The U.S. conducted a military operation to rid U.S. airspace of a Chinese Spy Balloon that had been drifting across the continent much of this week. Fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were used to take down the Chinese aircraft at 2:39 pm on Saturday, according to a senior US military official. One of the F-22 aircrafts used in the mission fired an AIM-9x missile at the balloon. To facilitate the military response to the balloon, access to airspace and marine traffic was limited. Those limits have now been removed.
The FAA placed a ground stop at three airports in North and South Carolina; they also prevented civilian and commercial aircraft from entering the airspace in question. “Flights to and from Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR) and Charleston International (CHS) airports are resuming. Other airspace has been reopened. Normal operations resuming,” the FAA said in a statement.
Multiple U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area where the what’s left of the balloon went down and are securing a perimeter, according to a senior US military official . One official told members of the media they expect the debris hit in an area of relatively shallow water of 40-50 feet; due to its depth, they expect remains to be retrieved over the coming days.
Remains retrieved from the sea of the balloon will be taken to an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis by FBI experts and intelligence agencies. A senior defense official said the Defense Department has launched a collaborative effort with the FBI and counterintelligence authorities to assist with an assessment of the large equipment platform that was mounted to the balloon.
In South Carolina, the Horry County Police Department is warning residents to stay away from any debris that may reach the beach there. In a statement posted on Facebook, the department wrote, ” Earlier today, federal authorities conducted operations off the coast of Horry County that could result in debris in area waters. Members of the US Military are coordinating to collect debris from the ocean; however, it is possible fragments may make it to the coastline. If you see debris, call your local authorities via dispatch at 843-248-1520. Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed. Such items are part of a federal investigation and tampering could interfere in that investigation.”