The photo, released by the US State Department, was taken one day before the balloon was dropped.
The Pentagon has released a close-up of a Chinese spy balloon taken by a U-2 pilot, just one day before it was shot down by the Air Force off the coast of South Carolina.
The spy balloon was spotted by the public over Montana, and US authorities tracked it as it moved across the country, sparking a diplomatic row between the US and China.
When the airship crossed several states and reached the Atlantic Ocean, where the military considered it safer to destroy it, it was shot down by a single missile launched from an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that took off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
The photo shows the top of the pilot’s helmet inside the cockpit of the U-2 with the balloon flying below. It was taken on February 3 while the airship was “circling over the center of the continental United States,” according to the commentary provided by the Department of Defense.
Regarding the different versions of what the intentions of this balloon were, Beijing maintains that it was a weather balloon that went off course.
However, Washington believes it is part of the Chinese government’s intelligence-gathering programme.
The balloon was first discovered by US authorities when it crossed Alaskan airspace on January 28th.
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