By now, you’ve heard about China’s spy balloon. It sailed across the Bering Sea and over the Aleutian Islands on January 28th. It floated down through Canada and was spotted over Montana before making its way across the Continental United States. 

We’re not talking about ordinary hot air balloons like those at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning (July 28-30), or the Taste and Glow Balloon Festival in Wausau, Wisconsin.

The Chinese spy balloon measured 200 feet, about the size of a regional jet. It was estimated to weigh about a ton. It was flying at an altitude of between 60,000 and 65,000 feet when an F-22 fighter jet shot it down on February 4th. The debris field crosses an area of 15 by 15 football fields, according to North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Commander General Glen VanHerck. 

The Chinese foreign ministry claimed the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research” and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, “meteorological purposes,” yes, a weather balloon.

Since China was isolated during the Cold War, nobody told them that the “weather balloon” explanation went out of fashion when the Berlin Wall came down.

They missed out on the whole “Roswell Incident.” The Air Force claimed that the disc found near Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947 was a weather balloon. In 1994 the Air Force copped out of that one and admitted it was a UFO. It remains one of the unsolved cases from Project Blue Book, the code name for the Air Force’s study of UFOs based out of Wright-Patterson Air Base near Dayton, Ohio, from 1952 through 1969.

In 1960 the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, flying over what is now Yekaterinburg, Russia. The U.S. explained that the Soviets had shot down a “civilian weather research aircraft operated by NASA.” However, the U.S. was embarrassed when the Soviet government paraded Powers in front of cameras along with surveillance equipment from the plane and photographs of Soviet military installations it had taken.

The movie “Bridge of Spies” portrays the incident and negotiations for Powers’ freedom. I wrote about it in a recent column about Britney Griner

China has called the decision to shoot it down an “obvious overreaction.” The military must fish enough evidence out of the Atlantic Ocean to put China in a position where it can no longer dispute the balloon’s true purpose. 

But it gets worse. The balloon, shot down Saturday, is at least the fifth Chinese spy balloon to enter U.S. airspace. There were three incursions during Trump’s presidency and one last February under Biden. 

The immediate reaction by the Biden administration was to leak that there were three incidents under Trump as if to say he did it too. That response ended up backfiring on Biden.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said, “this never happened. It would have never happened” (when he was president). Faster than (most) Democrats could scream, “liar, liar, pants on fire,” every individual who would have known about any such reports confirmed they had never heard about any spy balloons while in office.

I never thought I’d live to see the day the Washington Post had to admit that Donald Trump was telling the truth. The Post reported that VanHerck said, “it was the U.S. intelligence community that made us aware of those balloons (during the Trump presidency) after the fact.” 

The Post continued: “The Pentagon’s disclosure that previous Chinese incursions occurred during Trump’s time in the White House was met with disbelief by the former president and came as a surprise to senior officials who held prominent national security posts in his administration. VanHerck’s acknowledgment appeared to offer a plausible explanation for how that may have happened.” 

I wonder if anybody at WaPo had a seizure, heart attack, or just melted writing or editing that passage? I wonder if any liberals, just for a moment, think that’s happened a hundred other times when nobody has stepped forward to take responsibility? 

The Department of Defense initially classified the spy balloons as UFOs or UAP (Unexplained Aerial Phenomenon). This would be when my teenage daughter would roll her eyes and say, “go touch some grass.”

Although there are some maneuvers, such as hovering, a balloon can accomplish that a satellite cannot, experts agree there isn’t much a spy balloon can obtain that a satellite can’t. The one advantage a balloon offers is cost, but obviously, the risk of detection and getting shot down are much greater. Which raises the question: why did China take this risk?

Was this a spy balloon, or a trial balloon? Were the Chinese interested in the data they could get from the balloon, or the reaction they got? Were they testing their ability to penetrate our air space, or was this a psych op? If so, who were they trying to influence, the government, the military, or the people?

Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (and my former boss), criticized the Biden administration on “Meet the Press” Sunday for allowing the balloon to complete its mission. He said it was “like tackling the quarterback after the game is over.” I haven’t spoken to Congressman Turner, although I hope to. I’m unclear at what point the military or intelligence agencies correctly identified the balloon. If there was an area to shoot down the balloon safely, Turner is right. The administration says that NASA advised it was not safe over land.

I’m less up in arms about when Biden ordered shooting it down than that this is at least the fifth time it’s happened. I am more concerned about what happens next.

While I appreciate General VanHerck, taking responsibility when he said, “As NORAD commander, it’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those threats.” He called it a “domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.” 


A “domain awareness gap” is when I try to remember a URL and accidentally end up on a website that requires me to bleach my retinas. Mistaking five Chinese spy balloons for UFOs or not detecting them requires some shaking up our military leadership.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also must answer questions. Under their leadership, the military has been too focused on social issues and clearly not paying attention to actual threats. 

I’ll refrain from criticizing Biden for when he ordered the Chinese spy balloon taken down, at least for now, but if there aren’t leadership changes at the highest level of the military, then the Chinese will have the last laugh, and that will be on Biden.

Until then: 

Goodnight Chinese spite

And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of Moo Shu

And a little old Chinese lady whispering “安静” ān jìng

So goodnight room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight Chinese spy balloon

Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.

One thought on “Andy Bloom: Goodnight Chinese Spy Balloon”

  1. The CCP and the PLA got the intelligence they hoped to get, namely how the United States would react to gross violations of its territorial sovereignty, and would we use force to repel assaults on our sovereignty. They now know our military is led by timeservers who are inept at best, incompetent at worst. They also know our civilian leadership cannot take a decision to respond appropriately to violations of the United Sates territory. This makes the world we live in that much more dangerous.

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