“Balloons, it turns out, are already part of that US arsenal, with the Pentagon spending $3.8 billion over the past two years on them, according to Politico. As industry expert George Howell posted on LinkedIn, “High Altitude Balloons are actually a pretty smart thing to invest in, they’re cheap, easy to transport, can be fielded in large numbers and are payload agnostic,” meaning that while they’re most likely to be carrying cameras or radar, in certain situations balloons could field a weapon.”
“”the military’s ability to respond to balloons and similar craft is constrained by physics and the capabilities of current weapons,” The Washington Post reports, and you can’t really pop a giant balloon with gunfire at 40,000 feet.
“You can fill a balloon full of bullet holes, and it’s going to stay at altitude,” David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and fighter pilot, tells the Post. The air pressure that high up doesn’t allow helium to freely escape through small holes, even if fighter jets flying by at hundreds of miles per hour can riddle the near-stationary balloon with bullets.”
“a senior Defense Department official said that Chinese spy balloons entered American airspace three times during Trump’s tenure and once before during the current administration.”
“the difference between past instances and the one from last week, Defense Department officials said, is that those balloons never stayed above U.S. territory for a significant period of time. When pressed for specifics, such as the date, location and duration of those instances, Biden administration officials refused to provide them to POLITICO, citing the classified nature of that information.”
“Said to be around the size of three buses, the balloon flew over Canada and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands before being spotted in the continental United States. It then made its way eastward, being spotted across the country before it was shot down on the East Coast on Saturday afternoon.”
“The Pentagon is working on a new plan to rise above competition from China and Russia: balloons.
The high-altitude inflatables, flying at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, would be added to the Pentagon’s extensive surveillance network and could eventually be used to track hypersonic weapons.”
““High or very high-altitude platforms have a lot of benefit for their endurance on station, maneuverability and also flexibility for multiple payloads,” said Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Pentagon continues to invest in these projects because the military could use the balloons for various missions.”
“Wind currents allow the balloon to float along a desired flight path, and the company takes advantage of different wind speeds and directions to move the balloon to the target area.
But that’s not all. Raven Aerostar uses a proprietary machine-learning algorithm that predicts wind directions and fuses incoming sensor data in real time, Van Der Werff said. The company also employs a software program to pilot and monitor its balloon fleet and has a mission operations center manned with trained flight engineers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he added.
The balloons can supplement work performed by traditional aircraft and satellites, and stratospheric balloons can be built and launched at a fraction of the cost and time. For example, the cost to launch and operate balloons for weeks or months is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus millions — or tens of millions — needed to launch and operate aircraft or satellites.”