VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A report published by the U.S. Department of Defense has provided more details about the takedown of a suspected Chinese spy balloon. According to the report, the balloon was hit at approximately 2:39 p.m. by a single F-22 fighter jet.
According to the report, "an F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon."
The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt.
A defense official said there was value in waiting to shoot down the balloon aside from just the safety of people on the ground, and indicated it had intelligence value to the U.S.
"The surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us. I can't go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable," the official told ABC News.
According to the report, the Navy has deployed the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea - both of which are home based at Naval Station Norfolk - and the USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship based at JEB Little Creek - in support of the effort.
Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares and Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (R, VA-02) praised the military members from Langley Air Force Base.
But they said the situation and its handling by the White House raises concerns.
Kiggans called it a “security failure” and said, “Congress will be demanding answers.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said the administration took decisive action, and this will be a focus of foreign relations hearings this week.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued this statement:
This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace. The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters. On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path. After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload. In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities. This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government. And we thank Canada for its contribution to tracking and analysis of the balloon through NORAD as it transited North America. Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.