Pentagon Releases Selfie of U-2 Pilot With Chinese language Spy Balloon

The U-2 Dragon Woman is a legendary platform within the U.S. Air Power stock. Earlier variants have been created to overfly the Soviet Union in the course of the peak of the Chilly Battle. The USAF’s present fashions proceed to be a coveted surveillance asset properly after newer plane have come and gone.

The U-2’s persistence within the fleet is because of its skill to fly crewed missions at excessive altitudes in extra of 70,000 toes. When a Chinese language balloon entered U.S. airspace at 60,000-65,000 toes, based on U.S. officers, that functionality was key. U-2s have been in a position to fly above the Chinese language surveillance balloon and picked up helpful imagery. And one of many pilots took a selfie to show it.

Chris Pocock, an creator and skilled on the U-2, first posted the image on-line on his web site Dragon Woman Right now Feb. 21.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed the picture’s authenticity on Feb. 22, and the Division of Protection quickly launched the picture.

A U.S. Air Power pilot seemed down on the suspected Chinese language surveillance balloon because it hovered over the Central Continental United States Feb. 3, 2023. Restoration efforts started shortly after the balloon was downed. Picture courtesy of the Division of Protection

“Excessive-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was able to conducting indicators intelligence assortment operations,” a senior State Division official mentioned Feb. 9.

The picture launched by the DOD reveals an Air Power U-2 pilot wanting down on the balloon over “Central Continental United States” on Feb. 3. The spy balloon was shot down over the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 by an F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

U-2s can carry a wide range of surveillance payloads, together with superior optical gear, however because the selfie reveals even a picture captured from the U-2’s cockpit provides a novel high-fidelity take a look at the balloon from above. The U-2 flights additionally confirmed that the craft relied on giant photo voltaic panels to energy its sensors, the senior State Division official mentioned. The photo voltaic panels are clearly seen within the picture launched Feb. 22. The balloon was as much as 200 toes tall and weighed a number of thousand kilos based on Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the top of Northern American Aerospace Protection Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

A U.S. navy official beforehand advised Air & House Forces Journal that the U-2 flights have been in help of U.S. Northern Command with required authorized authority to assist the U.S. authorities accumulate intelligence on the balloon, because the U.S. navy is just not licensed to conduct intelligence-gathering flights over the U.S. with out particular permission.

The navy official mentioned different intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities have been additionally by the U.S. navy to collect info on the Chinese language balloon however didn’t present additional particulars.

U-2s have supported home operations previously, such because the U.S. authorities’s response to pure disasters equivalent to wildfires and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

U.S. officers mentioned a silver lining of the balloon’s flight over the continental U.S. was the power for America to gather in depth intelligence and imagery of the craft because it made its days-long trek throughout the U.S. earlier than being blasted out of the air by an AIM-9X Sidewinder six miles off the coast of South Carolina.

The U-2 flights helped make the U.S. authorities assured that the massive Chinese language balloon was in American airspace for nefarious functions, based on U.S. officers. The navy has concluded restoration operations of the balloon’s particles from the ocean ground and the FBI is working to determine the balloon’s capabilities.