The US releases a spy balloon selfie of the pilot
WASHINGTON — US defense officials have released a high-altitude cockpit selfie of a U-2 spy plane pilot hovering over an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon the day before it was shot down.
President Joe Biden’s order to shoot down what the US has since described as a “sophisticated high-altitude spy vehicle” sparked the latest diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing.
China said the balloon was a stray weather observation plane with no military purpose, and both countries have since accused each other of espionage.
The photo released by the Pentagon on Wednesday shows the Chinese balloon hovering over the central continent of the United States on February 3 while being watched by the pilot of the U-2 spy plane.
The white balloon hovers over the expanse, the solar panels are visible below, the pilot’s helmet appears in the foreground.
An F-22 fighter jet shot down the device off the coast of South Carolina the following day, with the Pentagon describing its days-long flight over US territory as a “violation of our sovereignty.”
The image first circulated on the flight-enthusiast website Dragon Lady Today, with Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirming its authenticity at a news conference Wednesday.
US media took the opportunity to report on the selfie taken aboard the U-2 plane – nicknamed the “Dragon Lady” – with all major news outlets sharing the image.
CNN reported earlier this month that the pilot’s selfie existed and “had already achieved legendary status in both Norad (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and the Pentagon.”
The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, developed in the 1950s for high-altitude reconnaissance of the Soviet Union, can fly over 60,000 feet, the reported altitude of the Chinese balloon when it flew over the United States.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch