Chinese spy balloon's solar panels could power sophisticated radar

The balloon caused an uproar in Washington and damaged US-China ties when it flew over the US in January and February

By Reuters

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The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, US, on February 4, 2023. — Reuters file
The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, US, on February 4, 2023. — Reuters file

Published: Sat 15 Apr 2023, 9:17 PM

A Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by the US in February carried solar panels that could generate enough electricity to power a type of radar that can generate images at night and through clouds, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing leaked US intelligence documents.

The balloon's surveillance capabilities were detailed in a US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) document allegedly leaked to a Discord chatroom by Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, the Post said.

Teixeira, 21, was charged on Friday in Boston with unlawfully copying and transmitting classified material.

The balloon caused an uproar in Washington and damaged US-China ties when it flew over the US in January and February. It was downed off the coast of South Carolina on February 4 by a missile fired from a US Air Force jet.

According to the NGA document, the balloon could generate up to 10,000 watts of solar power, more than enough to operate a sophisticated surveillance system known as synthetic aperture radar, the Post said.

That type of radar can return images at night and can penetrate clouds and thin materials such as tarps to show objects beneath, the newspaper reported.

The balloon also had a parabolic dish measuring 1.2 metres in diameter, several unidentified sensors and a possible mast antenna, the Post said.

The Pentagon declined a request by Reuters to comment on the Post report.


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