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Tipsheet

There's a New Theory About the Flying Objects Biden Shot Down

SMSGT THOMAS MENEGUIN

President Biden finally broke his silence Thursday on the unidentified airborne objects that were shot down on his orders in recent days. As Katie reported, Biden acknowledged that the objects taken out were likely harmless research balloons, raising questions about the administration's judgment in dealing with these objects across U.S. airspace. 

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If the government knew the Chinese spy balloon was headed our way, then allowed it to drift across the continental United States, why were items that were apparently just research balloons shot down with $400,000 missiles? The Biden administration has said the more recent objects jeopardized commercial air traffic — but isn't there a cheaper way to take down weather balloons? Or keep aircraft away from them?

In any case, a new report from Aviation Week offers more speculation about what the balloons Biden downed may have been — and how little they cost compared to the missiles used to end their flights:

A small, globe-trotting balloon declared “missing in action” by an Illinois-based hobbyist club on Feb. 15 has emerged as a candidate to explain one of the three mystery objects shot down by four heat-seeking missiles launched by U.S. Air Force fighters since Feb. 10. 

The club—the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB)—is not pointing fingers yet. 

But the circumstantial evidence is at least intriguing. The club’s silver-coated, party-style, “pico balloon” reported its last position on Feb. 10 at 38,910 ft. off the west coast of Alaska, and a popular forecasting tool—the HYSPLIT model provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—projected the cylindrically shaped object would be floating high over the central part of the Yukon Territory on Feb. 11. That is the same day a Lockheed Martin F-22 shot down an unidentified object of a similar description and altitude in the same general area.

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Could this be true? It's so absurd it almost has to be. More from Aviation Week:

There are suspicions among other prominent members of the small, pico-ballooning enthusiasts’ community, which combines ham radio and high-altitude ballooning into a single, relatively affordable hobby.

“I tried contacting our military and the FBI—and just got the runaround—to try to enlighten them on what a lot of these things probably are. And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down,” says Ron Meadows, the founder of Scientific Balloon Solutions (SBS), a Silicon Valley company that makes purpose-built pico balloons for hobbyists, educators and scientists.

The descriptions of all three unidentified objects shot down Feb. 10-12 match the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small pico balloons, which can usually be purchased for $12-180 each, depending on the type.

“I’m guessing probably they were pico balloons,” said Tom Medlin, a retired FedEx engineer and co-host of the Amateur Radio Roundtable show. Merlin has three pico balloons in flight in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

So, Biden may have used a $400,000 missile to take down something floated by the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade that cost as little as $12? As Katie also pointed out after the objects were first shot down, it seemed like Biden was scrambling to show action amid criticism of Biden's glaring inaction on the Chinese spy balloon.

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The Aviation Week report noted that it "contacted a host of government agencies, including the FBI, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Security Council (NSC), and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for comment about the possibility of pico balloons," but they didn't get any more clarity. "The NSC did not respond to repeated requests. The FBI and OSD did not acknowledge that harmless pico balloons are considered possible identities for the mystery objects shot down by the Air Force," Aviation Week said. 

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