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U.S. Navy Collecting Surveillance Balloon Debris

The U.S. military today began collecting the remnants of a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon shot down by an Air Force fighter over the weekend.

Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said the recovery effort began about 10 a.m. Rough seas thwarted safe, comprehensive debris collection yesterday, he said.

Sailors pull white canvas-type material aboard a small waterborne vessel against a dark blue sky.
Balloon Recovery
Sailors recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Feb. 5, 2023, a day after U.S. fighter aircraft brought it down. Partners from the Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and FBI ensured public safety throughout the operation and recovery efforts.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson
VIRIN: 230205-N-QA919-0182Y

On Saturday, an F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon, which had floated southeastward across the United States.

It fell about six miles off the coast of South Carolina into about 50 feet of water. No one was hurt.

Precautions are being taken during the salvage operation in case explosives or toxic substances are present, VanHerck said.

Due to changing ocean currents, it's possible that some debris could escape notice and wash ashore. VanHerck said members of the public can assist by informing local law enforcement personnel if they spot remnants of the balloon; they should not collect it themselves.

A ship sails in calm seas.
USS Carter Hall
The USS Carter Hall sails in the Indian Ocean, Oct. 7, 2007.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser
VIRIN: 071007-N-4014G-055C

The USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship, is collecting debris in the vicinity of the splashdown, he said.

The USNS Pathfinder, a survey ship, is mapping the ocean floor using sonar for the debris search, VanHerck said.

Explosive ordnance members and at least one unmanned underwater vehicle are also participating, he said.

In addition, VanHerck said the Coast Guard cutters Venturous, Richard Snyder and Nathan B. Bruckenthal, along with Coast Guard aviation support, are keeping the area safe for military personnel and the general public.

A Marine works on a missile.
Missile Prep
Marine Corps Cpl. Devin Gould, an aircraft ordnance technician with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepares an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile for a live-fire exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 28, 2022.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chloe Johnson
VIRIN: 220928-M-JN598-1113

The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents are embedded with salvage operations personnel to assist in counterintelligence work, he added.

VanHerck mentioned that the Federal Aviation Administration was helpful in closing air space when the balloon was being shot down.

It's truly been an interagency team effort, VanHerck noted.

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