Navy divers began pulling pieces of the downed Chinese spy balloon from the depths of the ocean floor on Tuesday, using sophisticated reconnaissance drones dubbed the Kingfish and the Swordfish to locate the debris, the AP reports. The Navy released images Tuesday morning showing sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 pulling in broad swaths of the balloon’s white outer fabric and shell structure. After collecting all of the fabric and structure found floating on the surface, the Navy shifted to an all-underwater search for the remnants of the massive balloon that a US fighter jet shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, officials said.
Navy and Coast Guard personnel are using underwater drones to locate and map the debris field, and divers are in the water gathering up what they can, officials said.The debris already collected is being hauled by small boats to a few area locations, including a Coast Guard station south of Myrtle Beach, and, depending on the size, will eventually go either to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia, or other sites where experts can analyze it, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of an ongoing military operation.
The head of US Northern Command, Gen. Glen VanHerck, who is in charge of the recovery effort, and several Biden administration officials will brief members of Congress on the balloon on Wednesday and Thursday. The balloon, an estimated 200 feet tall, was carrying a long sensor package underneath, which VanHerck estimated was the size of a small regional jet. US counterintelligence teams hope to learn far more about the sensors and other equipment on the balloon as they retrieve it and study it. The balloon debris is scattered in waters that are about 50 feet deep, but stretch across an area 15 football fields long and 15 football fields across, VanHerck said. (Read more spy balloon stories.)