The appearance of a Chinese balloon over the United States, apparently for the reason of surveillance, is unnerving to Americans as they watch and document its path. The balloon has flown over military bases, and although China is refuting that the balloon is involved in espionage, U.S. intelligence has other thoughts regarding the reasons for such a balloon. And, more than one balloon now has been sighted in the western hemisphere.
High-altitude balloons, such as the one China has floated over mountain state military bases this week, are considered a key “delivery platform” for secret nuclear strikes on America’s electric grid, according to intelligence officials. Spy balloons, used by Japan to drop bombs during World War II, are now far more sophisticated, can fly at up to 200,000 feet, evade detection, and can carry a small nuclear bomb that, if exploded in the atmosphere, would shut down the grid and wipe out electronics in a many-state-wide area, Washington Examiner reports.
This is not the first time the possibility of threats from foreign balloons has been a topic of discussion. The threat of balloon-launched electromagnetic pulse attacks was warned about by a congressional EMP commission and inside the military just a few years ago. In a 2015 report for the American Leadership & Policy Foundation, Air Force Maj. David Stuckenberg, one of the nation’s leading EMP experts, wrote extensively about the threat balloons carrying bombs pose to national security. “Using a balloon as a WMD/WME platform could provide adversaries with a pallet of altitudes and payload options with which to maximize offensive effects against the U.S.,” he wrote in the report. “A high altitude balloon could be designed, created, and launched in a matter of months. There is nothing to prevent several hundred pounds of weapons material from being delivered to altitude,” he added.
Now in the private sector, Stuckenberg, a national security expert and scientist who led the Defense Department’s EMP Task Force and chairman of the American Leadership & Policy Foundation, pointed to Japan’s World War II “Project Fugo” that targeted the U.S. with balloon bombs as an example of the threat. “Not since WWII has North America faced a threat of this nature. Project FuGo in Japan used balloons to float bombs on the trade-winds across the Pacific to the U.S. and Canada,” he told Secrets.
On Friday, he told Secrets, “China’s recent balloon flyover of the United States is clearly a provocative and aggressive act. It was most likely a type of dry run meant to send a strategic message to the USA. We must not take this for granted.”
The disturbing facts are even more concerning when the electrical grid comes into play as part of the attack. EMP experts have warned that China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran have programs to hit the U.S. grid with electromagnetic pulse weapons that would cut the cord for a year or longer. A congressional report has warned that a blackout that long could result in millions of deaths.
Stuckenberg related research into exactly that kind of attack. Stuckenberg cited the research of the late Peter Pry, who headed a congressional commission on EMP and reported on the potential of a balloon-launched attack. He wrote in the report, “Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst and member of the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack, stated, ‘Imagine the consequences of a balloon EMP attack that damages and destroys electronic systems at the speed of light within an EMP field with a radius of hundreds of kilometers. The Eastern Grid generates 75% of U.S. electricity and supports most of the population.” Pry also notes, “Virtually any nuke detonated anywhere over the Eastern Grid will collapse the entire Eastern Grid, not just the area within the EMP field, because of cascading failures that will ripple outward.”
Stuckenberg concluded in his paper, “In the case of EMP, the consequences of a failure to anticipate ALL delivery modes within the reach of an imaginative enemy could be immediate and widespread. As guardians of our nation’s future, planners must leave no stone unturned in the effort to deprive America’s enemies of low cost, lowtech, high-consequence military options.”
Adding to the questionable nature of the situation of these balloons over U.S. airspace, China has said that its balloon flying over Montana is safe and not a threat. The Pentagon has rebuffed calls to shoot it down because it could be a safety issue to those below it, Washington Examiner reports.
The balloon over the United States. which has passed over such sensitive sites as the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana which houses 150 nuclear warheads, is not the only Chinese aircraft of that type over countries other than China. Today the Pentagon confirmed to ABC News that a second Chinese surveillance balloon has been transiting over South America.