China is mad at the US for blasting its suspected spy balloon, but a few years ago, state TV bragged its fighter pilots could shoot one down

February 09, 2023 in International

China is upset that the US shot down its balloon — a suspected surveillance asset — on Saturday, but a state TV video clip from 2020 features a segment boasting about how Chinese fighter pilots can locate and shoot down spy balloons.

The video from China Central Television (CCTV), translated by Insider, follows an apparent training exercise involving surveillance balloons.

In the video, an alarm bell prompts a fighter pilot to prepare and board a fighter jet that appears to be the Chinese J-10, a multi-role aircraft built for air-to-air combat and strike missions.

A CCTV narrator described the action, saying that loading missiles, powering up, checking the fuselage, and other procedures were all completed quickly.

As the jets take off, command gives the pilot a mission, explaining that 60 kilometers out at a heading of 220 degrees, an unidentified aerial situation has been discovered. The pilot is ordered to “conduct identification and verification.”

In the video, the pilot quickly locates the object and monitors it.

The CCTV narrator identified the object first as a white sphere-shaped object. Closer observation found it to be an unmanned balloon. “The supervising command organization judged that it was possibly a super high-altitude surveillance balloon that threatened air defense security,” the narrator says.

A pilot is then ordered to shoot it down with a missile.

The CCTV documentary said “the white balloon exploded with the launch of a missile from the fighter jet’s left wing,” adding that it only took about 30 seconds for the pilot to lock onto and then destroy the target.

The segment concludes with a shot of balloon debris scattered in a forest. It also features other shots of Chinese fighter jets and interviews with military personnel and pilots.

China’s foreign ministry said Monday that it was “unacceptable and irresponsible” for the US to shoot down its suspected high-altitude surveillance balloon over the weekend, calling it an overreaction. A US Air Force F-22 fighter, a fifth-generation stealth jet, fired a single air-to-air missile to down the system, which plummeted from over 60,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

Photos published by the US Navy on Tuesday captured the moment sailors pulled debris from the balloon — which a top US commander said was about 200 feet tall — out of waters near South Carolina.

The balloon was first spotted crossing the sky over the US last week, but the Biden administration waited to down it until it could be done without risking the lives of those below. The potential debris, which could include not just balloon parts but also weaponry used to shoot it down, could cause injuries or even deaths. A second balloon, which China admitted it owns, was also spotted over Latin America last week.

China said both balloons were “of civilian nature and used for flight test.” Pentagon officials, however have denied these claims, asserting that both balloons are likely surveillance devices.