Does China operate an entire fleet?

The excitement surrounding China’s alleged espionage attempt continues. What do we now know about the balloons? t-online answers the most important questions.

The most important things at a glance

For days, the United States watched a hovering white balloon drift over its territory before the US military shot it down off the coast of South Carolina. The US assumes that China wanted to spy on military facilities with the balloon. China, on the other hand, described the launch as an “overreaction” and spoke of a civilian research balloon that had gone off course.

The debris is now being examined, and the United States has already shared initial findings with its allies. Read more about the latest developments here. The information that China is supposed to move a whole network of such balloons in the air caused a particular stir.

Is that correct? And how big is the threat for Germany? t-online answers the most important questions.

What’s up with the espionage accusation?

In the end, it’s still not possible to say for sure. So far, the US has only suspected that China actually used the balloon for espionage purposes. But there will only be certainty once the debris has been recovered and the technology examined.

The main focus will be on the balloon’s information box: it would provide information about whether communication data was collected.

The suspicion of espionage arose primarily because of the technical components at the lower end of the balloon. They may have been used for maneuvering and intelligence gathering. You can read more about the structure of the balloon here.

Suspected spy balloon: The US Navy has recovered the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach (USA).
Suspected spy balloon: The US Navy has recovered the first pieces of debris off the coast of Myrtle Beach in the USA. (Source: US Navy via AP/dpa)

Does China even operate an entire balloon fleet?

That’s quite possible. At least the United States currently assumes that the downed balloon is part of an extensive Chinese surveillance program. “The United States was not the only target of this broad program that violated the sovereignty of countries on five continents,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

A Pentagon official had previously pointed out that China has a fleet of surveillance balloons. The Department of Defense announced that three Chinese spy balloons also crossed American airspace during the tenure of former US President Donald Trump – without consequences. Here you can read more about it.

A spy balloon hovers over Billings, Montana.A spy balloon hovers over Billings, Montana.
Alleged spy balloon: It hovered over Billings in the US state of Montana. (Source: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette/AP/dpa/dpa-images)

USA in close exchange with allies

According to the Secretary of State, the United States is currently exchanging information with dozens of countries to take action against possible surveillance. According to the Washington Post, the department has sent detailed information about the surveillance balloons to each US embassy, ​​which can be shared with allies and partners. “Our allies and partners are very interested,” said the government representative.

The federal government in Germany was also concerned after the discovery of the balloon in US airspace. Read more about the reaction from Berlin here. It is currently being checked whether there have been similar incidents in this country in the past, according to German security circles.