General Glen VanHerck said the US “took the utmost precautions” to prevent the 60-meter-tall device from collecting information while it flew over US territory.
The head of the US Northern Command, Glen VanHerck, revealed on Monday to the journalist Lara Seligman, from Politico, new details about the Chinese hot air balloon shot down by the US army last Saturday off the east coast of the country.
The balloon could have been equipped with explosives “to detonate and destroy itself”, he pointed General Van Herck. According to his description, the device was more than 60 meters high and weighed “more than a couple of thousand pounds” (more than 900 kilograms). Also, although it flew mainly by wind, it had propellers and a rudder to set the direction of trajectory, VanHerck noted, adding that its payload was the size of an airplane.
The US military, like Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, and John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications of the US National Security Council, tried to justify the decision of the authorities not to shoot down the Chinese device, considered by Washington as a spy immediately after he was detected. According to VanHerck, they adopted “maximum precautions” to prevent the balloon from collecting information while traversing the territory of the country.
He also commented on reports that this is not the first time that Chinese balloons have flown over US soil. “We didn’t detect those threats, and that’s a domain knowledge gap“, declared VanHerck, for later underline that despite that the intelligence evaluated the threats through “additional means of collection”.
While the US has described the presence of the balloon as an act of espionage by Beijing, China insisted that the device was a civil aircraft “used for scientific research, such as meteorology”and that it entered US airspace by mistake, pushed by strong winds.