The sight of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States unnerves Americans as they track its movement and monitor its appearance. The balloon has flown above military locations, and despite China’s denials that it is engaging in espionage, U.S. intelligence has various theories as to the balloon’s purpose. Additionally, many balloons have been spotted in the western hemisphere.
According to intelligence experts, high-altitude balloons, such as the one China floated above mountain state military sites this week, are a crucial “delivery platform” for clandestine nuclear attacks on America’s power grid. During World War II, Japan used spy balloons to drop bombs. Today, these balloons are far more sophisticated, can fly up to 200,000 feet, evade detection, and can carry a small nuclear bomb that, if detonated in the atmosphere, would shut down the grid and destroy electronics in a large number of states, according to the Washington Examiner.
This is not the first time that the idea of foreign balloon threats has been discussed. A few years ago, a congressional EMP panel and members of the military issued warnings about the possibility of balloon-launched electromagnetic pulse assaults. In a 2015 paper for the American Leadership & Policy Foundation, one of the nation’s foremost EMP specialists, Air Force Maj. David Stuckenberg, elaborated on the threat balloons carrying explosives represent 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 stated in the paper. “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 continued.
As an illustration of the threat, Stuckenberg, a national security specialist and scientist who chaired the Defense Department’s EMP Task Force and is now the chairman of the American Leadership & Policy Foundation, cited Japan’s World War II “Project Fugo” that targeted the United States with balloon bombs. “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.”
When the electrical system is involved as part of the attack, the alarming facts become even more frightening. Experts in EMP have warned that China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran have plans to attack the U.S. power system using electromagnetic pulse weapons that would disable it for at least a year. A Senate report warns that a prolonged blackout might cause millions of lives.
Stuckenberg’s investigation on precisely this type of assault. Stuckenberg highlighted the studies of the late Peter Pry, who led a legislative panel on electromagnetic pulse weapons and reported on the possibility of a balloon-launched strike. 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 said in his report, “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.”
China has stated that its balloon flying above Montana is safe and poses no threat, adding to the controversial nature of these balloons’ presence over U.S. airspace. According to the Washington Examiner, the Pentagon has rejected pleas to shoot it down because it poses a safety risk to troops on the ground.
The balloon above the United States, which has flown over such sensitive facilities as the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which contains 150 nuclear weapons, is not the only aircraft of this sort flown by the Chinese over nations other than China. Today, the Pentagon confirmed to ABC News the presence of a second Chinese surveillance balloon above South America.