back to article US military spends weekend shooting down Useless Floating Objects

It was a busy weekend in the skies over North America, with the US Air Force shooting unidentified aircraft out of the air on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Those three engagements bring the total in US/Canadian airspace to four since the downing of a Chinese spy balloon earlier in February. Unlike the first balloon, which China …

  1. ColinPa

    Where did they launch it from?

    If they have satellites that can spot a cigarette packet from space, surely a big balloon should be easy to spot. Can they just rewind the film?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where did they launch it from?

      The problem is not the ability to see them. It's that there is such a large area to look over, that they haven't been bothering.

      Expect this problem to have AI applied to look for UAF, but the mission creep to include sheds or extensions without the necessary permits etc.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Where did they launch it from?

        "sheds or extensions without the necessary permits"

        Said sheds are highly likely to house banned Chinese tech. They need looking into. The security of our country is at stake.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where did they launch it from?

      Portmeirion.

      1. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

        Re: Where did they launch it from?

        I am a number

        1. Dangermouse 1

          Re: Where did they launch it from?

          Several, in fact.

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Where did they launch it from?

        Was the small suspended car sized object a Lotus 7?

    3. EricB123 Silver badge

      Re: Where did they launch it from?

      I though they were still using glass plates.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where did they launch it from?

      "Can they just rewind the film?"

      Spy satellites aren't 127 googlepixel resolution cameras where you get a live view of the globe and double click to zoom in (optionally declaring "Enhance!").

      Spy (and other Earth observation) satellites take pictures beneath their path. Over many passes, they'll build up a mosaic of images. For a moving target like a balloon, you're pretty likely to miss seeing it.

      I suspect that most of the time spy satellites are over the ocean they won't even bother capturing images (unless someone knows anout any interesting ships in the area that they want to keep tabs on). Wasting bandwidth on images of waves isn't real productive.

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Pint

    First question, why are the Yanks shooting down balloons over Canada? Yes, NORAD, but Canada has several squadrons of F-18's. Where the hell are they and why are they not protecting Canadian air space Mr Trudeau?

    If those balloons are using satellite relays for the gathered info, then shooting them down does little to stop the issue. Japan needs to step up their anti-balloon game to stop them being a threat.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Well it's like borrowing your wife's car to go to the shops. Sure, you have your own car, but if you use hers then you're saving your own diesel.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        John Wayne would not be happy

        Wait, the USA is the wife in this scenario?

        1. cookieMonster Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: John Wayne would not be happy

          That’s what it looks like

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Probably because the Americans are paranoid and there's empty space in Canada. Let the flyboys get on with it, and if it lands on a moose, America's fault...

    3. Apollo-Soyuz 1975

      Canada’s prime minister posted on Twitter (sigh …) to inform that he had requested that USAF aircraft shoot-down the object. As to why USAF and not RCAF, your guess is as good as mine. https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau/status/1624527579116871681?s=20&t=D5ErnLoZPcmjHiQiAfmu1g

      1. Tony.
        Holmes

        Why did Canada let the USA spend probably close to 1/2 a million dollars to scramble a jet and use an AA missile to shoot down a weather balloon that may have only cost a few hundred? No idea!

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          statistics

          One more UAP (4) and it will be considered a mass shooting. That's definitely the USA's area of expertise.

        2. EricB123 Silver badge

          Shoot it down!

          Heck, a BB gun would have sufficed. I have an old Daisy BB gun that would have done the job for pennies.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Shoot it down!

            Probably sarcasm, but there was a Reddit discussion about shooting down balloons immediately after the first one was sighted. Of course, someone with extensive experience with high altitude balloons showed up with real insight. First of, of course, shooting the balloon from the ground with a rifle or shotgun wouldn't work (balloon was about 11 miles up). Oddly enough, they seemed to anticipate a few people in Montana would be inclined to give it a try.

            Second off, if you did manage to pop a rifle round into the balloon it would.... pretty much do nothing. If it monitored itself, it would eventually warn of a loss in pressure, and in a month or so, you'd notice a loss of altitude, but it wouldn't pop like a party balloon.

    4. WolfFan

      Norad has several air defense zones. Canadian aircraft are assigned to some, American aircraft to others. It’s probable that this was in a zone allocated to American aircraft. At least part of certain Eastern states (Maine, for one, possibly Vermont and New Hampshire) are in zones allocated to Canadian aircraft. At least one Canadian unit was once forward deployed to an American air station in Washington state for a few months while their base was having a spot of spring cleaning.

    5. Korev Silver badge
      Pirate

      First question, why are the Yanks shooting down balloons over Canada? Yes, NORAD, but Canada has several squadrons of F-18's. Where the hell are they and why are they not protecting Canadian air space Mr Trudeau?

      It's not unheard of for other countries to "police" others' airspace. Ireland pretty much relies on the RAF as it has no fighter jets. I guess it's a top secret if the Irish would order a hijacked passenger plane etc to be shot down over Ireland and if Britain would do it.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In addition to NORAD, who happens to have the closest available fighters probably comes into play. Also, according to the BBC, American and Canadian fighters were dispatched in that instance. There could have been tactical reasons for a particular jet to take the shot (who is closer, who had a better position to observe the results, etc.) Or maybe the pilots played rock-paper-scissors before the flight to decide who got the first crack at it.

  3. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

    Well what the hell was it then, this craft that was just pootling about up in the air, seemingly defying all known laws of physics? Surely it was the job of the Brig to give the public some decent information in order to provide a bit of reassurance, rather than seeding another million conspiracy theories with this sort of vague philosophising....

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

      My guess would be Darwin candidates... Any yahoo can launch a weather balloon. However, after watching the movie Explorers, I'm hoping it isn't our next great scientist pootling around up there ;-}

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

        Anybody can launch a weather balloon, sure. But something the size of a small car?

        Maybe, instead of just blowing them out of the sky, try instead to get some cameras pointed at the thing), and if it's a big balloon, how about making a small hole so it can descend a little more gracefully for future recovery and analysis?

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

          For sport a few years ago I bought an old one on ebay, hooked it up to the wrong end of the vacuum cleaner and turned it on. After about 40 minutes it was filling 90% of the living room. Yes, I was having a few drinks with some friends at the time.

        2. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

          "Size of a small car" isn't really *that* big, even if you are just talking about the payload: we're just talking volume, not saying it is solid lumps of iron. It gets cold up there so putting it all into layers of polystyrene and bubble wrap helps a lot. Sticking odd bits onto boom arms also ups the volume of the envelope without adding much mass. Wrap it in mylar and you have a small car volume that two blokes can carry.

          If you are allowing for the volume of the balloon as well - those are pretty dang big, especially when high up.

    2. AnotherName

      Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

      It might be an old man and a boy scout, moving house?

      1. EricB123 Silver badge

        Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

        That old man in Up's house perhaps.

    3. Mark 85

      Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

      I suspect it was a wrong choice of words. By "wasn't an aircraft per se", it would appear that it didn't have the common attributes of an airplane/aircraft like wings. To many folks those terms are interchangeable. A balloon is a type of aircraft but not an airplane. Nit-picky, I know.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said it "wasn't an aircraft per se"

        I am not aware of this site having a pedant amongst its members before now.

  4. breakfast Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    "Anyone can launch a balloon"

    Next they'll be trying to persuade us that people use high-altitude balloons for totally nonsensical activities like releasing a paper aeroplane into space.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      "practically anyone can send a balloon into the air"

      As El Reg should well know!

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "practically anyone can send a balloon into the air"

        I was wondering what was happening after Amazon said that my book delivery was going to be delayed after Biden announced the shoot down, but now Amazon says "later next week" so I guess the balloon wasn't an Amazon attempt to deliver, in a climate friendly way.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: "Anyone can launch a balloon"

      If Lester were around, it could even be a submission to "Who Me?"

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: "Anyone can launch a balloon"

        If only...

        RIP big man

  5. Marty McFly Silver badge
    FAIL

    Stupid Brandon administration

    By allowing these balloons into US airspace, it establishes what our standard response to them will be. I'll bet every one of them is in fact a scientific balloon.

    The problems is, if we continue to allow them in our airspace, the next one could be a high-altitude EMP attack. It will leisurely float along, until bam, and then Lights Out & Game Over.

    These balloons need to be shot down consistently to establish the SOP response such that using them for an attack would be a futile effort.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Stupid Brandon administration

      What China are doing is sending different types and size of 'aircraft' to check what the US radar can pick up.

      So it is a 'scientific' experiment.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Stupid Brandon administration

      The only practical EMP attack requires detonation of a nuclear warhead. The "pinch" from Ocean's 11 does not exist.

      If someone is detonating a nuke above the US, it doesn't really matter how it is delivered but a balloon is unlikely to be chosen method of delivery.

    3. TheInstigator

      Re: Stupid Brandon administration

      Does this apply if the US send balloons into other country's sovereign airspace? Or is that meant to be allowed because America is the world's policeman and stands for freedom, truth and democracy?

      Should the US be given carte blanche to do as it pleases in the world? It's a genuine question - let me know please - I'd be interested to know your thoughts ..

      1. Black Label1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Stupid Brandon administration

        "Does this apply if the US send balloons into other country's sovereign airspace?"

        Actually, the US of North America do send a lot of flying objects into other countries. Not always as harmless as a weather balloon. Like this captured and reverse-engineered Spy drone RQ-170

        Problem is, once in enemy's hands - be it a drone, a microchip or cyber weapons - they are spoils of war.

  6. Grunchy Silver badge

    Bastards!

    Bastards took down me space balloon that never popped. Crumb bums! PS don't tell em that was my property, they might try to bill me for the missile.

  7. Dizzy Dwarf Bronze badge

    It's just like Roswell

    Or, maybe, it's just like the opposite of Roswell.

    What with all the 'could be a UFO - not saying' bollocks and all that.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: It's just like Roswell

      They're here! They're here!

      Have you never tried the training simulator released by X-Com? That clearly showed octagonal UFOs, and the importance of intercepting and destroying them before they land. Nobody wants a personal probing from a Chrysalid.

      Also Xenonauts 2 dropped a new demo recently, but I think 2K has a much larger marketing budget. I wasn't aware they were launching anything new, or that they'd engaged the DoD to help with publicity. Hopefully they're not going to rush the release either to tie in with the current alien invasion.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: It's just like Roswell

        I'm old school enough such that my first thought on hearing about the octagonal object was "oh great, we're stuck in witch-space being attacked by Thargoids, again..."

    2. veti Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: It's just like Roswell

      I for one welcome our new inflatable overlords.

  8. boris9k3

    Fools lead us.

    I have spent a GREAT deal of time in Montana and there is no reason for the original spy balloon to be NOT taken out there. Montana is already a kill zone with 150 + Minuteman missiles there the USA has already made it a pile of molten glass if a real nuke war breaks out. Also Montana is slightly smaller than California in size with 39 million less people the odds of hurting someone are very small.

    Some one needs to tell Uncle Joe in war things get broken and people die. Protect the country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fools lead us.

      "I have spent a GREAT deal of time in Montana and there is no reason for the original spy balloon to be NOT taken out there. Montana is already a kill zone with 150 + Minuteman missiles there the USA has already made it a pile of molten glass if a real nuke war breaks out. "

      NOW you tell me! Fuck!

      - Seriously Disgruntled in Calgary

      1. boris9k3

        Re: Fools lead us.

        Please pass the maple syrup so I may consume your worries.

    2. Zolko Silver badge

      Re: Fools lead us.

      in Montana and there is no reason for the original spy balloon to be NOT taken out there

      there might be one : it might have been floating way above the operational altitude of the F-22. Have you seen a close-up picture of the balloon ? They show such pictures for every intercept they make, but not here.

      1. boris9k3

        Re: Fools lead us.

        Maybe true but it was shot down by f22 and air to air shot. https://www.businessinsider.com/military-didnt-know-missile-that-downed-chinese-balloon-would-work-2023-2?op=1

        "The F-22, which was operating at an altitude of 58,000 feet, used an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile to take down the balloon, which was hovering between 60,000 and 65,000 feet, a senior US defense official told reporters after the mission."

        1. Zolko Silver badge

          Re: Fools lead us.

          a senior US defense official told reporters

          ah well, that's settled then. I'm relived we have indisputable explanations

        2. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Fools lead us.

          The altitude it was at when it was shot down isn't necessarily the altitude it was at earlier in its flight, though...

      2. boris9k3

        Re: Fools lead us.

        I am pretty sure there was a "gun" camera on that f22 and there is lots of video that will not be released. Picture would be worth a 1000 words.

  9. that one in the corner Silver badge

    we're seeing a lot of this garbage

    Well, that's charming!

    It may be garbage to you, matey, but that one is a final year project (don't you *want* your next generation to be trained?).

    That other one is worth 20,000 hits on Youtube for "NCC 1701 in Space for reals!" and getting the ad money for that is The American Way.

    But that one carrying an over-the-horizon repeater for radio hams isn't monetised? Nerds! Target practice!

  10. Zolko Silver badge

    Where is the proof ?

    Are we really sure they really did shoot something down ? Apart from the first balloon, I haven't seen any pictures of any of the other objects. May-be they're just pretending. Why they would pretend is another question, but IF there indeed where giant flying spaghetti monsters, we certainly should be able to see some parts of them. Because after the first balloon that crossed for 3 days the entirety of the US territory and of which we have only seen pictures from far below even though we could see F22-s circling them, some people could have the imagination that they didn't shoot down the first balloon because they were unable of, too high. And now the US government is building a new narrative.

    I'm asking this for a friend, to prevent wild conspiracy theories about flying objects that didn't leave any debris

    1. TheInstigator

      Re: Where is the proof ?

      I think we should just believe whatever the US says - cause they wouldn't lie to the public - surely?

  11. TheInstigator

    It's becoming more and more obvious to me ....

    .. that the only immediate solution to this is immediate nuclear war - let the games commence

  12. Martin Summers
    Joke

    They spent how much on a missile to pop a balloon? Why couldn't they just open the window and get out a big stick with a pin on the end?

    1. Down not across

      They only had a 10ft pole.

      They would've needed a 2000 to maybe 7000ft stick.

    2. veti Silver badge

      We're talking about the US military here. It would cost $27 billion over a 15-year program for them to develop and test a big enough "stick with a pin on the end".

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