Classified documents allegedly leaked by Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira reveal that US intelligence officials were aware of as many as four other Chinese spy balloons apart from the one that floated across the country earlier this year.
One of the previously undisclosed balloons flew over a US carrier strike group in the Pacific, according to the Washington Post.
Another Chinese craft, code-named Bulger-21 by US officials, circumnavigated the Earth from December 2021 until May 2022, according to top-secret documents reviewed by the news outlet.
A third balloon named Accardo-21 is mentioned in the documents and a fourth is referenced to have crashed in the South China Sea, the Washington Post reports, noting that it is unclear if Bulger-21 and Accardo-21 were the same balloons that crashed and flew over the carrier strike group.
The documents also show that the balloon that crossed over the continental US in January and February before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina was code-named Killeen-23.
A US official told the outlet that the naming convention for such balloons is alphabetical, which suggests there may be even more incidents of Chinese spy balloons being identified.
The balloons also appear to be named after American mobsters Tony Accardo, James “Whitey” Bulger and Donald Killeen.
In the documents Teixeira allegedly shared with members of a private Discord group, the US government had still not identified the purpose of all the sensors and antennas that the craft downed on Feb. 4 carried.
One document produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on Feb. 15 notes that the downed balloon carried sophisticated reconnaissance capabilities, including radar that could see at night and penetrate clouds, topsoil and other thin materials.
Intelligence officials also determined that the craft’s solar panels could generate some 10,000 watts of power, enough to power any type of surveillance capability.
The leaked documents also show that Bulger-21 carried sophisticated surveillance equipment as well when it circumnavigated the globe, as did Accardo-21. Bulger-21 is assessed to have been engineered by Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group, a Chinese company sanctioned by the US in the aftermath of February’s balloon flyover.
The secret files also assess that elements of the Chinese government were likely not expecting the balloon to intrude into US airspace, citing intercepted communications and that some officials viewed the country’s Foreign Ministry’s response to the “sensationalized” incident as poor.
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