HomeUS News updateNew photo shows U.S. pilot’s high-altitude selfie with Chinese balloon

New photo shows U.S. pilot’s high-altitude selfie with Chinese balloon

The Defense Department has released a new photo showing an Air Force pilot flying over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over United States territory earlier this month.

In the photo, dated February 3, the pilot can be seen from the cockpit of a U-2 spy plane looking down at the surveillance balloon as the object hovers over the mid-continental US.

The Defense Department did not identify the pilot in the selfie. Its authenticity was confirmed during the Pentagon briefing on Wednesday.

Addressing reporters at the briefing, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the search operation to recover sensors and other debris from the balloon that was shot down by a missile on February 4 off the coast of South Carolina ended last week .

Singh said that “most of the balloons including the payload were recovered”. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told a recent news briefing that the recovered material is now at the FBI lab in Quantico. “It’s quite a bit — it’s a significant amount — that includes the payload structure, as well as some of the electronics and optics,” he said.

China says the balloon was an unmanned civilian airship used for meteorological research that strayed, and that shooting it down was an overreaction and a violation of international norms. Beijing has accused Washington of stoking the dispute.

Officials said they had called off the search for debris from three other unidentified aerial objects that were downed in remote areas in Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron this month.

Kirby said earlier last week that there was no indication those objects were related to China’s surveillance balloon program and that the US intelligence community was considering whether they had “some commercial or benign purpose”.

NBC News first reported the existence of the suspected Chinese spy balloons on February 2.

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