The Pentagon released a ‘selfie’ photo by a U-2 pilot with the China spy balloon taken earlier this month. The release comes a day after the photo was published by a blog dedicated to the U-2 spy plane.
A silhouette of the U-2 can be seen on the balloon.
An enlarged, cropped version better shows the payload of the balloon and the U-2’s shadow.
CNN, which first reported the existence of the photo, said it has obtained “legendary status” within the Pentagon.
Once it was over US territory, officials have argued that the benefits of gathering additional intelligence on the balloon as it passed over far outweighed the risk of shooting it down over land.
The US sent up U-2 spy planes to track the balloon’s progress, according to US officials.
One pilot took a selfie in the cockpit that shows both the pilot and the surveillance balloon itself, these officials said – an image that has already gained legendary status in both NORAD and the Pentagon.
(TGP report on the selfie.)
📸: The Pentagon has provided & confirmed authenticity of this selfie taken by a U-2 pilot flying by the Chinese surveillance balloon.
CNN reported earlier this month that the photo had reached legendary status in the Pentagon and NORAD. pic.twitter.com/BWRiSxADSO
— Haley Britzky (@halbritz) February 22, 2023
Following the recommendation of his woke Pentagon brass, Brandon waited until the China spy balloon had traversed the United States from Alaska to South Carolina, flying over key U.S. nuclear missile and other military bases before ordering it shot down over the Atlantic coast on February 4.
The website DragonLadyToday.com published the selfie photo on Tuesday:
THE U-2 AND BALLOONS – SOME HISTORY, AND SOME THOUGHTS https://t.co/47SV5BppaU
— Chris Pocock (@UKdragonChris) February 21, 2023
Intercepting stratospheric balloons is a new mission for the U-2, that proves again just how versatile the Dragon Lady can be – and how essential it is to retain a manned high-altitude reconnaissance capability. There’s also some interesting high-in-the-sky history that connects the U-2 with balloons.
While the CIA was developing the revolutionary U-2 at great speed in late 1955, a sceptical USAF pressed ahead with an alternative means of photographing the Soviet Union. Over 500 large camera-carrying balloons were launched from western Europe, the theory being that the prevailing jetstreams would carry them west-to-east across the Soviet landmass, so that they could be recovered 8-10 days later in northern Asia.
Codenamed Project Genetrix, this scheme was not a great success, with less than 10 percent of the camera payloads recovered. Many others were shot down by Warsaw Pact fighters, or simply drifted down to earth. The USSR collected the evidence, displayed it in Moscow, and issued strong protest notes.
The CIA wasn’t enthusiastic about the project, and the success of the early U-2 overflights in 1956-57 suppressed any thoughts of balloon reconnaissance. But only for a while.
Brandon later ordered the shootdown of three unknown flying objects over the U.S. and Canada without knowing what they actually were. There is reason to believe the objects were $12 weather balloons launched by civilian weather clubs.
Last Friday the Pentagon announced it was ending the searches for balloon debris (CNN excerpt):
The US military has concluded its recovery operations for the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month, as well as the search for flying objects it later downed off the coast of Alaska and over Lake Huron after days of ultimately fruitless searches.
The recovery effort ended after “U.S. Navy assets assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully located and retrieved debris” from the balloon, a statement from US Northern Command said Friday.
“Final pieces of debris are being transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia for counterintelligence exploitation, as has occurred with the previous surface and subsurface debris recovered. U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels have departed the area. Air and maritime safety perimeters have been lifted,” the statement added.
NORTHCOM said in a statement later in the day that it would end the search for two of the three objects shot down over North America last weekend, stating that”the US military, federal agencies, and Canadian partners conducted systematic searches of each area using a variety of capabilities, including airborne imagery and sensors, surface sensors and inspections, and subsurface scans, and did not locate the debris.”
U.S. NORTHCOM concludes recovery operations on the High-Altitude PRC Surveillance Balloon in South Carolina. pic.twitter.com/EMv3EOVEV3
— U.S. Northern Command (@USNorthernCmd) February 17, 2023
U.S. NORTHCOM Recovery Operations update on Airborne Objects. pic.twitter.com/rGQtgB72B2
— U.S. Northern Command (@USNorthernCmd) February 18, 2023