A US fighter pilot is going viral after taking a selfie mid-air with an alleged Chinese spy balloon. Although the alleged spy balloon was shot down earlier this month, the US Department of Defence just released the selfie.
The photo shows the fighter pilot in a selfie from the cockpit of a U-2 spy plane as it flew over the white balloon. However, the balloon wasn’t shot down until a day later (February 4) as it flew over the coast of the US state of South Carolina.
According to The Straits Times, the balloon was reportedly 18,000 metres in the air when the U-2 spy plane fighter pilot snapped the photo.
The selfie has apparently achieved “legendary status” within the Pentagon.
The single-seat, high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance U-2 aircraft routinely fly at altitudes over 21,000 metres. Pilots of such planes are required to wear full-pressure suits that are the same as those worn by astronauts.
The US government says it first spotted the balloon on January 28, prompting the North American Aerospace Defence Command to send up fighter jets to positively identify the object.
At first, officials told CNN that they weren’t worried about the balloon as they began tracking its path over Alaska. They expected the object to continue north but it then went south unexpectedly and crossed over land.
After the balloon was shot down, recovery efforts began immediately and wrapped up on February 17.
The debris photos were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in the US state of Virginia to be studied.
The balloon’s arrival over US territory has transfixed the world along with Washington. As the balloon was said to be from China, the intensifying rivalry between the US and China has only been thrust into the spotlight even more.
The US military shot down a total of three rogue balloons over South Carolina, Alaska, and Lake Huron on the US-Canada border this month.
But, in an unexpected twist, US President Joe Biden said he doubted the spy balloons were sent from China. Instead, he says they were most likely operated by private companies or research institutions rather than China.
Meanwhile, Taiwan also discovered a white balloon after it crashed on the rogue island of Dongyin, near the Chinese coast. But, the government didn’t shy away from claiming the balloon was sent by China.
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