Colombia’s air force confirmed Pentagon reports of a second Chinese spy balloon making its way across several Latin American countries, after the US decided to shoot down a similar spy balloon caught crossing the US and Canada.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning yesterday tried to pass off the balloon as an “unmanned airship for research purposes that had been blown off course by bad weather,” an explanation that does not hold up considering the civil aviation protocols that are in place for such an incident.
Civilian aircraft, including balloons, blimps and zeppelins must carry radio transponders that broadcast an identification signal to both identify the aircraft and avoid collisions. Protocol is such that should an aircraft accidentally travel off course, air traffic control of the underlying countries would be contacted. The Chinese government took no such action.
The US shot the companion balloon down six miles off the mid-Atlantic coast. According to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin: “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.”
Colombia’s air force issued a statement (translated here) saying:
In relation to the publications of the incursion of a balloon flying in the territory, the Colombian Air Force, is allowed to inform the public opinion:
- On February 3, 2023 in the morning, the National Air Defense System detected an object above 55,000 feet, which entered Colombian airspace in the northern sector of the country, moving at an average speed of 25 knots, identifying in it, characteristics similar to those of a balloon.
- Through the Defense Systems, the Colombian Air Force followed the object until it left the airspace.
- In this way, it was possible to determine that this element did not represent a threat to national security and defense, as well as air safety.
- The Institution carries out the pertinent investigations and coordination with different countries and institutions, to establish the origin of the object.
Photo: By Russotp – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,