US Releases Pilot’s High-Altitude Photo With Chinese Balloon

US Releases Pilot's High-Altitude Photo With Chinese Balloon

US Releases Pilot’s High-Altitude Photo With Chinese Balloon.

US Defense Department Releases High-Altitude Selfie of U-2 Spy Plane Pilot Observing Chinese Balloon

The US Defense Department has released a high-altitude cockpit selfie of a U-2 spy plane pilot soaring over an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon the day before it was shot down.

This follows President Joe Biden’s order to down what the US has since called a “sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle,” which sparked the latest diplomatic spat between Washington and Beijing.

China has stated that the balloon was an errant weather observation aircraft with no military purpose, and both countries have accused each other of espionage.

The photo released by the Pentagon on Wednesday shows the Chinese balloon floating over the central continental United States on February 3, as it is observed by the U-2 spy plane pilot. The white balloon can be seen hovering above the expanse, its solar panels visible underneath, with the pilot’s helmet appearing in the foreground.

The image first circulated on the aviation enthusiast website “Dragon Lady Today,” with Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirming its authenticity at a press conference on Wednesday. US media outlets have shared the image, with CNN having reported earlier this month that the pilot selfie existed and had “already gained legendary status in both NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and the Pentagon.”

The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, designed in the 1950s to snoop on the Soviet Union at high-altitude, can fly above 60,000 feet, which is reportedly the level of the Chinese balloon as it flew over the US.

The F-22 fighter jet shot down the device the following day off the coast of South Carolina, with the Pentagon terming its days-long flight over US territory a “violation of our sovereignty.”

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