A large balloon suspected of being used by China to spy on sensitive sites as it flew over the United States was 200 feet tall according to U.S. officials.
The balloon was roughly the size of an airport control tower and “probably" weighed "in excess of a couple thousand pounds,” according to Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command.
Some lawmakers criticized President Joe Biden for not ordering the balloon to be shot down sooner as it flew over the United States. The massive balloon, the size of a 20-story building, presented a problem as it flew over populated areas.
Gen. VanHerck said the size factored into the “decision-making process” as officials said they waited for it to float about 6 miles off of the east coast over the Atlantic ocean before it was shot down so that debris didn't present any danger to civilians.
An F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down the balloon using a Sidewinder missile, according to the Pentagon.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said "the balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters."
The balloon flew at around 60,000 feet, or around 12 miles.
The balloon's debris field was off the South Carolina coast and at around 1,500 square meters, or the equivalent of about 15 football fields.