The US Department of Defense has released an image of a Chinese balloon.
The selfie was snapped from the cockpit of a U-2 espionage plane.
Washington claims that the balloon was part of a vast Chinese intelligence collection effort.
The US Department of Defense has released an image captured by an airman while flying over the Chinese balloon that was shot down earlier this month.
The selfie was snapped from the cockpit of a U-2 espionage plane while military authorities monitored the passage of the high-altitude balloon above the United States.
Beijing has insisted that the balloon was a weather ship that had been blown off course.
Yet, Washington claims that the balloon was part of a vast Chinese intelligence collection effort.
At least two planes acquired data on the balloon’s attributes and course as it passed over US territory.
A senior State Department source claimed earlier this month the fly-bys proved it “was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations”.
When the balloon entered Alaskan airspace on January 28, officials became aware of it.
A jetliner-size payload
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint operation of the United States and Canada, spotted the foreign object, but the military did not shoot it down at the time.
Authorities indicated that they couldn’t shoot the balloon down over land due to its size and potential debris field, which would endanger citizens on the ground.
One Pentagon official told US legislators earlier this month the balloon was as tall as the Statue of Liberty and contained “a jetliner-size payload”.
The photo, which was revealed on Wednesday, was taken the day before the balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4th. The photograph has supposedly achieved “legendary status” within the Pentagon.
The balloon was believed to be at 60,000 feet (18,200 meters) in the air.
According to the Air Force, U-2 planes often travel at heights of more than 70,000 feet.
The CIA previously used the single-seat reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft known as the Dragon Lady. Pilots must wear full-pressure suits comparable to those used by astronauts.
Last Friday, recovery attempts for the balloon’s scattered wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean came to an end.
Pieces of the debris, including its payload, have been recovered and are being studied, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said.
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