Pentagon denied AF request to shoot down Chinese spy balloon before entering US air space, Sen claims

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan claimed during an interview with a think-tank on Thursday that the 11th Air Force in Alaska requested to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon before it entered American air space and was shut down by the Pentagon over it.

Sullivan is currently an infantry officer and a Colonel in the US Marine Corps Reserve. The Alaska Republican also serves on the Armed Services Committee.

According to the Financial Times, Sullivan made the accusation while speaking at the Hudson Institute. He claimed that the Alaska unit’s F-22 and F-35 fighter jets tracked the balloon “from far away” and requested permission from the Pentagon to shoot it down before it entered US air space on January 28, but were denied. The 11th Air Force is part of the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

“Our Alaska commanders requested permission to shoot it down. Was denied,” Sullivan asserted while speaking. “I’m not sure that’s public, but it’s a fact.”

According to The Washington Post, “By the time a Chinese spy balloon crossed into American airspace late last month, U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been tracking it for nearly a week, watching as it lifted off from its home base on Hainan Island near China’s south coast.”

During the session at the Hudson Institute, Sullivan did not comment on where the balloon was located when the Air Force commanders asked for permission to take it down. He also did not elaborate on who had refused the request.

On January 28, the balloon first entered US airspace over the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It then moved into Canadian airspace before reentering US airspace on January 31. The White House claims that the president was briefed that day as the balloon flew over Montana. The alleged communist spy balloon was then free to trek across America, specifically over sensitive military sites containing nuclear ballistic missiles.

Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told the Financial Times in an interview that NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck ordered the 11th Air Force to “identify and monitor the high altitude balloon,” and determined that “it did not present an immediate military threat.”

Ryder also stated that VanHerck elevated the decision to “higher authority’ while NORAD and Northern Command continued to “develop options.”

That apparently turned out to be a very significant and dangerous miscalculation by the Pentagon and NORAD.

On February 1, Biden ostensibly ordered the military to shoot down the balloon when it was safe to do so. The military did not deem it “safe” until the balloon had traversed the entire nation and was off the east coast. They shot it down on February 4 over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina. The Pentagon justified waiting by claiming the balloon posed a threat to civilian aircraft and they wanted to avoid casualties on the ground over sparsely populated areas.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing was canceled by the Biden administration after civilians in Montana spotted the balloon. The Pentagon now claims it was planning to announce the balloon’s presence in American airspace before it was identified by people on the ground.

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