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What China’s military balloons show about its spy ambitions

Now, as some smaller states — especially those the United States describes as allies and partners — face this potential new surveillance threat, their options may be limited.

What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What is their motivation for telling us? Have they proven themselves in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with those questions answered, the Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The journalist and at least one editor know the identity of the source.

Shooting down balloons is likely to be difficult and expensive for many air forces, said retired Taiwan Air Force deputy commander Chang Yan-ting. More than 30 years ago, he was a jet pilot sent to inspect three balloons believed to be Chinese. In the end, he decided that they posed no threat and that it would have been too difficult to bring them down. down anyway.

“It’s very difficult; these balloons don’t give radar reflection,” he said in an interview. fighter jet, and used their most advanced missiles to hit it – did you see? Sort of like using a cannon to shoot a small bird.

To be clear, the heart of China’s digital intelligence collection system remains an armada of more than 260 satellites dedicated to intelligence and surveillance. Balloons, however, may offer some advantages over satellites because they can fly over areas and produce clearer images, according to US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues.

The Chinese military is aware of these advantages. On modern battlefields too, “maintaining constant aerial surveillance has become an urgent task,” according to a report by the Chinese Liberation Army Daily in 2021. With satellites and aircraft alone, the report said, “it is difficult to achieve full-time, full-range, fixed-point early warning and aerial surveillance.

If China’s Strategic Support Force was responsible for the recent balloon mission over the United States, the force’s relative newness and fragmented background may help explain how the operation unfolded with seemingly little computational problems it could create, said Gill, who has studied the force. It was formed as part of a sweeping military reorganization Mr Xi launched in 2015, absorbing parts of the air force, navy and army.

nytimes Gt

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