The world is on-edge, thanks in part to America-hating tyrants who've been emboldened by Biden's lack of strength on the world stage, a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a tendency to be corrected on major U.S. policy by his unelected aides. Among those rattling their sabers in light of Biden's blunders are China and Russia, two of America's foes that Biden has gaffed about in just the last few months.
Toward Russia, Biden made an off-the-cuff conclusion to his speech in Europe by saying "for God's sake, this man [Putin] cannot remain in power." The statement was quickly corrected by West Wing staff who clarified that the U.S. position was not for some sort of coup or takedown to achieve regime change. Biden, stubbornly, doubled down on his stated sentiment anyway. Plus Biden has sent or committed nearly $7 billion in American aid and weapons to Ukraine, not exactly music to Russia's ears.
Across another ocean, China has been escalating its hostilities toward Taiwan, which apparently caused Biden to commit U.S. forces to defend the island nation should Xi Jinping and his commie troops decide to take Taiwan by force. Yet again, Biden's aides corrected the nearly octogenarian leader of the free world to point out that the U.S. policy toward Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion had not changed. America, the aides "clarified," would only provide material support to Taiwan and would not actually engage in the defense of the nation against China.
In both cases, it's not a surprise that these nations' tyrannical leaders smell blood in the water when it comes to seizing the opportunity presented by Biden's weakness. So what's the White House's latest idea to circumvent the threats from Russia and China? Balloons. Yes, really.
According to fresh analysis of Pentagon budgets this week, "high-altitude inflatables, flying at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, would be added to the Pentagon’s extensive surveillance network and could eventually be used to track hypersonic weapons." In the rock-paper-scissors game of world domination, it's hard to imagine that balloon beats hypersonic weapon, but Biden's depleted our own stockpiles with 14 drawdowns of U.S. supplies for shipments to Ukraine so perhaps balloons are the best option left?
Over the past two years, the Pentagon has spent about $3.8 million on balloon projects, and plans to spend $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023 to continue work on multiple efforts, according to budget documents.
For years, DoD has conducted tests using high-altitude balloons and solar-powered drones to collect data, provide ground forces with communication and mitigate satellite problems. The Pentagon is quietly transitioning the balloon projects to the military services to collect data and transmit information to aircraft, POLITICO discovered in DoD budget justification documents.
Raven Aerostar, a division of Raven Industries, produces the balloons. Raven said they consist of a flight control unit, powered by batteries that are charged using renewable solar panels. They also have a payload electronics package that controls flight safety, navigation and communications, Russell Van Der Werff, engineering director at Raven Aerostar, said in an interview.
Wind currents allow the balloon to float along a desired flight path, and the company takes advantage of different wind speeds and directions to move the balloon to the target area.
In the past, the Pentagon has tried other inflatable concepts with...not good results. There was an earlier tethered "spy blimp" program that was started and then killed off in the 2010s after the JLENS — Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System — broke away from its tether in Baltimore and drifted aimlessly for hours before "landing" in rural Pennsylvania some 80 miles north of Harrisburg, according to POLITICO. The $2 billion spent to develop the tethered inflatable concept that was tested to monitor for incoming missiles aiming for the Eastern Seaboard, apparently, not well-spent.
Apparently, while Russia and China kick their hypersonic missile development into overdrive, the Biden administration is looking to advance balloons. Can the Pentagon also work on other projects? Of course. Could a network of balloons some 15 miles above the earth be an early-warning system if Biden really steps in it and we're in a new missile crisis? Perhaps. But maybe tax dollars should be spent on replenishing our reserves of existing weapons — or focusing on our own next generation of missiles that make Russian and Chinese arms look antiquated — rather than relying on balloons that seem like a sitting-duck target.