Chinese Balloon Shoot Down – Additional Comments

I wrote it was a perfect shoot down because pieces of the spy balloon could be salvaged. Nothing I have read has changed my mind. The military can not divulge a lot of their information, but have made it clear that this is not an isolated case. We will learn very valuable information from the debris which includes the balloon itself and as much as possible the hardware inside.

When the balloon was first observed, it was over the Aleutian islands in the Bering sea. Mean depth of the Bering sea is about 5,000 ft, but the Aleutian trench, approximately 100 miles long and 50 miles wide, has a maximum depth of 25,000 ft. The shifting sheets of ice and snow are enormous and finding even pieces of the balloon was be extremely difficult.

Biden did the right thing as he gave permission for the military to shoot the balloon down, when they could do so without endangering Americans. It was then a technical decision of when to shoot it down. The Generals would turn to “modelers” for some estimate of the size of the debris field and the potential damage that could be done with falling bits of hardware. I know this field, because I spent a lifetime modeling physical phenomena. If one knows what is falling and has some prior experience with similar incidences, then analysts have something solid to build their models. In this case, there was only very limited information of what was shot down, and certainly no prior analogous experience.

So, prior to the destruction of the balloon, it would be very hard to know where pieces of metal might land and cause harm to residents below. So, when they were deciding the right time to shoot down the balloon, they were dealing with a debris field based on just a bunch of guesses. Intelligent guesses, for sure, but the hard data were missing.

But, now there is a debris field, much of which is yet to be discovered. Currents will distort the field, so the modelers will still have to factor this into their analysis. In the modeling world, the forward solution is to project from 10 miles in the sky down to the impact on the ocean surface. This solution is then can be refined when the debris is found. This can be called the inverse solution, or model validation. Modelers will undoubtedly try to assess the uncertainty in results. This is called sensitivity analysis.

From various sources, the debris field is likely in terms of miles. Pieces of the big white balloon were easy to find as I expected. The modelers will be hard at work, adjusting their models, to help the dive teams and unmanned subs to search of the pieces of debris.

Stay tuned,


The balloon shoot down – It was the perfect response!

Shoot something that’s 10 miles up over mountainous areas, or the Artic, and your salvage efforts will be nearly impossible. When I heard the balloon was shot down very close to Myrtle Beach, SC in 47 ft of water, I couldn’t have been happier. Perfect conditions to run a recovery operations. Recovery vessels could get to the site within hours. Time is of the essence.

Senators and members of the House held a closed door briefing. “There was nothing in there that I learned that would’ve said that we shouldn’t have shot it down when it was over Alaska,” added GOP Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, exiting the briefing.

Assistant Secretary of of Defense Melissa Dalton testified at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing:

“A key part of the calculus for this operation was the ability to salvage, understand and exploit the capabilities of the high altitude balloon.”

Without salvage of the equipment aboard the spy balloon, China would continue with their absurd cover story of an off-course weather balloon shot down by the US. And certainly other countries could go along with it, just to keep good relations with China. Now we’ve got the evidence to the contrary.

The Assistant Secretary further stated (summarized by CNBC):

“If we had taken it down over the state of Alaska … it would have been a very different recovery operation,” she said, noting that the deep, freezing water of the Bering Sea “would make recovery and salvage operations very dangerous.”

The temperature of the Bering sea is 40 degrees, and the Aleutian trench is 25,000 ft deep, approximately 50 to 100 miles wide. The Assistant Secretary was too kind. There would have been no recovery operation. It would be far too difficult at these depths.

Sure, blowing the balloon up over Alaska would be great for headlines if that’s all you’re interested in. But it would have destroyed the evidence of China’s illegal spy operations which is occurring in many countries. I am certain the Defense Department will be sharing what they know about China’s new generation of spy balloons with our NATO allies and allies in South America. I would love it if Secretary Austin makes a presentation at the UN Security Council. However, there is no need to turn up the heat at this point and our salvage operation is ongoing.

Stay tuned,