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EADS involved in mission to take down Chinese spy balloon

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 2/7/23

On Saturday, a United States fighter aircraft was deployed to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, and the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome was an integral part of the mission.

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EADS involved in mission to take down Chinese spy balloon


ROME — On Saturday, the orders came in and a United States fighter aircraft was deployed to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, and the Eastern Air Defense Sector located on the Griffiss Business and Technology Park — a part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command — was an integral part of the mission.

EADS, which is responsible for the air defense of the eastern U.S., is comprised of the New York Air National Guard’s 224th Air Defense Group, a Canadian Armed Forces detachment, U.S. Army and Navy liaison officers, federal civilians and contractors at Griffiss. EADS also has two detachments in the National Capital Region.

Although Department of Defense and Air Force officials wouldn’t elaborate on the exact role EADS played, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the local contingent was part of the U.S. effort to track the balloon. On Feb. 2, military officials said the U.S. was tracking a balloon flying roughly 60,000 feet over Billings, Mont.

The object had entered U.S. airspace over the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28, before making its way through Canada and finally to the U.S. eastern seaboard, where it was eventually near Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Saturday, Feb. 4.

President Joe 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 to safeguard civilians from debris crashing to Earth from thousands of feet above commercial air traffic.

“At the direction of the President of the United States and with the full support of the Government of Canada, United States fighter aircraft under U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) authority successfully brought down the PRC’s high altitude surveillance balloon at 2:39 p.m. EST, Feb. 4, 2023," according to a statement released by Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command .

VanHerck said in accordance with the president’s direction, the military brought down the balloon within sovereign U.S. airspace and over U.S. territorial waters to "protect civilians while maximizing our ability to recover the payload."

American and Canadian personnel from all three North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) regions tracked the surveillance balloon, and USNORTHCOM’s U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy service components integrated to successfully down the balloon. They continue their work to recover the balloon and payload.

"Active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and civilian personnel planned and executed the operation, and partners from the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation ensured public safety throughout the operation and recovery efforts," said VanHerck. "Our U.S. Navy component is currently conducting recovery operations, with the U.S. Coast Guard assisting in securing the area and maintaining public safety."

The general said, "I am proud of the exceptional professionalism the NORAD and USNORTHCOM team displayed throughout this operation, and the dedication they bring every day to defending our homelands.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III also confirmed the fighter jet assigned to the U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

"The balloon, which was being used by the PRC (People's Republic of China) in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters," said Austin in a statement. "On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon's path."

Austin continued, "After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload. In accordance with the president's direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities. This action was taken in coordination, and with the full support, of the Canadian government."

It’s not the first time the EADS has played a key role in a national security event. EADS, then known as the Northeast Air Defense Sector, played a prominent role responding to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, one of the first military operations to respond, quickly securing the nation’s airspace upon recognizing the emerging threat.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, NEADS airmen, working with very limited information and even less time, on that day coordinated with FAA air traffic controllers and searched radar in an attempt to find the four hijacked planes and direct fighter jets to intercept them.


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