On Tuesday, the Department of Defense released the first official pictures of the US military’s recovery of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend.
Navy personnel were depicted pulling large sections of the balloon, which US officials say measured 200 feet tall and weighed thousands of pounds, in the ocean near Myrtle Beach, according to the New York Post.
One image showed sailors dragging the remaining shreds of the white balloon as well as its metal frame from the ocean.
Military officials are unclear as to the condition of the balloon or how many pieces remain to be collected, however unmanned underwater vehicles and boats have been deployed to search the area for any additional debris.
Air Force General Glen VanHerck, the head of US North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORCOM) said on Monday that the Navy is taking protective measures during the recovery mission, as the balloon may have been carrying explosives to destroy itself.
He noted that the debris was spread over an area measuring more than "15 football fields by 15 football fields square."
According to ABC News, pieces of the balloon’s payload assembly, which is estimated to be the size of three buses, likely sunk 45 feet down to the seabed.
The collected pieces of the balloon are reportedly being taken to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, to be examined by the bureau and other counter-intelligence authorities.
Officials have stated that the recovery of the balloon could provide insight into China’s spying capabilities.
"We need to understand more fully the Chinese surveillance capabilities and systems," former US Indo-Pacific Command commander and retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris said in a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.
"Shooting down that [balloon] and then recovering the parts over the Atlantic, I think, is very helpful in that regard," he added.
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