As a result of documents allegedly leaked by Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, U.S. intelligence agencies have discovered that at least four Chinese spy balloons were also monitoring the country, which was previously undisclosed following the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon that traveled the United States for several days before being shot down over the ocean off the coast of South Carolina. According to a report from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, each of them was outfitted with sophisticated sensors and antenna technology.
The sightings, according to the Daily Mail, occurred during the Biden administration.
According to the documents, one balloon flew over a US carrier strike group, while the Bulger-21 balloon circumnavigated the Earth from December 2021 to May 2022. In addition, the documents mention a third balloon named Accardo-21, as well as reports of a fourth balloon plummeting into the South China Sea.
“The documents also identify the balloon that crossed the continental U.S. in January and February before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina was code-named Killeen-23,” the UK news outlet reported.
A US official told the Washington Post that Chinese espionage balloons are named alphabetically, suggesting that additional cases of identified Chinese spy balloons may not have been reported.
“It also appears that the balloons were named after notorious criminals, including Tony Accardo, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, and Donald Killeen but the reason behind this remains unclear,” the report said.
In early February, President Joe Biden ordered the destruction of a Chinese balloon that had been permitted to fly across the majority of the United States for days. Officials at the Pentagon acknowledged that the balloon could navigate, and it flew over a number of sensitive US military facilities, including Whiteman Air Force Base in central Missouri, which contains a number of nuclear missile silos and a fleet of B-2 bombers.
“The most recent documents reveal that the U.S. government was yet to identify the purpose of sensors and antennas on the craft more than a week after it was shot down Feb 4,” the Daily Mail reported.
“The downed balloon was also revealed to carry sophisticated reconnaissance capabilities, including radar that could see at night and penetrate clouds, topsoil and other thin materials, according to one document produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on Feb. 15,” the report continued.
In addition, the disclosed documents reveal that the solar panels on Bulger-21 generate 10,000 watts of energy, sufficient to power any surveillance equipment. According to the source, Accardo-21 and Bulger-21 were also supplied with advanced surveillance technology during their global travels.
Documents indicate that Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group, a Chinese corporation sanctioned by the United States for its involvement in the February balloon scandal, developed Bulger-21. The Chinese government did not expect the balloon to enter US airspace, according to the documents.
A military official from the United States acknowledged earlier this month that a Chinese surveillance balloon that infiltrated American airspace earlier this year gathered crucial intelligence on military assets.
“China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites (at times flying figure-eight formations) and transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real-time, the three officials said. The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or include communications from base personnel, rather than images, the officials said,” CNBC reported.
“The three officials said China could have gathered much more intelligence from sensitive sites if not for the administration’s efforts to move around potential targets and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals,” the outlet added.
According to senior Defense Department officials, the balloon did not provide Chinese intelligence agencies with much intelligence collection value “over and above what [China] is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low earth orbit.”
After it was fired down in February, Biden administration officials said the balloon could collect signals intelligence.