back to article Yukon UFO could have cost unfortunate balloon fan $12

Having spent the first half of the month blasting anything that moved out of the sky following the destruction of a Chinese spy balloon, it has emerged that the US could have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars disintegrating a hobbyist's $12 project. In its postmortem of Pico Balloon K9YO, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap …

  1. Catkin

    Republicans have a lot to answer for

    Never forget, they were the ones who goaded the President into acting rashly by repeatedly portraying his earlier, sensible decision to wait and see as weakness.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

      If you can be goaded into military action by people who claim that Jewish space lasers caused forest fires, Italian satellites control voting machines and trickle down economics works - you don't deserve to have an air force

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        Well said, but lets not forget that the USA is a two party country with too many voters who believe "that Jewish space lasers caused forest fires, Italian satellites control voting machines and trickle down economics works".

        Stuck in the shit whatever way you turn it.

        A situation old Socrates was worried about for good reasons.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLJBzhcSWTk&t=3s

      2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        Nobody has ever claimed that "trickle down economics" work.

        The term was invented as a slur against Republican policies by a 1930's Democrat voting comedian.

        Well done on defeating a strawman...

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          Nobody has ever claimed that "trickle down economics" work.

          You obviously don't remember Liz Truss. She didn't specifically say 'TDE' but her policies were pretty much defined by the TDE policies..

          1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            They weren't TDE because TDE doesn't exist.

            They were pro-growth policies. They were also pro-"I believe in the science behind the Laffer Curve rather than the wishful thinking of the left" policies.

            They were "a rising tide lifts all boats" policies. That's not the same as TDE because TDE doesn't exist and is a slur designed to trick people into thinking that your opponents policies are both evil and stupid. It's a strawman argument and it's pathetic.

            When you mischaracterise them as TDE, it means that you have made no attempt to understand them - just that you know they must be bad because [mumble].

            1. bitwise

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              The "science behind the laffer curve" is putting things a bit strongly, it's a theory, but not a theory in the scientific sense - there is limited empirical evidence - I look forward to a day where we evidence based economics enters the mainstream, but we are not there yet.

              Accusing the other side of "wishful thinking" and presenting an unproven theory does not make for a strong argument.

            2. phuzz Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              Of course, her policies were mischaracterised by the "left-wing economic establishment". Every economist who ridiculed her plans is clearly a communist, and the cataclysmic fall in the GBP was clearly a perfidious foreign plot. If only more people would read Ayn Rand, they'd understand!

              1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                As we know, economists are great at telling you that the status quo is fine or not fine, or identifying individual theories. Ask them to predict macroeconomic outcomes of a new framework ( such as deviating from the New Labour policies we've had since 1997 ) means they don't have a clue.

                See the 341 prominent economists who wrote a letter to Thatcher telling her that she was going to cause disaster. They were proven completely wrong, without argument. Every single one of them. Economics is known as the dismal science for a reason. As the joke goes, economists exist in order to make astrologists look good.

                Establishment economists are stuck in the centre-left consensus which is taking us down the plughole. But don't worry, better managerialism and we'll circle the drain slightly slower...

                Are you really going to pretend that the civil service is a willing harbinger of change?

            3. Grogan Bronze badge

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              Conservatives excel at arguing semantics... waste someone else's oxygen with your posturing.

            4. Someone Else Silver badge

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              [...] science behind the Laffer Curve [...]

              Well, there you go again.

              There's no more science behind the Laffer Curve than there is behind eye-of-newt and bat-wings creating a magic potion.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_wHBlouFSc

                Anyone?.. Anyone?..

          2. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            Obviously not old enough to recall Ronnie Reagan (or Margaret Thatcher, for that matter). Some of us are a) old and b) have long memories.

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              Thatcher didn't use TDE because TDE doesn't exist in reality.

              "A rising tide lifts all boats" summed up her philosophy, but that isn't TDE. That's growing the pie in order to make everybody's slice larger.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          >>Nobody has ever claimed that "trickle down economics" work.<<

          Patently false.

          "Trickle down has been very successful. I know thats not a popular opinion but has given us all great benefits from top to bottom."

          https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/12/21/thinktank_report/#c_4167777

          1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            So what you're saying is that due to people lying that the right wing policies are TDE, people have been tricked into thinking that right wing policies are TDE.

            That doesn't mean that TDE exists.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Headmaster

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              No. You've been caught in the false statement, "Nobody has ever claimed that "trickle down economics" work."

              They clearly do. Right here on the comment pages of this auguste organ. Own it, and move on. Unless you're one of those RWNJs we see regularly who cannot ever admit to being wrong?

        3. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          Nobody has ever claimed that "trickle down economics" work.

          You obviously don't remember Ronald Reagan. He didn't specifically say 'TDE' but "Reagonomics" was TDE with a more palatable (for the times) marketing moniker.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

      Of course it is political point scoring but the puppet president Sleepy Joe Beijing Biden waited until it had done what China required before doing anything. And he was very careful to ensure it didn't fall on someones property and thus allowing the general public access to it.

      And then the claims that 'it happened lots under Trump but he didn't do anything' all while they claimed Trump was too aggressive (contradiction much?)

      And then admission that they can't in fact track these balloons and that if it wasn't for some meddling photographer this all would have been kept nice and quiet.

      A bit like how they were refusing any help after turning East Palestine into a toxic wasteland until Trump decided to visit, then suddenly they leap into action.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        "sleepy joe beijing biden"?

        Grow up, for fucks sake. this ain't bloody 4chan.

        Still, if you want to play that game: ( https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-china-business-connections-tax-returns-2024-1772648)

        "Former President Donald Trump, whose policies on China hardened in his final year in office despite the inking of a historic trade agreement with Beijing, has had extensive commercial interests in the world's most populous nation going back years, his tax records have revealed.

        Trump's Chinese business connections, which didn't stop his administration's hawkish turn after the COVID pandemic exploded in the United States in early 2020"

        As for East Palestine, no doubt you know that Trump scrapped the requirement for those trains to have ECP brakes, which would have likely stopped the disaster.

        Granted, Biden said at the beginning that he'd reverse that stupid relaxation, and never did, but it was Trumps baby.

        https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-blame-ohio-train-derailment-1781163

        "Speaking to investigative news outlet The Lever, Steven Ditmeyer, a former top official at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), said the "severity" of the accident was likely increased by the lack of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

        A rule was passed under President Barack Obama that made it a requirement for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials to have ECP brakes, but this was rescinded in 2017 by the Trump administration.

        "Would ECP brakes have reduced the severity of this accident? Yes," Ditmeyer said.

        Referring to opposition from within the rail industry to fitting ECP brakes, he added: "The railroads will test new features. But once they are told they have to do it ... they don't want to spend the money.""

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          "As for East Palestine, no doubt you know that Trump scrapped the requirement for those trains to have ECP brakes, which would have likely stopped the disaster."

          False.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Ohio_train_derailment

          "As it had only three such placarded train cars, the derailed train did not meet the qualifications of a "high-hazard flammable" train and therefore was not affected by the 2014 legislation or its 2017 repeal"

          1. graeme leggett Silver badge

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            The limit for "high hazard" is 20 cars.

            Now how someone decided that 19 cars "not good not terrible" but 20 bad to the bone would be interesting to uncover.

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              I would assume that 19 is about fine, so is 20 and so is 21.

              But the limit is 20 to prevent there being 40. If there's a limit it has to be somewhere.

              1. phuzz Silver badge

                Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                That would be the case if the regulations were written with safety in mind, rather than the train companies profits.

                1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                  Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                  You say profits, an adult would say "financial viability".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          As for East Palestine, no doubt you know that Trump scrapped the requirement for those trains to have ECP brakes, which would have likely stopped the disaster.

          Granted, Biden said at the beginning that he'd reverse that stupid relaxation, and never did, but it was Trumps baby.

          https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-blame-ohio-train-derailment-1781163

          "Speaking to investigative news outlet The Lever, Steven Ditmeyer, a former top official at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), said the "severity" of the accident was likely increased by the lack of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

          A rule was passed under President Barack Obama that made it a requirement for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials to have ECP brakes, but this was rescinded in 2017 by the Trump administration.

          "Would ECP brakes have reduced the severity of this accident? Yes," Ditmeyer said.

          Referring to opposition from within the rail industry to fitting ECP brakes, he added: "The railroads will test new features. But once they are told they have to do it ... they don't want to spend the money.""

          Actually the original law wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this case. Only three of the rail carriages would have qualified as dangerous enough to and it would have needed to be a hell of a lot more. So that train wouldn’t have required ECPB even if the law hadn’t been changed. Probably was a lot cheaper to donate millions to political campaigns and lobby against ECPB both under the Obama and the Orange One’s regimes than fit it on their trains. Hopefully the train company can’t weasel out of the cleanup and can’t just hide behind the insurers.

          Obama should have drafted a better law and the Orange One not weakened the existing legislation.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            Fair enough. Thanks and apologies to you and the previous anon.coward for correcting me. I'll learn to take "newsweek" with a pinch of salt in future.

            You're right - Obama should have drafted a better law, Trump not weakened it, and Biden should have reinstated/fixed it.

            What pissed me off was the childish conspiracy laden antics from the anon. I was replying to. I'm fed up of people (in the USA and whilst lesser in the UK, it's increasing) treating politics as a sport, in that they pick a team, and from that point on, that team, whether it's a party or a movement, or a particular policy can do no wrong in their eyes, and the other side is therefore evil.

            It's ignorant, it's divisive, and it allows for people to have an "opinion" when it's something they are entirely ignorant about ("My guy did this, it must be brilliant")

            Many politicians in America and Britain are corrupt. Money flows freely from big pharma, health insurance, other business interests, and in the UK, Russians! They ALL expect something for their cash.

            It's by people not critically assessing their "favourite" politician on every decision they make, that allows them to pull the bullshit that they do.

            Most politicians are mainly in it for what's best for them -- witness that one of the rare bipartisan agreements recently in the House was to delay/mothball any attempts to ban congress from insider trading(!) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/30/us/politics/stock-trading-vote-congress.html

            Still, for someone to think that Trump has ever cared for anyone other than himself is deluded in the extreme. Those fanatical views hurt everyone, including the people who think it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

            >As for East Palestine, no doubt you know that Trump scrapped the requirement for those trains to have ECP brakes, which would have likely stopped the disaster...

            >...Biden said at the beginning that he'd reverse that stupid relaxation, and never did...

            >...Obama should have drafted a better law and the Orange One not weakened the existing legislation...

            There was no law, only a series of Executive Orders; not one of which carries the weight of law.

            President Biden worked very hard his first 100 days in office reversing nearly all of Trump's EOs, but not that one.

            If ECP brakes were that important, Biden should have reinstated the EO.

            Since he did not, this disaster rests st his feet, not Trump's.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              “There was no law, only a series of Executive Orders; not one of which carries the weight of law.”

              So the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (aka FAST Act) wasn’t passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in December 2015? You might want to tell Congress that.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixing_America%27s_Surface_Transportation_Act

              https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/news/phmsa-rescinds-ecp-brake-mandate-after-ria-finds-costs-outweigh-benefits

              https://www.levernews.com/rail-companies-blocked-safety-rules-before-ohio-derailment/

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                Hmm.. if you read the FAST documents it doesn't mandate ECP brakes at all. It says they should research the effectiveness and costs of ECP brakes and report.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

              Even fox news doesn't agree with you, Trumptard Video clip: Fox News blaiming Trump

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

                I see Fox news is as fake as ever. Puts them in the same bracket as CNN and MSNPC.

                Read the Obama law, it did not mandate the 'better' brakes, just that the cost/benefit was researched and reported on. Also there is a lower limit of 20 hazardous cars in a train before they take special precautions and this train had 3.

                Notice the wording used. 'Apparently' was used several times.

                Sleepy Joe and Booty-gig could have reversed the Trump decision (not that it would have made any difference), also they could have supported the railroad staff in their battle with the operators over safety. This train was huge and didn't have enough crew to check it properly.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

          Retired now, but used to commute the 25 miles into Boston (MA) by rail. It was convenient, reasonably priced and low stress. The rails, of course, are shared with commercial freight trains, and I remember passing some on a siding with somewhat worrying labels on the tanker cars. Acids, Chlorine, plastics precursors and several other chemicals I don't remember. Not hundreds of tank cars, but more than 10.

          I did think about what might happen if their contents were released, and it wasn't pleasant. As I retired, they were in the process of implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) on the line I travelled. This was in 2020. Railroading is not as technically advanced as we would like it to be, mostly for political and economic (business) reasons. And this is not a comforting thought. One might think "oh, well, we'll keep doing it until something really terrible forces us to consider doing things differently" is the attitude...I couldn't possible comment.

      2. SotarrTheWizard
        FAIL

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        Get it right. It was 'those meddling kids and their stupid dog'. . . . (grin)

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        "Of course it is political point scoring but the puppet president Sleepy Joe Beijing Biden waited until it had done what China required before doing anything."

        If anybody wonders why the political scene in America is a mess, look no further...

      4. Ididntbringacoat

        Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

        "the puppet president . . . etc. blah, blah"

        Ye Gads Man! What dd you step in on the way over here? At least scrape it off your shoes before you walk in. You DO wear shoes, don't you?

    3. Fat Guy In A Little Coat

      Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

      THEY MADE ME DO IT!

      The argument of a 5 year old.

      These are the kind of calls the president has to make, and right or wrong, it falls on him.

    4. Mark 85

      Re: Republicans have a lot to answer for

      Politicians and balloons.... both are gas bags

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    NIBBB

    Are now listed as a terrorist group

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Yet Another Anonymous coward - Re: NIBBB

      Whisky Tango Foxtrot ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Yet Another Anonymous coward - NIBBB

        in the USA, it is Whiskey, you bloody Red Coat!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Yet Another Anonymous coward - NIBBB

          It's still Whisky if you've imported it from Scotland (or Wales...)

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: @Yet Another Anonymous coward - NIBBB

            Whiskey or whisky for W moot if you're speaking. If you're writing, you just type W.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: @Yet Another Anonymous coward - NIBBB

            It's still Whisky if you've imported it from Scotland (or Wales...)

            Or England..

            (English Distillery Company produces some very fine whisky. As do the Cotswold Distilleries. As do quite a few other English distilleries..)

            1. renniks

              Re: @Yet Another Anonymous coward - NIBBB

              First created in Ireland, whiskey if it is produced in Ireland, whisky if produced anywhere else.

              (although the Yanks may spell their stuff whiskey, as they aren't too concerned about naming conventions - see their use of the word champagne for the sparkly wine they produce)

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Chinese spy balloon

    To be fair it was probably made in China

  4. TrevorH

    K9YO is a $12 balloon but is KY90 33 year old personal lubricant?

    1. NIck Hunn

      Are you suggesting that a well-lubricated balloon could act as a sidewinder condom?

    2. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Coat

      K9YO is used doggy style: "O!" "Surprise!"

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        K9YO is actually the licence plate fitted to the Dr's faithful companion following the requirement for all dangerous dogs to be registered. He had a gun, and could be a lil gangsta.

  5. herman Silver badge

    More...

    The $12 is just for the balloon. The sonde and radio will add a fist full of bills to the cost.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: More...

      Rocks don't anything.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: More...

      Well, if $20-$40 is a "fist full of bills"...

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: More...

        In this economy....?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: More...

      if you just need something that floats (and no radio) I could probably do it with hydrogen and a trash bag. I used to make hydrogen balloons back in the day with simple household ingredients (like aluminum foil and drain cleaner) and since it is highly exothermic you use plastic soda bottle immersed and weighted down in cooling water (like a big bucket). If you do not melt the bottle you just need to snap a balloon over the hole and inflate it. But something bigger like a trashbag might need a hose of some kind.

      Still for higher altitude balloons you fill it with JUST enough gas to float it. As altitude increases it will continue to expand. At some point it either bursts or has enough pressure to expand fully but NOT burst, and it reaches max altitude.

      But then with no tracker you cannot tell how high up it went...

  6. steelpillow Silver badge
    Coat

    Blown up out of all proportion

    Can't help thinking this is one big propaganda exercise to soften somebody up for something or other.

    Balloons, rogue or otherwise, have been crossing the Pacific routinely for decades. You know, send it up, don't give a shit where or when it comes down...

    Why suddenly make a political thing of them?

    This $10 fuck-up carries the fine irony that the whole propaganda scheme just blew up, not just the hobby balloon.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Blown up out of all proportion

      @steelpillow

      Lets not forget that the Chines balloon was at a height that could have caused problems for air traffic.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Blown up out of all proportion

        I was under the impression that the hobby balloon was at airline altitude, whereas the Chinese was at 50,000 feet or so, well above commercial airliners.

  7. Jim Mitchell
    Megaphone

    A "pico" balloon is basically littering. You aren't going to recover it. Littering some far off place for your personal pleasure makes you a jerk.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      I would assume that the anti-aircraft missile set fire to it. As we know all chemicals are rendered harmless to the environment once set on fire

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        AA missiles can carry numerous different warheads, but incendiaries aren't traditionally very effective against aircraft so they tend not to feature...

    2. parlei

      Yes. I can accept real scientific studies -- and there are quit a number -- where they make sense. But Just for the fun of following a track on your website? Only if you make sure that you recover the remains wherever they may come down

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        But Just for the fun of following a track on your website?

        People spot trains. They can be proud of having visited every service station on the M25[1] as a hobby. Tracking balloons on a website sounds highly advanced!

        [1] For those that don't know, the M25 is London's largest car park, masquerading as a ring road.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: But Just for the fun of following a track on your website?

          The M25 is also a satanic sigil, specifically designed to annoy as many drivers as possible.

          1. Lil Endian Silver badge

            Re: But Just for the fun of following a track on your website?

            Much like Milton Keynes or Swindon!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Balloon litter

      In the UK there is a real issue with Chinese Lanterns and other forms of balloons landing in fields, and Horses, Cattle, Sheep, etc. chocking on the bloody litter.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      if it is made of biodegradable plastic, not so bad really. And when the tracker stops moving you know where it is. And if you have your name/address on the side of the tracker this can allow it to be mailed to you COD or with postage pre-paid

  8. GraXXoR

    Half a mil for a $12 target.

    Even for the military, that’s a poor cost performance ratio. Lol.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      OtOH

      Free training

      1. parlei

        Re: OtOH

        To some extent yes: the pilots need their air hours, and no matter how good the simulators are fire a missile every now and then.

        Same thing was someone here in EU-land complaining about the taxes spent on running surveillance flights just outside the Ukrainian border when the war started: almost a free service, since that basically was repurposed training flights.

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge

          Goodwill Visit

          Israeli Ambassador: Jim, you have an airborne battalion on standby in Germany that is not now needed for the NATO exercise.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The missile is already paid for and sat in stock. Only about 1% of all sidewinders ever manufactured have been fired in anger, so it would likely have just sat in storage until its expiry date. At this point it would have had to be disposed of or refurbished.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >At this point it would have had to be disposed of or refurbished

        That seems a shame, couldn't they have a little war and at least have some fun with them?

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          They usually do - there are very few leaders who don't have at least one military outing during their term to buck up their ratings.

    3. renniks

      You'd think they could've used cannons instead of an AA missile to pop the balloon - or do modern fighters still have pew pew guns on them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They still have guns for close in work, but hitting a near stationary target while travelling at over two hundred knots could be tricky. Also, punching a few holes in a balloon may not drop it. A sidewinder has a WDU-17/B blast fragmentation warhead. It will explode near the target and shred it with thousands of metal fragments.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chinese spy ballon?

    Has this been confirmed? I haven't seen or heard anything and am sure that if it was confirmed the Americans would have made such a noise about it, it would have been hard to miss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chinese spy ballon?

      A missile usually makes a lot of noise and is not supposed to miss.

  10. andrewmm

    Cost

    Wonder how much the cost of keeping the pilot and F22 or what ever flying per hour is

    I'd imagine the missile cost is minimal by comparison

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Cost

      >Wonder how much the cost of keeping the pilot and F22 or what ever flying per hour is

      For an F22, the DoD say $70K/hour. That's why they want to replace it with the bargain F35 which will only cast $45K/hour

      >I'd imagine the missile cost is minimal by comparison

      Price of the missile is $430K

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cost

        I'm sure SecDef knows what they cost too, given his previous job at Raytheon. He was quite a valuable employee too, given his departure bonus of a few million in stock.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cost

      In WWI a pilot in a biplane using a machine-gun or a grenade could bring down a balloon. 5 gallons of petrol and 50 rounds of ammunition do not compare with today's cost of a missile, even allowing for inflation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cost

        "...even allowing for inflation."

        Oh well done...very well done. :-)

        Hopefully, you will not get "flamed" for making this joke...

        I'd been thinking of making a similar comment, but you beat me to it ! (I was thinking of a line, from the end of ST VI:TUC, where Uhura mentions about cataloguing equipment realted to "gaseous anomalies"...and even though at the start of the film, the Excelsior under Capt Sulu had these ).

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Cost

        So what the RAF needs is Biggles and Biplanes? The defence spending review might be able to get behind that.

        1. skswales

          Re: Cost

          "Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?"

          1. TimMaher Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Biggles

            He was out having a beer with his mate Ginger.

          2. Dizzy Dwarf

            Re: Cost

            Resting down in Cornwall writing up his memoir.

        2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          Re: Cost

          When people want to reduce the defence budget they complain about "preparing for yesterday's war" ( ie: having a standing army, tanks, etc ).

          Ironically bringing back balsa wood aircraft would make those people very happy indeed.

      3. StuartMcL

        Re: Cost

        I suspect that a WW1 biplane would have had difficulty getting to 40,000 ft to fire at that balloon.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Cost

          So a Canada goose with laser beams?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cost

            No, but a high altitude unmanned aircraft with a shotgun mounted on it would be perfect, Main problem is preventing the recoil from breaking your very lightweight airframe.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Cost

              As you noted, planes changed since WW1. As it happens, so did balloons. Nowadays, shooting one down with a gun isn't straightforward, it has literally been tried before:

              https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64546767

          2. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Cost

            So a Canada goose with laser beams?

            I see you have not met an unencumbered Canada Goose. DO NOT consider arming the demon fowl.

            Such creatures would not need arming to handle downing a pico balloon.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Cost

              Canada Goose. DO NOT consider arming the demon fowl.

              The male swan on our local lake takes a very dim view of Canada geese turning up on his lake. Especially at this time of year when the breeding season starts..

              1. Fifth Horseman

                Re: Cost

                Canada geese are basically the council estate yobbos of the bird world. "All mouth and no trousers" as the local expression goes. We have a big resident colony of them here, they have become too lazy for any of that 'migration' malarkey. They earn their keep by bullying the Happy Valley tourists into handing over food.

                Swans, OTOH, are genuinely scary, especially during mating/nesting season.

          3. TimMaher Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Canada goose with laser beams.

            Mine’s only got a fur lined hood.

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Canada goose with laser beams.

              I'm looking for a retired mechanical engineer to help me build the ultimate solution to the Canada Goose problem.

              I envision an truck-mounted device with a large suction hose. Canada Geese in one end, and out the other end come goose-down insulated parkas on one side and pate de foie gras on the other side. I figure we could sell a few.

          4. Dizzy Dwarf

            Re: Cost

            Just need to figure out the shark/goose brain interface and we're flying/swiming.

      4. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Cost

        I can see what you’re getting at, but the altitude of the balloon may be a technical issue.

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Cost

      Wouldn't a bullet or two have done the job ? Surely a missile would go right through it without noticing and not explode until it hit something else ?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Cost

        Wouldn't a bullet or two have done the job ?

        Nope. Overkill is best kill. Plus we've been there, done this and discovered the answer was 'nope'. So observation and barrage balloons were used during WW1 & 2, and pilots shot them down. Eventually. In which it was discovered that bullets would just zip right through, creating slow leaks. They were shot down though, hence the callsigns of the F-22 pilots being named after a WW1 Ace who did manage to shoot down a bunch. There's also probably the issue of modern aircraft not carrying many rounds for their guns, if guns are fitted at all. And gravity, like where the rounds fired would end up landing. Hence US LEO's telling rednecks not to try defending America themselves, because a) their bullets won't reach, and b) they will land somewhere downrange with quite a lot of energy.

        Surely a missile would go right through it without noticing and not explode until it hit something else ?

        That's something I was curious about. A lot of missiles are proximity fuzed rather than impact, so detonate once they're close enough to sense a target. The first balloon was apparently big and carried a large payload, the PICO ones are smaller. So this suggests that the proximity sensors are probably good enough to detect Canadian Geese, should Trudeau decide to weaponise them further. US airspace will continue to be defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

        (bonus conspiracy: Weather balloons have been returning results that strongly indicate atmospheric warming isn't happening. After climate prediction supercomputers became self-aware, they determined that missiles must be yeeted, and balloons deleted to prevent misinformation.)

        1. Fifth Horseman

          Re: Cost

          I was surprised the missile could get a positive lock in the first place. Sidewinders (mostly) have passive IR seekers, surely these balloons - especially the hobby ones - have tiny heat signatures? They are obviously better than I imagined... The proximity fusing will depend on the size of the target, again I have no idea how big these balloons are.

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Cost

      My son and his family used to live on the approach to Honolulu airport. It's a joint use facility, and every day you'd see the F-22s returning from training, landing at PHNL. Right over his house. His kids absolutely loved it. And the house was very well insulated, so the noise wasn't really bad, unless they were coming in hot and loud, which did occasionally happen...to the kids' delight.

      // The occasional tanker, C-5, C-17 and Blackhawk, as well as all the airliners.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of this is just hot air.

    1. TVU Silver badge

      Interestingly, this particular Pico balloon was filled with inflammable hydrogen* so it really would go out with a bang if attacked with some $400,000 missile.

      *Source = the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade website before it was removed/taken down.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        O the humanity !

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge

          I know I said "Oh the humanity!" But c'mon!

          "And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, there's a dog having sex with a woman!"

      2. David Pearce

        Helium is rare

        The Earths supply of helium is very limited, so why waste it in an unmanned balloon.

        Bonus that hydrogen is a little lighter and doesn't leak as much

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Helium is rare

          Are you really sure about the leaking? Hydrogen goes through the walls of steel pressure bottles.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Helium is rare

            Helium is the gas with the smallest molecules, as they're merely atomic He.

            Hydrogen on the other hand only comes around naturally as dihydrogen, same number of protons, but split in two separate atoms instead of one. So, small, but less so than He, and easier to keep bottled.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Helium is rare

              Helium is the gas with the smallest molecules, as they're merely atomic He.

              Yep. One of those fascinating supply-chain challenges for policy makers. We can produce H2 if we have to, in reasonable quantities. Helium... Not so easy. Especially when people are demanding we ban oil & gas extraction, which is where (AFAIK) most of our helium comes from. And helium is a rather important industrial gas that often can't easily be substituted. I remember some debate around the time the US decided to flog off it's helium reserves around banning party balloons to prevent helium waste.

  12. Where not exists
    Happy

    Hobbyists need more obvious payloads

    If the payload had looked like this maybe they wouldn't have shot it down. https://youtu.be/5REsCTG4-Gg

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Hobbyists need more obvious payloads

      Are you kitting?

      It says "Made in China" on the tag!

      Fire and Forget!

  13. Jonathan Richards 1
    Black Helicopters

    Fallen off the internet...

    Nobody has mentioned this disturbing nugget. Since the NIBBB pico-balloon has not been officially linked to releases of Sidewinder missiles, why is Team Register not investigating the disappearance of an entire website?

    A DiG query returns nameservers for that domain, but no A record at all, as if the DNS record has been nerfed (If I Understand Correctly). Does anyone know what the IP address is/was?

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Fallen off the internet...

      I imagine that, as a small hobbyist site, the owners black holed the DNS to stump the inevitable hate mail, DDoS and hack attempts. Who wants to deal with that?

      They “...tried contacting [the US] military and the FBI - and just got the runaround...", seems responsible, all else being even. So, screw all that. Go dark and perhaps wait then rebrand.

  14. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Nice big, unarmoured, slowly moving and non-evasive target. Shirley that's just asking for a frikkin laser weapon to open up a split in the side. C'mon, let's have some decent peew, peew.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You would say that - how are Marmite Laser sales going, by the way?

  15. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Dastardly hobbyists

    > NIBBB appears to enjoy tracking its balloons as they circumnavigate the globe. Pour one out for KY9O, which was on its seventh such journey after 123 days and 18 hours of flight

    Seventh circumnavigation? How many times did it cross into Chinese airspace doing that?

    All the Great Powers are chasing down hobbyist balloons and blowing them (up) out of all proportion.[1]

    99 red balloons is looking scarily prescient now.

    [1] Oops, only saw the post above that used the same joke after pressing "submit", but I claim it is a good enough play on words, or pune, to be suffered twice.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ID's for hobbyist balloons?

    I fully admit I know nothing about this subject, but aircraft usually have transponders to identify themselves, couldn't hobbyist balloons emit some kind of signal to say what it is, so air traffic control or the airforce could just say "ahh forget it, it's another hobbyist balloon"?

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: ID's for hobbyist balloons?

      That article says that hobbyists track their own balloons, so clearly superior powers could too: From https://www.picoballoons.net/:

      Tracker - Custom-built computer which has a GPS and radio transmitter to relay its location over long distances.

      So it already exists. However, a genuine spy balloon if fitted with this would be camouflaged somewhat, so it's not going to be trusted by those that want to make things explode.

      They (TPTB) could have taken the hobbyists word for it ("I tried contacting our military and the FBI – and just got the runaround"), or at least followed that up.

      There are many things TPTB could do, but then they wouldn't be able to create a shit storm.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: ID's for hobbyist balloons?

        There are multiple manufacturers https://www.vaisala.com/en of balloon radiosondes. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiosonde

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ID's for hobbyist balloons?

        Thanks, ahh so it's the same kind of panic as when consumer drones were supposedly flitting round UK airports, "oh no, we've not had this before, what do we do?"

  17. I miss PL/1

    Well we will never know since Brandon called off the search so it wouldn't conflict with his fantasy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No the government are now claiming it was a UFO to cover up the fact that it was a weather balloon !

    2. HausWolf

      Is Brandon that fellow who beat Ole One Termer?

  18. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Back in the day El REg could have fallen foul of this

    Imagine if the late lamented Lester was still launching PARIS this year?

  19. Professor_Iron

    Fill the sky with balloons

    I can already see the trolls of the world releasing thousands of these unidentified balloons (likely phallus-shaped variants) over US airspace just to witness a multi-million dollar fireworks. And to possibly speculate on the missile manufacturers stock price.

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Fill the sky with balloons

      I wonder if it's something Russia would consider in Ukraine in order to deplete their ammunition.

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