Re: Sensitive US sites & the Chinese Balloon

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Message posted by speedy (Member since 10/25/2017) on April 14, 2023 at 16:00:05 PST:

I've gotta disagree with your assessment. US air defense forces aren't stupid. They almost certainly chose to allow overflight for reasons other than the publicly stated one. Possibilities could include desire to observe/sniff SIGINT from the device in operation to map out its C2 scheme; to increase chances of a usable recovery by downing it over an ocean; to feed misleading information to the device as a means to deceive the adversary; to use it to test an undisclosed system on a real-world target; or dozens of other possibilities that none of us would be privy to.

News anchors were pulling out their hair about "how weak" our response was, but if that object and flight path had been assessed as a credible threat it'd have been smoked the moment it crossed the ADIZ.

Which of our "most sensitive sites" are you referring to? If it'd been Edwards/TTR/Groom I'd agree, but to my eye the most sensitive thing its actual course passed was Strike Command bases like Malmstrom/Ellsworth/Offutt and surrounding facilities, all of which are very closely accessible to the public.

I'd argue that there is limited value to such an overflight, especially an observed one that the target can prepare for. Compare it to status quo collection techniques: near-peer adversaries have powerful satellite capabilities, of course, but they also benefit from the fact that, in a free country, it is very easy to gather intel on the ground. Consider how easy it is to drive right up to the gate of so many "sensitive sites" like Minuteman launch and launch control facilities or to park outside the perimeter of a base with a car filled with hidden ELINT gear. Adversaries know, because they do it. It's effective, low visibility, and deniable to acquire photographs, sniff beeps and squeaks, and even perform detailed and accurate mapping operations using a ground agent. And don't forget that China isn't beholden to the US for GPS; it's safe to assume that BeiDou-3 can give accuracies to state users (in a non-denied environment) at least in the ballpark of those given by GPS to US forces, further refining ground-based mapping fixes.

If the targeting error you're referencing refers to ICBM/cruise/etc long range systems, it's certain that near-peer adversaries in the modern age had what they need to target accurately well prior to the balloon overflight (although equipment quality and performance consistency is far less certain). If you're positing a conventional air-to-ground attack, crews are going to lase or drop on coordinates and are going to update their INS/targeting fixes via targeting pod or radar off of morning-of imagery of immovable landmarks like crossroads, not based on old map data, whether from a satellite or a balloon.

In Reply to: Re: Sensitive US sites & the Chinese Balloon posted by Smythers on April 12, 2023 at 5:05:11 PST:


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