailed over U.S. territory for most of the week.

The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast of South Carolina in about 47 feet of water, the Department of Defense said.

The Chinese spy balloon is seen on video at the moment it was hit by a U.S. Sidewinder missile.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the balloon’s presence an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) has claimed publicly that the high-altitude balloon operating above the United States is a weather balloon that was blown off course. This is false,” a statement from the State Department said. “This was a PRC surveillance balloon. This surveillance balloon purposely traversed the United States and Canada, and we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites.”

What happens next?

“The Chinese have already admitted it was theirs, claiming it was an errant weather balloon. We can expect them to request a quick return to them whatever we recover from the debris field. Luckily we have precedence to follow using the negotiations to recover our EP-3 aircraft damaged by PLA pilot in 2001,” Former DIA intelligence analyst for East Asia Frank Miller noted in a post on LinkedIn.

In April 2001, a U.S. Navy spy plane flying a routine reconnaissance mission over the South China Sea was struck by a People’s Liberation Army fighter jet that veered aggressively close. The mid-air collision killed the Chinese pilot, crippled the U.S. Navy plane, and forced it to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield, touching off a tense international showdown which carried on for nearly two weeks while communist China refused to release the two-dozen American crew members and damaged aircraft.

Miller offered some recommendations on how to proceed after the balloon was shot down:

1. We should allow them to recover the balloon (at their expense), using contract aircraft from a third country. This is what we were required to do.
2. We should not return any hardware, software or communications equipment, found in the debris since they refused to return ours.
3. We should send them a bill for the cost of the aircraft sortie and missile to match what they billed us. We didn’t pay it and neither will they, but this inserts an irritant into the negotiations that must be satisfied to both parties before this crisis in our bilateral relationship is closed.
4. Other options could include a reduction of Chinese flagged airline hours to match the flights lost on the East Coast during the shootdown operation.

“Finally, if there is any question on just how tough our negotiations were in 2001, NSC, State and Defense should contact BG (ret) Sealock and his DAO team on the ground. They can offer 1st hand experience on just how tough their negotiations were. We must be ready and willing to reciprocate,” Miller wrote.

Then there was the U.S.-Soviet Union U-2 incident.

On 1 May 1960, a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down by communist forces while conducting photographic aerial reconnaissance deep inside Soviet territory.

Per Wikipedia:

The single-seat aircraft, flown by American pilot Francis Gary Powers, had taken off from Peshawar, Pakistan, and crashed near Sverdlovsk (present-day Yekaterinburg), after being hit by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missile. Powers parachuted to the ground safely and was captured.

Initially, American authorities acknowledged the incident as the loss of a civilian weather research aircraft operated by NASA, but were forced to admit the mission’s true purpose a few days later after the Soviet government produced the captured pilot and parts of the U-2’s surveillance equipment, including photographs of Soviet military bases.

Meanwhile, former President Trump and a number of his top national security and defense officials refuted claims made by Team Biden that Chinese surveillance balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the Trump administration.

“This never happened. It would have never happened,” Trump told Fox News Digital on Sunday morning, adding that Beijing “respected us greatly” under his leadership. “It never happened with us under the Trump administration and if it did, we would have shot it down immediately. It’s disinformation.”

Trump said the Biden administration is spreading this because “they look so bad, as usual. They are incompetent.”

Former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, told Fox News Digital that he did “one of the biggest intelligence deep dives on China, their spying and the origins of COVID” during his tenure.

“It never came up,” Grenell said. “If a balloon had come up, we would have known. Someone in the intelligence community would have known, and it would have bubbled up to me to brief the president.”

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who lead ODNI after Grenell and through the end of the Trump administration, also refuted the claim.

“It’s not true. I can refute it,” Ratcliffe said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “The American people can refute it for themselves. Do you remember during the Trump administration, when photographers on the ground and commercial airline pilots were talking about a spy balloon over the United States that people could look up and see, even with the naked eye, and that a media that hated Donald Trump wasn’t reporting?”

Former Trump White House national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News Digital that he never heard of anything like this under his tenure.

“I don’t know of any balloon flights by any power over the United States during my tenure, and I’d never heard of any of that occurring before I joined in 2018,” Bolton said. “I haven’t heard of anything that occurred after I left either.”

Bolton said that if the Biden administration has “specific examples, they need to tell Congress.”

He added: “I can say with 100% certainty not during my tenure.”

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