You will remember THE Chinese Spy Balloon. The big white one with the dangly bits. It was a remarkably capable balloon, as you would expect from a spy balloon.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the balloon was able to linger in the winds over specific areas.
“We saw it do that. It loitered over certain sites. It went left, right. We saw it maneuver inside the jet stream. That’s how it was operating,” the official said, adding that the craft had propellers and rudders.

Writers in an Aviation Week article voiced what most people who had seen the photos were thinking.

[I]mages of the latest balloon [were] captured by photographers on the ground with telephoto zoom lenses…Such long-distance visual evidence contrasted with remarks by John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman. “It had propellers,” Kirby says. “It had a rudder, if you will, to allow it to change direction.” Civilian photos provided no signs of a rudder aboard the balloon, and it is not clear how such a control surface would help steer a spherical, slow-speed object. Kirby also may have been speaking metaphorically about a rudder.

A metaphorical rudder would certainly be a ground-breaker for balloon technology, but no more so than metaphorical propellors. The same article informs us that “a pattern has developed of Chinese spy flights by slow-moving high-altitude balloons, which had gone apparently undetected by U.S. surveillance systems.”

“I will tell you that we did not detect those threats, and that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out,” [General Glen] VanHerck [head of North American Aerospace Defense Command] says.

You know, Glen, this domain awareness gap is not a good look, especially as Karine and the “intelligence community” were already on top of this.

[T]he intelligence community kept track of China’s spying balloon campaign in other parts of the world. Congress was briefed about the program in August, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre says.
“There has been a program that has been in effect,” Jean-Pierre adds. “We have kept Congress abreast on that. But I don’t have anything more to say or to share.”

Fair enough. It is a secret, after all. Especially from North American Aerospace Defense Command. But Glen’s boys, of whom he is incredibly proud, did splash the balloon. Sighs of relief all round. But it wasn’t over yet. On Friday the 10th, another object was spotted over Alaska.

“It was difficult for the pilots to glean a whole lot of information,” [John Kirby] said, adding, “There was a limit to how much they could divine”… Fighter aircraft first saw it late Thursday night, it was a small object, and they were flying at high speed…

This one was only the size of a small car, and was at mere 40,000 feet. A U.S. official described it as “cylindrical and silver-ish grey.” Cylindrical? Was there, somewhere along the chain of misinformation, a stenographer who did not know the difference between spherical and cylindrical? Divination’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Ask King Saul. In the event, to an anxious public’s great relief, it was shot down near Deadhorse, Alaska. I kid you not.

On the left, we see the location of this wonderfully-named, but unincorporated, township. On the right is an image from SondeHub, a site that tracks radiosonde launches and returns worldwide. The black circles are regular launch sites. Note the one right at the tippy-top of Alaska. That’s the airport at a place called Barrow. Launches occur every six hours, starting at midnight UTC.

Here’s a weather balloon being launched in Phoenix. Attached to he balloon is the radiosonde transmitter which measures and reports, at least, pressure, temperature and humidity. There’s usually a parachute inside the balloon. It ascends gradually to about 28km, expanding as pressure decreases, until the balloon bursts. By then it will be 5m or more in diameter, depending on the balloon. The sonde then comes to earth under the parachute. Somewhere in this ascent, say at around 40,000 feet, it will be, maybe, the size of a small car.

Having ensured the Warhol fame of Deadhorse, Alaska, did the U.S. administration take the providential hint? Was that ever a remote possibility?

#metoo said Justin, the Wonder Boy, the very next day, Saturday, and another “cylindrical” object bit the dust in the Yukon. US and Canadian citizens had barely had a chance to sleep off the tranquillisers when another UFO appeared over Lake Huron, as if mocking both countries. F-16s, a refuelling tanker, and a AWACS aircraft were despatched. The UFOs were unsportingly varying their approach, and the F-16 pilots had trouble working out what this one looked like.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Out of their identification struggles there finally popped an octagonal object. The second missile fired at “The Octagon” brought it down. I’m impressed that the AIM-9X Sidewinder was able to bring any of the latter three – let’s just call them balloons – down.

On Sunday, when the shooting had died down, Gen. Glen was press-ganged again. As the N.Y. Post reported ,

Asked whether he had ruled out an extraterrestrial origin for three floating objects shot down by warplanes in as many days, Gen. Glen VanHerck said: “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out…I haven’t ruled out anything”.

It was a click-bait bonanza. It was also a fine example of how a mendacious officialdom and an equally mendacious media need only the slightest provocation to set up a feedback loop of mutual incitement.  However, there have been some glimmers of sanity. A former Secretary of Defense for President Trump, Mark Esper, said, “My hunch is that these are weather balloons or scientific experiments put aloft by another country, a company or some none profit.” The Pentagon issued a memo on the Yukon raider. The “cylindrical” object was a “small, metallic balloon” with tethered payload below. Metallic, as in those shiny helium-filled St Valentine’s hearts, one presumes.

Somewhat less reassuring was the report of “a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity” that the Chinese Spy Balloon “originally had a trajectory that would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii but was blown off course by prevailing winds…” Can this be the same balloon that “loitered over certain sites…[that] went left, right. …[that] maneuver[ed] inside the jet stream”? None other. This was clearly a failure of the metaphorical rudder, or the metaphorical propellor, or both. Or maybe this breakthrough in surveillance technology, with its unparalleled advantages over passé satellites, can’t tell Guam from the Aleutians.

This US Administration is in charge of what is still the most powerful military in the world, is far and away the most expensive, and has a huge nuclear arsenal. Try not to dwell on that.

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another ian
another ian
February 18, 2023 10:06 am

“Did the US Air Force just use an F-22 fighter jet, and a sidewinder missile to destroy a $13 Hobby balloon?”

The question has been raised re recognition.

Tradition has it that planes get a decoration for successful encounters – e.g. bombs painted on bombers. So what form of recognition for balloons after these encounters?

One answer was “A used condom”

February 18, 2023 10:11 am

Now that the American government and the Biden White House have designated incompetence as a prerequisite for all holders of military ranks above colonel, the sky is the limit for celestial lunacy above north America.

Those billions the Chinese Communist Party invested in the Biden family have already ensured that Beijing can roll its military forces into Taipei with only local opposition as a headless US military has been neutered by the incompetence of its leadership.

And the broader headlessness of America under the Democratic Party and woke big business has ensured it will be a doddle for the Chinese economy to overtake America’s in the next decade.

The response to the proliferation of Kung Flu and the rigging of the 2020 election were the turning point as it’s now virtually impossible for anyone who isn’t an apologist for communism and the CCP to hold the US presidency.

I didn’t think I’d live to see it.

February 18, 2023 10:21 am

This is called a MacGuffin isn’t it? “is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself”

It certainly pulled all the Classified document discovery stories in Biden’s lairs off the front pages of sites, didn’t it?

I love the way the media all flock to the new shiny thing given to them by the swamp and interview each other, find experts and on and on it goes. All while forgetteing whatever it was that was so important, last week.

bread and circuses .. is it not?

February 18, 2023 10:50 am

A disturbing level of incompetence and stupidity at all levels of command.

At no point did any of the pilots say “send up a Cessna with a shotgun” or switch over to their own guns.

Roger W
Roger W
February 18, 2023 10:54 am

Pure coincidence that this is dominating the news at the same time it was revealed that it was the USA that blew up Nord Stream I and II?
I don’t think so.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare
February 18, 2023 11:42 am

When recently in South Korea we were told that the North Koreans as part of their usual ‘provocation’ incidents had not long before sent four drones right over the DMZ and into the special militarised zone on the South Korean side that runs along the DMZ, where you go when you visit the DMZ from South Korea. They had never made such a bold incursion into this area previously. The South Korean response was to immediately send up six fighter jets to shoot these drones down. However, the fighter jets found it very difficult to accurately target such small moving objects, and some of them fell to earth before they could be shot down.

I bet this wouldn’t have happened in Israel, with their defensive systems. Nor the fracas in the US over unknown objects in the sky. I was rather surprised to hear that the SK’s didn’t use Israeli-style technology to counter drone attacks. Maybe they used the fighter jets to show-off their military response capacity as on the DMZ there are often a lot of ‘kabuki’ theatricals.

another ian
another ian
February 18, 2023 1:36 pm

@ Tom

Recall that in the 1960’s Tom Lehrer observed that the US military was the first organisation to cease discrimination on the basis of race, colour, creed or ability.

@ Roger W

Look to eyes being redirected to Nordstream

Nord Stream bubbles

” Right after I said yesterday that the Russians were being a bit too quiet about Nord-Gate, Reuters ran a sobering story headlined, “Russia to Call U.N. Security Council Meeting Over Nord Stream Blasts.” ”

“Some analysts think that Russia wants the security council meeting to create a public record of its justification for some planned retaliatory act. Whatever it is, it’s probably going to be something we won’t like. ”

Via Covid and Coffee newsletter

February 18, 2023 3:48 pm

Ice cream cones and balloons. 81 million votes, guys.

February 18, 2023 4:33 pm

At no point did any of the pilots say “send up a Cessna with a shotgun” or switch over to their own guns.

I wondered that myself…

Using a heat seeking AA missile on a slow moving object that lacked any form of engine (therefore heat signature) for the missile to track seemed illogical.

Use of the 20mm Vulcan would have made more sense…

I can only assume the pilot may have been worried about colliding with the balloon?

Either that or the Top Gun academy doesn’t tech dogfighting anymore…

February 18, 2023 6:07 pm

Hopefully the Republic of China has secured nuclear arms from Israel or India.

(As we should too).

February 19, 2023 11:08 am

Pure coincidence that this is dominating the news at the same time it was revealed that it was the USA that blew up Nord Stream I and II?

Spot on Roger. Facing a difficult choice, the deep state chose to look like a doofus rather than a terrorist.

February 19, 2023 9:12 pm

Maybe the CCP is being truthful but disingenuous in calling it a weather balloon; have they cracked the code for creating western droughts and eastern polar vortices. ?

February 20, 2023 1:58 pm

“Maybe the CCP is being truthful but disingenuous in calling it a weather balloon;”

A whether balloon? Whether you believe us or not.

  1. Man jailed for raping his wife, who attempted to take her own life twice in aftermath of incidentAnneke de BoerKalgoorlie…

  2. Only a matter of time that the lawyers would be circling. SG have followed the Warsaw convention amounts for compensation…

  3. Let’s cut to the chase: “renewables” were designed to kill the free market and replace it with 19th century subsistence…

Oh, you think that, do you? Care to put it on record?x