Close-up of F-22 attacking Chinese balloon shows what happened to surveillance device

As thousands of spectators blinked at the sky on Saturday, it took only one missile shot for an F-22 to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon that had infuriated the American public for days as it flew from Montana across the American heartland to the South Coast Carolina hiked.

“I wasn’t expecting to wake up to a ‘Top Gun’ movie today,” said Ashlyn Preaux of Forestbrook, South Carolina The Associated Press.

“When it was deflated, it was pretty instantaneous. One second it’s there like a tiny moon and the next second it’s gone,” said Myrtle Beach’s Bill Swanson.

After the Federal Aviation Administration closed a section of the South Carolina coast to air traffic, the end of the balloon was in sight early Saturday afternoon. Among the cameras that captured the dramatic end of the balloon’s unsettling presence was a high-resolution view that locked on Twitter.


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The spectacle drew some criticism from Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune.

“Many of you noticed an unplanned fireworks display over Myrtle Beach today. While this was done in a manner that ensured the safety of our citizens, I have concerns about how the federal government could allow a foreign adversary to fly non-stop from Montana to our doorstep,” she wrote Facebook.

“I hope we hear from our federal government how this happened and how they will prevent this or anything like it from happening again,” she wrote.

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The Department of Defense later filled in some of the blanks in a Ministry of Defense publication.

The balloon was shot down by a 1st Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to the press release. The Sidewinder missile that brought down the balloon was launched at about 58,000 feet at a target between 60,000 and 65,000 feet.

As the balloon self-destructed, its payload quickly fell out of sight.

No one was injured when the balloon landed in 47 feet of water about six miles offshore.

Though the incident appeared quick, it was the results of planning that saw F-15s from Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and tankers from Oregon, Montana, South Carolina, and North Carolina on standby. The destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the amphibious landing station USS Carter Hall were also deployed, the press release said.

South Carolina residents have been warned not to shop for souvenirs.

“Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed,” the Horry County, South Carolina Police Department said in a Twitter post. “Such items are part of a federal investigation and tampering could adversely affect that investigation.”

“The debris is mostly in 47 feet of water … that actually makes it pretty easy. We planned for much deeper water,” says a Ministry of Defense briefing Transcript describing the speaker only as “a senior military official.”

The official said recovery was underway.


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“As I said before, several ships are already on site. And now a few things from the surface. Once the salvage ship shows up, your question is absolutely specific to divers. We have divers who are capable of being Navy divers – to submerge if necessary. We will also have unmanned vessels that can go down to retrieve the structure and lift it back onto the recovery vessel,” the official said.

“We will also have the FBI on board among counterintelligence agencies to also categorize and evaluate the platform itself,” the officials said.

The official said there was no timeline for recovery. Close-up of F-22 attacking Chinese balloon shows what happened to surveillance device

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