Focus: China is very interested in military use of high altitude balloons | Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and China are at odds over a Chinese reconnaissance balloon flight over the U.S. mainland There appears to be growing interest in using high-altitude balloon technology for military purposes.

On February 6, the United States and China are at odds over the incident when a Chinese reconnaissance balloon flew over the mainland of the United States, and there seems to be a growing interest in the use of advanced balloon technology for military purposes. A reconnaissance balloon believed to belong to China is shot down off Surfside Beach, South Carolina, in 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill

China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly claimed that the balloon that flew over the US mainland “was for research purposes and deviated from its flight course.” But Chinese military researchers recently argued in a publicly available paper that balloons should be developed and used for specific operations.

A paper published in April last year by a PLA research institute that studies “special aircraft” described balloons as “capable of stimulating and activating the enemy’s air defense system, and the conditions for conducting electronic reconnaissance and air defense. It can evaluate a system enemy air defense.” detecting early warning and measuring its operational response capability.” He argued that one of its military utility was its ability to test enemy air defenses.

Several sources, including this paper and other publications under the control of the People’s Liberation Army, indicate that the Chinese military is very interested in investigating the past military use of balloons in other countries, including the United States , and it tries to close the gap in this area It can be read that you have a clear intention to do so.

Although some US officials believe China has more sophisticated means of gathering intelligence on adversaries, such as spy satellite networks, the People’s Liberation Army paper notes that balloons are less expensive to use and cheaper to’ w use is one of the reasons why they should be used. increase.

The paper, published in a journal dealing with topics such as signal jamming and electronic warfare, states, “The use of low-cost balloons for operational and It is necessary to carry out passive damage operations, prevent air defense early warning systems the enemy effectively, and cover the mission performance of air strike forces.”

“In order to close the gap with foreign countries on balloons, prevent China from being attacked by such weapons, and strengthen the offensive capabilities of our military, we should actively investigate related operational issues.” I complain.

Among regional security analysts, the balloons could also be used to collect stratospheric data useful for China’s missile program, or to take high-resolution photos to complement the information provided by satellites.

China’s military and state research institutes have bought high-altitude balloons and related technology over the past two years, according to a Reuters analysis of government tender documents.

The Institute of Space Information Innovation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is one of the national organizations showing interest in balloons, and it often publishes topics related to high-altitude ballooning on its account official on China’s WeChat chat app does.

Many focus on space exploration and balloon aerodynamics, but some analyze the military use of balloons in the past, looking at how other nations defended themselves against the threat of balloons and how aggressive they were.

In April of last year, an article titled “New Reconnaissance Balloon Defends Israeli Skies” was published.

In September last year, CAS received an order of 3.16 million yuan (about 61.5 million yen) to develop a “stratospheric balloon platform” for another department in a government tender. A month later, he announced that he had successfully tested a balloon that flew 30 kilometers and weighed up to 1.2 tonnes.

According to an article posted on the CAS website, the test was part of a high priority project for CAS to develop space technology. Neither project mentions military applications.

One of the main mandates of CAS is to support technological developments in defense projects.

(Reporters Eduardo Baptista, Greg Torode)

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