Feb 9, 2023

Pentagon Holds Press Briefing After Chinese Surveillance Balloon Was Shot Down Off US Coast Transcript

Pentagon Holds Press Briefing After Chinese Surveillance Balloon Was Shot Down Off US Coast Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsChinaPentagon Holds Press Briefing After Chinese Surveillance Balloon Was Shot Down Off US Coast Transcript

Department of Defense Press Secretary, Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder held a press briefing following the shooting down of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, and its ongoing recovery. Read the transcript here.

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Pat Ryder (00:01):

All right, well good afternoon everyone. Thank you for taking some time to be here today. Just a few things and we’ll get right to your questions. First off, we are all watching with great sadness the terrible impact of the recent deadly earthquakes in Turkey, and on behalf of Secretary Austin and the Department of Defense, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the people of Türkiye and Syria and all those impacted for the tragic loss of life and despair resulting from these earthquakes. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they confront the aftermath. Secretary Austin called his counterpart, Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Akar on Monday to offer US support to Turkish relief efforts and pledged ongoing assistance as Türkiye’s needs evolved. And on that front, in coordination with USAID, State Department, and the interagency, the Department of Defense has responded to the government of Türkiye’s request for earthquake relief support and will continue to provide support as requested by the Turkish government.

On February 7th, US rotary wing assets based at Incirlik Airbase in Türkiye began transporting first responders to the most impacted populations. In addition, DOD transported two civilian urban search and rescue teams from the United States to Türkiye. US transportation command supported this movement Tuesday via C-17 from Dover Air Force Base and March Air Force Base to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey. And those teams arrived on February 8th and will soon begin aiding the relief efforts there. Also US European command is deploying a team to Incirlik Airbase to assist the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, and we expect they’ll be in place tomorrow on February 9th. UCOM is actively working to pre-position additional assets to support the relief efforts and respond to any new request from the Turkish government. Again, we offer our sincere condolences and will stand with our ally Türkiye as they work to save lives and recover from this horrific disaster.

Separately, USNORTHCOM continues their recovery operations in support of the recent takedown of the Chinese high altitude surveillance balloon. As of today, recovery operations of the balloon and the payload continue without issue. Sea states Tuesday permitted divers and explosives ordinance technicians to conduct underwater salvage and recovery, and underwater survey activities continue using unmanned underwater vehicles. USS Carter Hall remains in the vicinity of the debris field and is leading the recovery efforts. US Coast Guard cutters continue to provide security, and the FBI and NCIS agents continue their work cataloging debris and transporting it for further processing. Again, we remind members of the public, if you come across debris, please do not handle it, but call your local law enforcement to facilitate safe recovery. Additional information on recovery operations will be forthcoming.

In other news, Secretary Austin will host a bilateral meeting in honor of NATO’s Secretary General Mr. Jens Stoltenberg here in the Pentagon later this afternoon. The secretary looks forward to discussing continuing NATO defense cooperation and security efforts in response to the prolonged Russian War against Ukraine. We’ll issue a full readout of the engagement on defense.gov later today. And then finally, Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley are scheduled to travel to Brussels next week to host the ninth session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. In addition, secretary Austin will attend the NATO defense ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters also next week. The full trip announcement with details will be forthcoming and posted to the DOD website. And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions. We’ll start with AP, Tara Copp.

Tara Copp (03:47):

Thank you. To go back to the balloon. Does the Pentagon know with certainty now that the balloon actually came from China, i.e. was launched from China, and if so where? And then the DOD has said that there have been at least three other balloon incidents during the previous administration and one other incident during this administration. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were able to discern that these balloons were the same and they were also Chinese spy balloons?

Pat Ryder (04:18):

Sure. So let me address your second questions… Well, your second question first. So again, I’m not able to go into the intelligence. As you highlight we are aware that there have been four previous balloons that have gone over US territory. This is what we assess as part of a larger Chinese surveillance balloon program. You’ve heard us talk in the past about the fact that this is a program that’s been operated for several years. What we do know is that in some cases, whereas some of these balloons previously had not been identified, subsequent analysis, subsequent intelligence analysis did enable us to indicate that these were Chinese balloons. In terms of where they’re coming from, I can’t go into this specific location other than to say China. The last thing I’ll say is that this last week provided the United States with a unique opportunity to learn a lot more about the Chinese surveillance balloon program, all information that will help us to continue to strengthen our ability to track these kinds of objects.

Tara Copp (05:32):

Thank you. As you said, as it’s part of a wider surveillance program, if four previous ones had transited the US, have there been others that maybe got near international US military installations but didn’t actually cross US soil?

Pat Ryder (05:48):

Yeah, so again, for classification reasons, I’m not going to be able to go into a lot of details other than these four are the ones that we assess went over US soil. And I’m not going to go over specifically what they tracked other than what we’ve acknowledged publicly, that we know that they were looking to surveil strategic sites, to include some of our strategic bases in the continental United States. So when you look at the scope of this program and the fact that we know that these balloons have been spotted and what we now can subsequently assess to be Chinese balloons operating over at least five continents, in regions like Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Europe, again, it demonstrates why for the Department of Defense that China remains the pacing challenge, and something that we’ll continue to stay focused on. Thank you. Jennifer.

Jennifer (06:47):

Thanks, Pat. Do these Chinese surveillance balloons somehow explain the UAP, some of the unidentified aerial phenomena that were reported in that report to Congress? Have you gone back to look and are some of those UAP incidents perhaps those Chinese surveillance balloons? And also, did you start tracking this balloon when it left China on July 21st? Were you tracking it all the way over the Pacific Ocean, or did you just start tracking it when it got close to Alaska?

Pat Ryder (07:19):

Yeah, thanks Jennifer. So your first question, that’s really a question best addressed by the Director of National Intelligence that puts that report together. I will say broadly speaking that when it comes to our assessment of objects in air and space, that’s going to always be ongoing work. So anytime there’s something that’s unidentified, by default we will track that information, and when new information can become available that we can apply, certainly we’re going to do that. But to answer your direct question, the DNI would be the best folks to address that portion. In terms of when we started tracking this, again, I’m not going to get into those kinds of specifics other than to say we did see it approaching US airspace. NORAD, NORTHCOM tracked it for the duration, again, as it entered US airspace. NORAD determined that it did not pose a physical or military threat, and in accordance with their procedures monitored it. When it did come over the continental United States, we began to develop options on how to take it down and address this threat with the idea being that we wanted to wait until it was over water so that we could mitigate any potential civilian harm or property damage, and importantly, as I highlighted, use this as an opportunity to, again, better understand the Chinese surveillance balloon program and apply that information to increase our ability to track these kinds of objects. Thanks.

Jennifer (08:51):

Can you clarify when the Chinese balloon, the last surveillance balloon that went down near Hawaii went down? There are reports that it was four months ago, and there’s

Jennifer (09:00):

There’s another report that it was in June. When did it go down?

Pat Ryder (09:03):

Yeah, I’ve seen those press reports. Again, I’m not going to have any information to provide on the previous balloon flights that were out there, but again, appreciate your understanding on that.


Dan (09:15):

Thank you. Could you just, in layman’s terms, explain why there has been this what the General called, “awareness gaps,” why the US was not able to detect these kinds of balloons previously? And then given that, is there a kind of intelligence failure here? Did the military and the intelligence somehow fail to understand or grasp this threat? Or is it a failure of imagination and how is that being addressed?

Pat Ryder (09:41):

Yeah, thanks, Dan. So to answer your last question there right up front, no, it was not an intelligence failure as we learn more about this type of capability, and really what General VanHerck was referring to was previously having a domain awareness gap. But we’ve learned a lot about these balloons and we’ve learned a lot how to track them as evidenced by the fact that, again, we were tracking it as it approached US airspace.

And so we are confident that what we’ve learned about this program enables us to be able to monitor and be on the lookout for these kinds of capabilities. When you think about the wide array of activities that we monitor globally, but most importantly when it comes to defense of the homeland along our coast and our skies, by being able to identify the characteristics of things like this or other potential threats, it all gets put into a broader library, so to speak, of information that our analysts can monitor, track, and detect, and then respond appropriately.

Dan (10:46):

And then in terms of this global program, are the balloons that are spotted elsewhere in the world essentially similar to the one that was flying across the US and is there reason to believe that those balloons were flying near or over US military bases abroad in those countries?

Pat Ryder (11:06):

Beyond the fact that they share the common characteristic of being surveillance balloons, intelligence collection assets that the PRC is employing, the only other thing I’d say is that we do know there’s variation in the various sizes and capabilities of the balloon. But beyond that, I’m not going to go into specifics. In other words… Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.

In terms of what they’re monitoring and what their flight paths are going to be, I’m not going to go into that level of information. But needless to say, again, it calls into question why China, the PRC, feel that it’s okay to violate sovereign airspace of nations in a way that is inappropriate and unacceptable, so combining this capability with the other intelligence assets that they have at their disposal.

And so again, as I highlighted earlier, this just demonstrates why the PRC continues to remain our pacing challenge. And I think that they have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to conducting these types of programs and violating a nation’s airspace and sovereignty. Thank you.


Tara (12:26):

Thank you so much, General. Two separate lines of questioning on the balloon for you. First, did you guys assess that this was a fleet after this balloon was spotted or from what you’ve determined in previous UAP investigations? And with that, are you planning to declassify any information about those 163 reports of balloon and balloon like entities so that we could understand better how they compare and don’t compare?

Pat Ryder (12:55):

Yeah. On your second question, I’d refer you to the DNI. Clearly within the realms of operation security and protecting intelligence sources and methods, we are trying our best to provide the public with as much information as we can on this program, recognizing that we don’t want to do anything that’s going to compromise our sources and methods.

In terms of your question about assessments on the overall surveillance balloon fleet, yes, we were tracking this before this particular incident. As I mentioned, our awareness and understanding of this capability has increased over the last couple of years as General VanHerck highlighted, this wasn’t information that we necessarily had previously, but again, our analysts have been able to, over time, put the pieces together and learn a lot more about this program.

And the last thing I’d say on that, again, is this was a unique opportunity for us to observe this balloon and its characteristics very closely as it traveled over the United States. And needless to say, and I won’t go into details, we gained a lot of information on this and I believe we’ll continue to gain more information on this.

Let me go to David.

David (14:12):

Following up on Tara’s question, I thought you said about the other four previous ones that they were over strategic sites.

Pat Ryder (14:22):

No, I was talking about the most recent one.

David (14:24):

Okay. So what were the-

Pat Ryder (14:26):

Again, I’m not going to talk about their flight pass other than they were over continental United States.

David (14:32):

Were they over what you would call sensitive sites?

Pat Ryder (14:35):

Again, I’m not going to, they were over sites that would be of interest to the Chinese, but I’m not going to go into the specifics, David. Thank you.

Let me go Oren and then Louie. And I appreciate again your patience with the microphone and our temporary briefing room here.

Oren (14:54):

Just a quick follow up and then a separate question. You said a moment ago, the awareness and understanding of the situation has increased. When did the US come to the conclusion that these were in fact surveillance balloon? Because it seems like that was an incredibly recent conclusion based on the understanding of the situation.

And then just a short time ago in a house intel briefing, Representative Stewart said the balloon may be the Chinese testing the American people to see the reaction. While General Phillip Breedlove suggests that it was the enemy conditioning the US population, does the Pentagon believe the China was conditioning or testing the US with these balloons in some way?

Pat Ryder (15:27):

Yeah. Thanks, Oren. So you’d really need to talk to China about what its motivations were. Again, the facts are that they sent a surveillance balloon into sovereign US airspace. We responded quickly and appropriately, monitored it, tracked it, and took it down as soon as it was safe to do so.

I’ll just leave it at that.

Oren (15:48):

And the first question?

Pat Ryder (15:49):

I’m sorry. Can you ask that again?

Oren (15:51):

The first question was, as the understanding of the situation increased, when did the Pentagon come to the conclusion that these were surveillance balloons? Because it seems like that was very recent.

Pat Ryder (16:01):

I don’t have a specific date to provide you in terms of when the intelligence community developed this other than to say it’s been in the last couple of years that we’ve been able to do the analysis and look at these objects and determine which has built the body of knowledge available to us. So again, as I mentioned as this object approached us airspace, NORAD NORTHCOM knew what it was and tracked it.

All right, thank you.


Louie (16:32):

Thank you. You mentioned these four previous incidents. Was this the first time that this military had the capability of shooting down one of these balloons or was this a consideration in any of those previous incidences as well? And I also have a question on Ukraine.

Pat Ryder (16:47):

Yeah, so we always maintain a variety of options on how best to respond. So in terms of being able to shoot down any object that violates or threatens the United States or airspace or our people, certainly that is an option that’s available to us. But in each case we took what we consider appropriate action. So just leave it at that.

Louie (17:09):

So there were just-

David (17:10):

I thought you didn’t know about it.

Pat Ryder (17:11):

What’s that?

David (17:12):

I thought you didn’t know about it.

Pat Ryder (17:13):

If anything enters into our airspace, whether we know what it is or not, we will monitor it and we’ll take appropriate action. Louie’s question was, did you have the capability to take down a balloon? Yes, we maintain the capability to take down balloons.

Louie (17:26):

Well, it was more like, were there discussions about shooting it down?

Pat Ryder (17:32):

Yeah, I’m not going to get into those discussions.

Louie (17:35):

Okay. Ukraine question. The combined training that taking place in Germany, has the first rotation concluded or is the second cohort getting ready to come in?

Pat Ryder (17:48):

Sure. So the training in Grafenwoehr in Germany continues. It started mid-January, so we expect that to go for a few more weeks and then we

Pat Ryder (18:00):

… are prepared to receive follow on cohorts as Ukraine makes those forces available, which of course is the intent. Thank you very much. Let me go here, and then we’ll go over to Fadi.

Speaker 1 (18:12):

Thank you for taking my question. I also wanted to touch on the hearing on the Hill this morning, the former Yukon commander calling the delay in shooting down the balloon a miscalculation, and that it could be China trying to condition the US to miscalculate in the future. Was this a miscalculation, and how confident are we that we’ll be able to detect these kind of balloons in the future?

Pat Ryder (18:32):

Yeah, so I think we are very confident that we’ll be able to detect these kinds of capabilities as evidenced by the continuing body of knowledge that we’ve been able to build up on this. But obviously that is something that our intelligence community will continue to work very closely on for this and any other potential threats. In terms of how others may characterize it, I’m going to allow them to speak for themselves. Again, we detected this balloon, tracked it very closely. When it went into the Continental United States, we evaluated options on how best to bring it down. As you know, once it was safe to do so we brought it down over water and we continue to collect the debris to be able to exploit it for further intelligence.

Speaker 1 (19:16):

And if I could ask, what did China think that they could get at 60,000 feet that they couldn’t get with a satellite? What do you think they were collecting?

Pat Ryder (19:24):

Again, that’s a question that’s best addressed by China. Obviously, at a high altitude you’re operating above civilian air traffic. As you’ve heard us say before, the collection capabilities of this balloon were not of more advantage to other capabilities that we know they maintain. But regardless, we took steps to mitigate the potential collection of information. But as I also mentioned, we learned a lot about this balloon program. And the last thing I’d say on that is that I would not be surprised if the PRC starts to reevaluate its dirigible collection program. Thank you. All right, let me go to Fadi.

Fadi (20:07):

Thank you, General. Just first a clarification because I’m confused, with the previous four balloons, did you say they were not detected but later intelligence assessment got your awareness? Is this true and did this happened with this administration, that assessment, or with the previous administration?

Pat Ryder (20:26):

So what we know is that over the last several years to include time during the previous administration, subsequent analysis determined that objects that had traversed over the United States, although not for the duration of this fifth balloon were ultimately determined to be PRC surveillance balloons.

Fadi (20:50):

And the four previous balloons, they all happened during the last administration?

Pat Ryder (20:55):

Three during the last administration, one at the beginning of the Biden administration.

Fadi (21:00):

So this is the second balloon during the Biden administration?

Pat Ryder (21:02):


Fadi (21:03):

Okay. And then did the technology you’re able now to collect from the debris, did this lead you to think that this is actually part of a spy program or are you leaving any room for maybe, no, actually this was for civilian purposes?

Pat Ryder (21:21):

I can assure you this was not for civilian purposes. We are 100% clear about that.

Fadi (21:27):

Are you willing in the future to share information with the public that confirms this assessment?

Pat Ryder (21:32):

Well, what do you mean?

Fadi (21:34):

I mean, we have two narratives here, right? You referred us to the PRC before, the PRC maintains this is for civilian purposes, strictly. The DOD and the administration is maintaining, no, this is actually a spy balloon for military purposes, although it has no value added to what they have in terms of more than 400 satellites. So we have, as a press corps, we have two narratives here, competing narratives.

Pat Ryder (22:00):

Okay. So I’ll give you the facts again based on what we know and have observed about this balloon. It is a surveillance balloon. It was an intelligence collection capability. A question I would ask myself is, if in fact it was a civilian balloon, a weather balloon, and it was approaching a sovereign nation about to enter their airspace, a responsible nation would’ve put out some kind of public statement saying, “Hey, heads up, this is heading your way. We just want to let you know.” The PRC did not do that. They didn’t respond until after they were called out. I’ll just leave it at that.

Fadi (22:34):

Just how does the-

Pat Ryder (22:35):

Fadi, I got to go on to some other folks here. I’ll come back to you. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 2 (22:43):

Thank you for taking my question, General. So on the balloon, have you shared the ID characteristics now that we now have some better definition with our other allies and partners so that they can watch over their own airspace and detect potential incursions?

Pat Ryder (23:02):

So, yes. So we are in the process of updating our international allies and partners, I’m not going to have more specifics to provide. Clearly we maintain an intelligence sharing relationship with many countries, and so as we have information to provide and as we currently are, we will share that information.

Speaker 2 (23:23):

Can I ask you about Turkey also?

Pat Ryder (23:25):


Speaker 2 (23:25):

Just the size of the potential humanitarian disaster there, has there been any request to preposition aid, heavy equipment, additional medical supplies, that sort of thing to try to respond?

Pat Ryder (23:40):

Yes. As I mentioned at the top of the briefing, US European command right now is pre-positioning some assets to include medical supplies, water, relief supplies. In addition, the George HW Bush in the Mediterranean is moving toward Turkey to be in position should Turkey request additional assistance. So we’re trying to do everything we can to lean forward to be responsive to their request and help them as they try to save lives and recover. Thank you. Sir.

Speaker 3 (24:13):

Thank you, General. [inaudible 00:24:15] just going back to the ballon issue. Yesterday, the DOD revealed that the Chinese Defense Minister declined a call request from Secretary Austin, so how’s the situation in the other communication level? Does China also decline a military [inaudible 00:24:31] level or it was only the minister secretary level?

Pat Ryder (24:35):

Yeah. So again, I think the key point here is that responsible nations act responsibly, and we have always been and will remain open to communication to try to prevent miscalculation. Secretary Austin, his office did reach out to request a phone call after the balloon was taken down, the PRC declined to take that call. So again, we will remain open to communication. We do not seek conflict. Our focus in the Indo-Pacific region is on preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that’s peaceful, secure, stable, where countries can sail the seas in international waters, fly the skies in international skies safely, freely. And that will continue to be our goal and continue to work with like-minded nations to ensure that that’s the situation.

Speaker 3 (25:26):

So do you keep the communication between the military [inaudible 00:25:30] level?

Pat Ryder (25:30):

I’m sorry, I don’t-

Speaker 3 (25:32):

At the military level, do you continue to keep the communication?

Pat Ryder (25:36):

We’re going to continue to keep the lines of communication open on our end. Yep, absolutely.

Speaker 3 (25:41):

[inaudible 00:25:41] question, the Biden administration is set to start briefing to the embassies of the partners and allies here in Washington DC, so what is the DOD’s general message to the allies and partners about future coordination for future global response to the Chinese balloon?

Pat Ryder (25:59):

Well, again, more broadly speaking, we’ve highlighted the fact that China remains our pacing challenge. And again, we do not seek conflict with China. We recognize that we are in competition with China and we would want the Indo-Pacific, and the whole world, to be secure, peaceful, stable, operating under an international rules-based order where sovereignty is protected and people can go about their lives in a way that we would all hope in a peaceful world. And so we’re going to continue to work with our allies and partners and we’re going to continue to share information, and I’ll just leave it at that. Let me go to the back of the room here, sir.

Speaker 4 (26:45):

Thanks, General. Just going back to the emergency response in Turkey, you mentioned that the USS George HW Bush and the European Commander are repositioning assets to support recovery efforts. Has Turkey requested any additional support beyond the two USAID teams that have arrived

Speaker 4 (27:00):

… [inaudible 00:27:00] today and I have a follow up, if that works.

Pat Ryder (27:03):

Sure. So I’ve provided you, in terms of the Department of Defense, support that we’re providing and the USAID. I’d refer you to USAID for any additional information on that front. So I don’t have anything else right now to provide other than, again, we remain ready and willing and eager to support any way that we can. Yup?

Speaker 5 (27:27):

So I’ve heard multiple stories about the balloon in Hawaii. How exactly did it go down? Did it crash? Was it shot down? I just want to confirm.

Pat Ryder (27:41):

Yeah. Again, I’m not going to be able to talk about what we know on those previous balloons.

Speaker 5 (27:47):

Second, once we found out that it did go down, however it went down, were we able to recover any information from it?

Pat Ryder (27:57):

Again, I’m not going to have any specifics to provide. As I highlighted earlier, broadly speaking, we’ve learned a lot about this surveillance balloon program, and every piece of information that we gather contributes to that body of knowledge that enables us to detect them, track them, and take appropriate action. Let me go to-

Speaker 5 (28:14):

The one in Guam? Anything?

Pat Ryder (28:16):

Again, I’m not going to be able to go into more details. Ma’am?

Tara (28:20):

I just have a very quick follow up. Is the unofficial US policy now that you’re not going to shoot down balloons over land, only over water, or the way that you’re scrutinizing this further information that you have, is that going to change the way you respond to future balloons since it’s a fleet?

Pat Ryder (28:38):

Yeah, so I think you need to take a step back and look at … Our policy has not changed. If something is about to enter our airspace, we’re going to track it and monitor it and determine whether or not it’s a threat. In this particular case, as the balloon approached US airspace, the NORAD, NORTHCOM commander determined that it did not present an imminent physical or military threat.

So we’re always going to reserve the right to take appropriate action against any foreign objects, unexplained aerial phenomenon, whatever it is, to safeguard the American public. That’s exactly what we did in this case. Ma’am?

Speaker 6 (29:17):

Thank you, general. The British Prime Minister said today that nothing off the table for Ukraine, including fighter jets. Can you say the same for the discussion about this option here in DC? Will Secretary Austin discuss this option with allies and partners next week in Brussels?

Pat Ryder (29:38):

Yeah, thanks. So in terms of fighter aircraft, I don’t have anything to announce from the podium here today. As we’ve said before, we’re going to continue to consult closely with the Ukrainians, with our international allies and partners to determine what their most urgent security needs are. We’re going to work very hard with our allies and partners to provide them with that capability so that they can be successful on the battlefield.

Speaker 6 (30:01):

This part of the discussion next week?

Pat Ryder (30:05):

The discussion next week very much will focus on Ukraine’s most urgent security needs, particularly as we approach the one year anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. It is going to be a very substantive discussion and opportunity to review progress made, but also what needs to be done to assist them in the future. I’ve got time for just a few more. Tara?

Tara Copp (30:27):

Back to the earthquake relief, are you working with Turkey to get aid to Syria? Given the ongoing conflict there, how difficult will it be to help Syrians who need earthquake relief?

Pat Ryder (30:40):

Tara, I don’t have any information in front me. I do know that US Central Command is working with our partners on the ground there, our Syrian partners on the ground, the SDF, to address some of the humanitarian assistance requirements. But I’d refer you to them for the specific details. Jennifer?

Jennifer (30:59):

Pat, if there were four previous incidents where Chinese spy balloons were over US airspace and they weren’t reported, how is this not an intelligence failure?

Pat Ryder (31:11):

So the idea here is that we’re going to be tracking all kinds of objects on any given day, both in the air, on the sea. And so, as we gain information, and as we see the profile of these objects, determining whether or not it’s a threat.

And so, in terms of our ability to collect on those, as I’ve highlighted, we have learned a lot about their program. We’ve been able to learn a lot about what they’re doing and their intent. We observe a lot of things every single day in a lot of different ways from an intelligence collection standpoint. Those are things that we’re not necessarily going to talk about publicly for obvious reasons. There’s also benefit in us knowing what they’re doing and not publicly talking about what they’re doing.

But in terms of monitoring these and collecting on them, we have been able to put together a body of knowledge that enables us to be able to detect them and act appropriately.

Jennifer (32:10):

Did you know they were Chinese spy craft at the time, those four incidents?

Pat Ryder (32:14):

They were tracked and subsequently determined to be Chinese.

Jennifer (32:19):

Lastly, the J21 Chinese aircraft that came very close to the US surveillance plane on December 21st, was that related to the balloon program or observation of the balloon program?

Pat Ryder (32:34):

No. No. Yeah, completely disconnected. I’ve got time for one more. Let me go back to Jeff Sullivan back there. He’s been waiting patiently. You’re going to have to speak up, Jeff. The acoustics in this room are amazing.

Jeff Sullivan (32:46):

Thanks very much for doing this. One follow up on the question of communications with China, you said that responsible nations, if it was a civilian balloon, would’ve notified the US in advance. Does the Pentagon then assess that China is acting recklessly on purpose in the hopes of creating some sort of bigger incident?

Then separately on the balloons, is there any evidence or any assessment that some of the balloons, whether the one that was tracked just over the US or the others, had capabilities other than surveillance, perhaps transmission? Are there any other countries that may be running similar balloon programs to that being run by the PRC?

Pat Ryder (33:27):

Yeah. Thanks, Jeff. So on your last question, I mean obviously nations around the world maintain various degrees of intelligence programs, and I’m not going to get into those from here.

In terms of what message China was trying to send with this balloon, again, I’d refer you to the PRC. I’m going to deal with the facts. The facts are that the balloon went into and violated sovereign US airspace. We tracked it very closely, we developed options, and when the time was right, to minimize potential civilian harm, we took a shot and took the balloon down. Again, this is contributing to our body of knowledge on this program, which we will apply to defending our skies and protecting our citizens well into the future.

I will say also that when it comes to learning about these kinds of programs, I think we all appreciate the fact that this is not static. You’re constantly learning, you’re constantly applying lessons learned in order to protect the American public and our allies and our partners. This is no different in that case. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate your time today.

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