Videos capture the moment US fighter jet shot down Chinese ‘spy’ balloon
The Chinese craft spent several days flying over North America, increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing, before it was targeted with a missile shot from an F-22 plane.
Shortly after a US fighter jet on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, videos have emerged on social media of the exact moment of the incident.
The Chinese craft spent several days flying over North America, increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing, before it was targeted with a missile shot from an F-22 plane, Pentagon officials said, falling into relatively shallow water just 14 meters deep.
A footage captured by @RealPhotoholic on his Instagram casual_Photoholic shows the moment when the Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down by a single missile from an F-22 fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base.
In an eyewitness video posted to social media, the balloon appeared to disintegrate in a white puff before its remnants dropped vertically into the ocean below.
Twitter user Haley Walsh posted that she “heard and felt the explosion” in Myrtle Beach, a popular resort town in South Carolina.
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a crowd lining the beach boardwalk cheered as a missile from the F-22 fighter struck the balloon. It quickly deflated and plummeted to the ocean.
“That's my Air Force right there, buddy!" news agency AP quoted a person as saying just after the missile's impact.
A video was taken by tourist Angela Mosley as well.
Mosley told AP that she came out of a store and saw four fighters circling, then saw the balloon. “One of the fighter jets gets going fast and gets closer to it, and then a boom and we knew it was gone.”
US secretary of defense Lloyd Austin called the operation a “deliberate and lawful action” that came in response to China's “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.
A senior defence official, while still allowing authorities to collect the fallen debris from US territorial waters, said was the military's first chance to take on the balloon “in a way that would not pose a threat to the safety of Americans”, reported AP.
President Joe Biden, who earlier Saturday had promised "to take care" of the balloon, congratulated the fighter pilots involved.
"They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it," Biden told reporters in Maryland.
Controversy over Chinese balloon
The controversy erupted on Thursday when US officials said they were tracking a large Chinese "surveillance balloon" in US skies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken then on Friday to scrap a rare trip to Beijing designed to contain rising US-China tensions.
After initial hesitation, Beijing admitted ownership of the "airship," but said it was a weather balloon that had been blown off course.
"The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes," China's foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.
(With inputs from agencies)