The announcement capped three dramatic weeks that saw U.S. fighter jets shoot down four airborne objects — a large Chinese balloon on Feb. 4 and three much smaller objects about a week later over Canada, Alaska and Lake Huron. They are the first known peacetime shootdowns of unauthorized objects in U.S. airspace.
U.S. officials said Friday that efforts to recover the remnants of the large balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina had ended, and analysis of the debris so far reinforces conclusions that it was a Chinese spy balloon.
Officials said the U.S. believes that Navy, Coast Guard and FBI personnel collected all of the balloon debris off the ocean floor, which included key equipment from the payload that could reveal what information it was able to monitor and collect. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said a significant amount of debris was recovered and it included “electronics and optics” from the payload. He declined to say what, if anything, the U.S. has learned from the wreckage so far.
U.S. Northern Command said in a statement that the recovery operations ended Thursday and the final pieces are on their way to the FBI lab in Virginia for analysis. It said air and maritime restrictions off South Carolina have been lifted.