According to recent reports from experts, a Chinese balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year was able to gather intelligence from military bases for several days before it was ultimately shot down. US officials cited in NBC News reported that the balloon had the ability to transmit data to Beijing in real-time.
The balloon picked up electronic signals rather than capturing images, as per one of the officials. The White House, however, did not confirm the report. The officials noted that they were able to limit the balloon’s intelligence-gathering abilities as it drifted over the country.
A spokesperson for the defence department recently stated that the FBI was still examining the balloon debris. It is not clear which military bases the balloon was able to hover over.
US officials confirmed that they tracked the balloon over Alaska and Canada before it re-entered American airspace in early February.
The craft, which stood at about 200ft (60m) tall, was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4th by a US fighter jet. In the weeks following the incident, US fighter jets shot down several other balloons that were suspected of originating from China. The Chinese officials said that it was a civilian weather balloon and the US overreacted by shooting it down.
The incident has sparked a diplomatic row and led to the cancellation of a trip to China by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. US officials told the media that China has a fleet of balloons operating around the world.