Close-up photo of Chinese spy balloon in flight released by US military

The mid-air photo was taken by a U-2 pilot.

ByLuis Martinez ABCNews logo
Thursday, February 23, 2023
President Biden says recent objects shot down were not spy balloons
President Biden said the U.S. "acted out of an abundance of caution" when shooting down three unidentified aerial objects flying over North American airspace.

WASHINGTON -- A close-up photo of the Chinese spy balloon, taken mid-air from a U-2 spy plane, has been released by the U.S. military

The photo was taken on Friday, Feb. 3 as the balloon flew over the American Midwest at an altitude of 60,000 feet -- as the U-2 spy plane trailed it flew across the continental United States.

The image shows the U2 spy plane flying just above the balloon with the pilot's helmet seen in the foreground.

In this image, a U.S. Air Force U-2 pilot looks down at a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovers over the United States on Feb. 3, 2023.
Department of Defense via AP

U-2 spy planes are usually one-seater aircraft but the U-2 that was flying alongside the balloon was a two-seater trainer.

The photo was taken by the other pilot sitting in the second seat.

Visible in the balloon's white fabric is a silhouette of the U-2 aircraft and below it is the payload that carried reconnaissance sensors, antennae, and solar power panels.

The first missile fired at an object over Lake Huron missed, and the UFO shot down over Canada was a "small, metallic balloon."

That payload was described as being equal in length to three school buses.

The day after the photo was taken the balloon was shot down on Feb. 4 over U.S. territorial waters off of South Carolina.

A two-week recovery operation off the coast of South Carolina recovered most of the balloon and its payload that is now being analyzed by the FBI.

The incident created a domestic and international political firestorm.