The recent shootdown of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace has exposed the use of high-altitude balloons for international espionage. The balloon, which was taller than the Statue of Liberty, was shot down in early February after it was detected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
This is not the first time that Chinese spy balloons have been used for international espionage. In fact, China has accused the U.S. of flying spy balloons into its airspace more than 10 times in recent years. Japan's Ministry of Defense also reported that three "balloon-shaped flying objects" were detected between November 2019 and September 2021.
The use of high-altitude balloons for espionage is nothing new, but it is becoming increasingly common as technology advances and countries become more sophisticated in their surveillance techniques. High-altitude balloons can be used to carry sensors and cameras to monitor activities on the ground from a distance, making them ideal for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions.
The U.S., however, has denied any involvement in using these balloons for espionage purposes and President Biden addressed the nation on February 16th to assure citizens that the three recently downed aerial objects were not part of any U.S.-led operation or activity. He also expressed his commitment to maintaining peace and security with China while addressing concerns over their use of spy balloons in international espionage operations.
It is clear that Chinese spy balloons are being used for international espionage operations, but it remains unclear how widespread this practice is or what other countries may be involved in similar activities. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see an increase in these types of surveillance operations as countries seek to gain an advantage over their rivals through intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions.