Navy divers and FBI counterspy agents are at sea off the coast of South Carolina, hunting for debris from a downed Chinese spy balloon. The search is being carried out from three Navy ships, including the USS Carter Hall, which can launch small amphibious crafts from its internal Landing Ship Dock.
The U.S. has dispatched “capable Navy divers to go down if needed,” a senior military official told reporters this weekend. “We’ll also have unmanned vessels that can go down to get the structure and lift it back up on the recovery ship.”
Federal agents will examine any pertinent debris.
“We’ll have the FBI on board as well, under the counterintelligence authorities for categorizing and assessing the platform itself,” the senior military official said.
The spy balloon was shot down on Saturday by an Air Force F-22 Raptor off the coast of South Carolina, Pentagon officials said.
“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
READ MORE about the Chinese spy balloon.
The balloon was first spotted in the sky over Montana last week. It traveled east until heading out over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4. As it floated atop North Carolina, the York County Sheriff’s Office warned residents against trying to take down the balloon themselves.
“It’s flying at 60,000 + feet. Don’t try to shoot it!! Your rifle rounds WILL NOT reach it,” the sheriff’s office told residents.
The foreign airship was downed by an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile that was shot from an F-22 Raptor jet. The balloon splashed down approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water. No one was hurt.
Remnants are spread over a seven-mile debris field in shallow water in the Atlantic, the Pentagon said.
In addition to the USS Carter Hall, Navy ships on scene include the USS Oscar Austin and the USS Philippine Sea. Coast Guard vessels also are on hand to help with the operation.