Navy releases first photos of Chinese balloon recovery

WASHINGTON – Using underwater drones, warships and inflatable boats, the Navy is conducting a wide-ranging operation to collect all the pieces of a huge US Chinese spy balloon downed fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

In the latest pictures released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Ordnance Disposal Team 2 can be seen bent over a rigid-hull inflatable boat and pulling wide swaths of the balloon’s white outer material and shell structure.

The head of US Northern Command, Gen. Glenn VanHerk, said Monday that teams are taking precautions to prevent any part of the balloon from being rigged with explosives.

Air balloon was approximately 200 feet (60 meters) tall and carried a long sensor package beneath it that VanHerk estimated was the size of a small regional jet.

The Navy is also using the ships to map and scan the sea floor on all other parts of the balloon so that US analysts can get a complete picture of what types of sensors the Chinese used and to better understand how the balloon might have maneuvered.

Debris from the balloon is scattered in water about 50 feet (15 meters) deep, but stretches over an area 15 football fields long and 15 football fields across, VanHerk said.

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