US military fighter aircraft shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floated off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, ending a dramatic saga that shone a spotlight on worsening Sino-US relations.
President Biden said he had issued an order on Wednesday to take down the balloon, but the Pentagon had recommended waiting until it could be done over open water.
Multiple fighter and refueling aircraft were involved in the mission, but only one, an F-22 fighter jet, took the shot, using a single AIM-9X missile, a senior US military official said. The balloon was shot down about six nautical miles off the US coast, the official said.
The shootdown came shortly after the US government ordered a halt to flights in and out of three South Carolina airports, Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Charleston, due to what it said at the time was an undisclosed “national security effort.”
The flights resumed Saturday afternoon.
The balloon first entered a US identification zone on January 28, entered Canadian airspace three days later, and then re-entered US airspace on January 31, a US defense official said.
US officials had publicly disclosed the balloon’s presence over the United States on Thursday.