China Balloon Update

Earlier this year, the U.S. shot down Chinese balloons off the east coast, prompting speculation that the balloons were being used as spyware to gather intelligence on the U.S. Recent updates have indicated that the balloons were in fact capturing imagery and signals intelligence from U.S. military sites, and transmitted information back to Beijing in real time.

While the balloon was passing over the U.S., China was able to control the balloon’s movement, allowing it to make multiple passes over different military sites to gather more information to transfer back to Beijing. The signals intelligence collected was from electronic signals, picked up from weapons systems and communications from personnel. However, the information China was able to gather with these passes was limited because of actions by the U.S. to “move around potential targets and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals,” according to CNN. This is largely due to efforts by the U.S. intelligence community to develop capabilities to track a “fleet” of Chinese balloons, allowing the U.S. to determine the balloon’s path and make necessary adjustments.

Ongoing analysis on the balloon’s capabilities has given additional insight into the functioning of the device, including its power source and how its algorithms work. Even as this analysis has continued, U.S. officials have continued to release statements emphasizing that the balloon’s intelligence capabilities were not “additive,” and any information gleaned would have also been able to be collected through other means like China’s satellite network.

Despite these reports, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh notes that they cannot confirm any reports of real-time transmission, and that analysis is still ongoing. In response, China’s spokesperson has condemned any “distortion and hyping up of this incident.”

Ongoing updates will only be available as information is deemed appropriate enough to declassify.