The Chinese balloon took advantage of lack of radar coverage, says NORAD
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Joseph Pick via Agence France-Presse An American F-22 fighter plane destroyed the suspicious object at the above the Yukon. (File photo)
Senior Canadian officers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) revealed on Friday that the alleged “Chinese spy balloon” passed near several military bases and through “radar blind spots” during its flight. over Canada.
But until the remains of the balloon are analyzed, Canadian and American officials won't know exactly what it was capable of – and what information it might have gathered.< /p>
In contrast, Major-General Paul Prévost, director of the strategic joint staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, said Friday that the suspect balloon did not fly over any particularly sensitive sites in Canada.< /p>
“It came down roughly from Alaska to the Yukon and into central British Columbia, roughly between the Alberta border and the [Pacific] coast,” Major said. -General Prévost before the Defense Committee of the House of Commons. There was no significant Canadian Forces infrastructure in its path. »
Mr. Prévost testified Friday morning along with Lieutenant-General Alain Pelletier, Deputy Commander, Canadian, of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Parliamentarians were able for the first time to question senior military officers on the Chinese balloon and three other unidentified flying objects that were shot down over North America late last week.
One such craft, which was shot down over central Yukon last Saturday, was described by Mr. Pelletier as a “suspected balloon.” Another flying object was shot down the next day over Lake Huron, between Michigan and Ontario.
A search was immediately launched to find the wreckage of these two objects as well as a third, shot down this one off the coast of Alaska on Friday, February 10. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Army and the Canadian Coast Guard have all been called upon to participate in the operations. The search in Lake Huron was suspended Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Pelletier confirmed on Friday that the Chinese balloon, which was first detected in Alaskan airspace on January 28, crossed Canada on January 30 and 31 before entering overhead. from the United States, where its presence was publicly revealed.
“NORAD monitored the flight path of the balloon for most of its trajectory over Canada,” he said. declared.
Mr. Pelletier added that there were a few beaches “without radar coverage on part of his flight path. […] The high-altitude surveillance balloon approached some Canadian bases, but I cannot speak to how those Canadian bases reacted. »
Canada has several military bases in Alberta and British Columbia, including one of its main fighter aircraft wings, in Cold Lake, Alberta. But Major-General Prévost played down any threat to national security: “There was no significant Canadian Forces infrastructure in its path.”
Finding the wrecks< /h2>
Lieutenant-General Pelletier also said Friday that the Canadian and American military would like to know more about the capabilities of the balloon, including not only its ability to gather information, but also whether it could be used for other purposes.
The two senior Canadian military officers were also questioned Friday morning about the three other downed objects after the Chinese balloon, and the ability of Canada's aging CF-18s to shoot them down.
The President American Joe Biden suggested on Thursday that the three objects shot down over Alaska, the Yukon and Lake Huron did not pose a threat to national security.
MM. Pelletier and Prévost didn't provide much more detail: instead, they emphasized the importance of finding the wreckage of these objects to determine what they really were. They did, however, suggest that the search may well come to nothing.
In announcing Thursday that it was suspending its search in Lake Huron, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police blamed deteriorating weather conditions and a low probability of success. As for the Yukon, Major-General Prévost described the search as an attempt to find “a needle in a snowdrift”.
The object “landed in mountainous terrain, with about a meter to a meter and a half of snow, he said. Imagine an object falling 20,000 feet into this snow. “
But whatever they are, “what we know about these objects is that they were not authorized, that they were unwanted,” Prévost said.< /p>
The Major-General also explained to committee members that if it was an American F-22 fighter jet that destroyed the suspect object over the Yukon, instead of a Canadian CF-18, it was essentially a matter of time. He explained that two Canadian fighter jets headed for that area were about five minutes from where the American fighter fired. He indicated that the American F-22 was in the right place when the first opportunity arose, “just as the object crossed the border”.
Some observers have wondered if the old Canadian CF-18s could really have shot down a small balloon moving slowly at high altitude, especially since their sensors and combat weapons are outdated and have yet to be upgraded.
M . Prévost agreed Friday that the CF-18s were carrying an older version of the type of missile the F-22 used to destroy the balloon over the Yukon, and that testing would have been done before a Canadian fire. The Major-General believes the CF-18 “could have attempted” the shot: “It would have been the first attempt by an F-18. And before shooting, we could have done a few tests.