The Chinese balloon first detected Wednesday was destroyed by military aviators Saturday acting on orders of the president.
“I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down, on Wednesday, as soon as possible,” President Joe Biden told reporters Saturday at a Maryland airport. “They decided — without doing any damage to anyone on — the ground. They decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water, outside — within our — within the 12-mile limit.”
“They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it. And we’ll have more to report on this a little later,” Biden added.
Biden repeated, under questioning, that he ordered the military to shoot the balloon down Wednesday.
“Let’s wait till the safest place to do it,” he said military officers advised him — advice the president took.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin acknowledged receiving the order Wednesday but revealed the military decided to wait.
“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,” Lloyd explained.
“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.”
The balloon launched from the People’s Republic of China is flying 60,000 feet above Earth. It was first spotted Thursday over Montana, flying above the cruising altitude at which most U.S. airlines or military aircraft travel.
The Chinese balloon was reported above Charlotte, North Carolina, around 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, according to a Fox News report. The network confirmed Saturday afternoon the balloon was destroyed while off the South Carolina coast. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded flights at three Carolina airports, according to the Fox report.
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