The Pentagon on Wednesday evening released an intriguing photo of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off of South Carolina. The photograph was taken from inside a U-2 spy plane referred to as a Lady Dragon.
A fan website dedicated to the U-2, Dragon Lady Today, first wrote about the existence of the photo on Tuesday.
The photo was taken from the interior of of the U-2 Dragon Lady and shows an Air Force pilot flying just above the Chinese spy balloon, on which the shadow of the US craft can be seen.
In the image, the surveillance device is still floating over US land. The Dragon Lady tracked the balloon to clear airspace over the coast where an F-22 fighter jet eventually shot it down.
Shortly after it was downed, officials revealed that the balloon contained antennas and equipment that allowed it to collect intelligence as it drifted across the country seemingly unnoticed.
NBC News reports that the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has “adjusted how it filters radar data to better find small objects at low speed and high altitudes” in response to the revelation that multiple unknown objects had gone unnoticed, some which were discovered at civilian aircraft altitude.
“The only way you would have seen that balloon was on primary radar and nobody was looking at it at 60,000 feet,” said Randy Babbitt, a former FAA administrator.
The Chinese, evidently aware of this lapse in security, apparently designed the balloon to take advantage and slip by while collecting intelligence.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) confirmed that the balloon flew over sensitive missile and nuclear sites before it was shot down.
“If you take the path that this balloon did, and you put up an X every place where you have a missile defense site, actual nuclear weapons infrastructure, you’re going to follow this path,” he said during a press briefing.
The Navy recovered the balloon’s remnants and onboard equipment which will now undergo further analysis at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, VA.