Glen VanHerck, a General in the United States Air Force, told reporters on Monday that the Chinese spy balloon could have potentially carried explosives on board so that it could self-destruct. The balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina this weekend.
The U.S. military used an F-22 Raptor on Saturday to take out the Chinese spy balloon while it was over the Atlantic Ocean. They used a single air-to-air A9X sidewinder missile that was fired at an altitude of approximately 58,000 feet.
The decision to shoot down the balloon was made after President Biden allowed it to fly thousands of miles over most of the United States.
General VanHerck, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), said that the balloon was up to 200 feet tall and weighed “in excess of a couple thousand pounds.”
The general also said that they believe it held explosives “to detonate and destroy the balloon.”
Gen. VanHerck told reporters that the military usually does not have the authority to gather intelligence with the United States on a day-to-day basis. But they were granted authority, in this case, to collect intelligence against the balloon.
“It was my assessment that this balloon did not present a physical military threat to North America,” VanHerck continued. “This is under my NORAD hat, and therefore I could not take immediate action [against the balloon] because it was not demonstrating hostile act or hostile intent.”
John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said that the spy balloon had propellers and a rudder to enable it to navigate its path. He said that it utilized maneuverability to strategically position itself to move across portions of the country that China wanted to see for collection purposes.
Wow: Northcom chief Gen. VanHerck says the balloon was up to 200 ft tall, with a payload the size of a jetliner. It weighed "in excess of a couple thousand lbs" and potentially carried explosives " to detonate and destroy the balloon."
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) February 6, 2023
Gen. VanHerck of NORAD/NORTHCOM offers more on how these balloons navigate: "They utilize their maneuverability to strategically position themselves to utilize the winds to traverse portions of countries that they want to see for collection purposes."
— Matt Seyler (@MattSeyler) February 6, 2023