Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5. (MC1 Tyler Thompson/Navy)

Navy, Coast Guard and federal law enforcement personnel have finished recovering debris from the Chinese spy balloon downed off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The debris field covered roughly 1500 square meters in water 50 feet deep, according to the news release. The operation wrapped up Thursday.

“Final pieces of debris are being transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia for counterintelligence exploitation, as has occurred with the previous surface and subsurface debris recovered,” the release said. “U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels have departed the area. Air and maritime safety perimeters have been lifted.”

The dock landing ship Carter Hall, the oceanographic survey ship Pathfinder and the Coast Guard cutters Venturous, Nathan Bruckenthal and Richard Snyder were all on site as part of the recovery over the past two weeks.

A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The huge, high-altitude Chinese balloon sailed across the U.S. on Friday, drawing severe Pentagon accusations of spying and sending  excited or alarmed Americans outside with binoculars.

An Air Force F-22 shot it down using an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, successfully severing the payload from the balloon.

The balloon was about 200 feet tall, Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Feb. 6.

The surveillance equipment underneath was the size of two or three school buses, a defense official told reporters Feb. 4.

F-22s have since shot down multiple other aerial objects, near Alaska, Canada and Michigan, though Pentagon and White House officials haven’t been able to identify who launched them or where they came from.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.




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