The giant white spy balloon from China that had drifted right across the continental United States the last few days, was shot down today at about 2:40pm ET over the Atlantic Ocean.
As reported by David Ignatius for the Washington Post:
The Pentagon official said it weighed as much as two or three buses and could have caused considerable damage if it had hit land. If it had fallen over Montana, 2,000 people could have been in danger from scattered debris.
As a military operation, the shoot-down was relatively simple. An F-22 Raptor fired an AIM-9 missile at the balloon, and television cameras showed what happened. The Pentagon official said the key targeting priority was to avoid shooting clear through the balloon, which might have left it largely intact and able to travel another 500 to 600 miles east, perhaps out of range of U.S. retrieval.
The Pentagon weighed whether it might be possible to partially deflate the balloon and capture the intelligence pod at lower altitude. But the official said no technology exists that would allow such a “butterfly net” capture operation.