“China zeroes in on ‘near space’ as potential next battlefield in modern warfare” – TTG

Comment: This CNN report answers a lot of questions about the Chinese surveillance balloon the USAF shot down last week and the three UFOs shot down, so far, this week. Chuck Shumer was told by the IC that two of the later UFOs were balloons. I assume the last one was also a balloon. This is not a new program for China or others. There are videos on YouTube of hobbyists attaching GoPro cameras and GPS devices to weather balloons and taking near space video. I’ve found at least two US private companies specializing in near space, Near Space Labs and Near Space Corporation. I’m sure there are more. 

China’s definition of near space seems to be pretty broad. Two of those balloons were shot down at 40,000 feet and the last was at 20,000. By any stretch, that’s US airspace. But what is near space? Is it from 60,000 feet or so to the Kármán line? Are there any UN or international rules governing or even defining near space? It now seems clear that we consider near space above US territory as US airspace. NORAD is responsible for monitoring near space although they’ve apparently missed any ambient temperature object in near space moving at slow speed. Judging by the way NORAD lost track of the last balloon over Montana until it was shot down over Lake Huron, we have a way to go before we can effectively track these things. Time to fiddle with the algorithms a little more. Will it be the Air Force or Space Force that will be responsible for developing effective A2/AD technology to deal with this threat? Clearly, there’s work to be done to close the balloon gap.


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33 Responses to “China zeroes in on ‘near space’ as potential next battlefield in modern warfare” – TTG

  1. Leith says:

    Fun TikTok video on the balloon incident. Link below:


    But I suspect Bebo was wrong. That appears to be a Japanese made flic, not Chinese. Although it might help placate the angry PLA generals that lost face when it was shot down,

  2. Clown World says:

    As long as we turn tax dollars into McMansions in the DC area, I don’t think it matters whether the Air Force or Space Force takes credit for protecting us from weather balloons. 😂

    You’re a funny guy!

  3. Whitewall says:

    At the rate China wants to expand ‘near space’, how long before they want to include the bottom range-currently-of LEO…Low Earth Orbit I wonder?

  4. Fourth and Long says:

    It’s been so so many many years. I still don’t know who Dinah is. (At one time my thoughts turned to Jacob’s daughter, the trollop in Genesis. At other times, a child of the fifties that I was, to Dinah Shore). But these two songs made an indelible impression on me. (It is assumed that the reader of these lines knows the tune to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”)

    I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

    I’ve been working on the railroad,
    All the live-long day.
    I’ve been working on the railroad,
    Just to pass the time away.
    Do you hear the whistle blowing?
    Rise up so early in the morn!
    Do you hear the captain calling,
    “Dinah blow your horn”?
    The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You

    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
    All the live-long day.
    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,[8]
    You cannot get away.
    Do not think you can escape them,
    From night ‘til early in the morn.
    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
    ’til Gabriel blows his horn.[9]

  5. Fred says:

    The UN sets the limits of what is US sovereign territory? Since when? You should be asking about legally binding treaties not the “rules” based order crap. More importantly why is this story changing yet again?

    At least we aren’t talking about Sy Hersh’s report that the US blew up the Nordstream pipelines. The UK and Poland must be breathing deap sighs of relief. Oh, there’s a major chemical spill in Ohio, but nothing to see there either.

    • TTG says:


      Haven’t you ever heard of UNCLOS III or the UN Outer Space Treaty? I don’t think near space has ever been addressed in that kind of format. And what has changed about the story beyond the subsequent discovery and dealing with the three UFOs?

      • Fred says:


        A treaty signed by the USSR, the UK and the USA and ratified by their governments? Do we still honor those things? That’s a far cry from “rules based order” we keep hearing about from our dear leaders.

        “what has changed about the story”
        Why it’s much ado ’bout nothing, so we were told here, which is why we now immediately shoot them down. Is it too difficult to now change all the DOD communciations to feed them garbage as they float across the CONUS? Ah the story didn’t change though. At least not on CNN.

    • Fourth and Long says:


      Breaking news:

      Bisexual but Transexual on weekends Superman saves world from UFO over lake Huron with help from gender-modified ex crack addict lesbian Supergirl, just in time to pull crook Energizer Bunny stand-in President’s oysters out of fire due to revelation of illegal act of war by 85 year old Pulitzer prize winning journalist. And pentagon budget skyrockets again!

  6. Leith says:

    TTG –

    This may go back a long ways, 15 or more years at least. To 2007 maybe when a former flyweight Nevada high school amateur boxer initiated a program to study Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Were you or Colonel Lang in DIA involved with that program or was it primarily run by the Navy? I think many of the sightings back then and even more recently were by Navy pilots.

    Any ideas on where these smaller car-sized versions were launched from? China itself? That might be weird with that S to N route they appear(?) to be taking. The speculation at my local coffee shop focuses on Chinese or Russian launch teams in Nicaragua, or Cuba, or Venezuela. That’s BS IMO as it would include too many people in on the secret. So I’m wondering if they were launched from Chinese container ships. But that’s a WAG. Although in the recent past Navy training exercises in US waters have been spied on by UAVs from a Chinese flagged ship.

  7. Al says:

    Recall the Japanese balloons dropping incendiary bombs on our NW forests in WWII
    THE “5 Nickels” black paratroopers of the 82nd were sent out to Pendelton, Or, to jump into the fire areas.
    Family of 6 picnicking in woods were all killed by one of the bombs.

  8. different clue says:

    If the current method of shooting down such near-above objects costs more than the near-above objects themselves cost, I wonder if a way to neutralize them which costs less than they do could be developed.

    I wonder if power lasers or masers on earth could be set up to “burn” them with. Building the lasers or masers would cost a lot, but shooting beams out of them should not cost all that much, I would think.

  9. Mike C says:


    I believe the book definition in the U.S. is airspace above 60k feet is ‘Class E’ and they hand out Astronaut wings for flights above 50 miles. Other countries use 100 km.

    At 400-500 grand/ shot we’re going to need a more cost effective way to shoot these things down if this keeps happening (I still think it would be more fun to try to grab them).

    • Leith says:

      Mike C –

      Why didn’t they use 20mm? Too close maybe and risk being hit by debris?

      • Mike C says:


        I’d only be guessing. I’m thinking though that it was pretty small and very slow, I don’t know what the visual conditions were, etc. They probably figured that the missile could lock it up so that was safest.

  10. scott s. says:

    Going back to the Paris Convention of 1919 a distinction has been made between “state aircraft” and “civil aircraft”. The Chicago Convention of 1944 maintained this distinction and did not modify what the Paris Convention and customary international law held as regards “state aircraft”. The Paris Convention did not discuss a vertical limit of state sovereignty, but did define “aircraft” which would be subject to the convention as “all machines which can derive support in the atmosphere from reactions of the air.” By that definition it would seem balloons of necessity are aircraft. The Paris Convention only provides a limited right of “innocent passage” and that was not modified by the Chicago Convention.

    With respect to balloon overflights, after protest by USSR of US balloon overflights in 1956, SecState JF Dulles declared the US had a right to fly balloons at a certain height anywhere around the world.

    The FAA regulates US airspace by “class” and defines Class A (under positive ATC control) as extending vertically from FL180 to FL600 (more or less 60,000 ft). Airspace above that is Class E which allows VFR flight. But I think you now are required to have ADSB transmitters in Class E.

    UNCLOS extended national airspace to the air over the territorial seas, with overflight through international straits treated like ship navigation.

  11. jim ticehurst.. says:

    The Same Type Balloon in China Was Show with a Similar Attached Cage Carrying
    Hypersonic Missiles..During Tests in China..First Strike Ambitions..

    They Say This Balloon was Collecting and Transmitting…Data But Could
    Not Bet Hacked..As I Reported Here a Week or so Ago…China Has Placed
    a “Quantum” Communication Satellite .in Orbit That Cant be Hacked..

    Our Government only Responded After A Civilian Photographed and
    Reported it..Either They Knew and had Let it Enter and Gather…Or
    They Found Out Afteer bTheb Report..and Tweaked Thier Filters to Find
    This One..And All Previous Flight/Radar Data…

    If Thats The Case..Did The Chinese ICC Know That Information ..And Was
    That Data of Our Weakness Provided Them By Current Spys still Inside The
    U.S.ICC/Military Communitys…??

    Rumors Are The Other Three Objects Are Balloons..Now Exposed By Tweaks…
    or Is This a Deliberate Flag Operation..To Tone the Critics Down..?

    • TTG says:

      jim ticehurst,

      Who said they could not be hacked or, at least, jammed?

    • different clue says:

      I have read the suggestion that these high-ish altitude balloons and such are collecting data about how the winds, air densities, etc. up there work; so as to be able to factor that information into the development of hypersonic missiles which have to fly through the air at that altitude.

      If so, it would be good to kill every one of these “black boxes” so that nothing is left of them for anyone downwind to pick back up and recover.

  12. English Outsider says:

    Biden’s in the right on this. If it gets that anyone can fly a balloon over then terrorists could fly one over and drop Lord knows what on any city. If it’s not known who it belongs to, why it’s there, and what’s in it then down it comes. Preferably shoot down anything unaccounted for that enters the ADIZ.

    As for getting up there to shoot them down, what happened to the U2? It managed 70.000 feet. If that technology’s lost I believe one of these night still be available from South Africa:-


    ” Lightning pilot and Chief Examiner Brian Carroll reported taking a Lightning F.53 up to 87,300 feet (26,600 m) over Saudi Arabia at which level “Earth curvature was visible and the sky was quite dark”, noting that control-wise “[it was] on a knife edge”.[87]”

    Comes with bombs, rockets or cannon to taste. Has no trouble shooting down pilotless aircraft so would walk it with a balloon. “A Lightning was tasked with shooting down a pilot-less Harrier over West Germany in 1972. The pilot had abandoned the Harrier which continued flying toward the East German border. It was shot down to avoid a diplomatic incident.”

    I commend it to the attention of the USAF. An unusual experience for them as well, buying British.

    So that sorts errant balloons out. Not happy about the free for all up there with satellites either. If Musk sends one of his satellites over my house I want transit fees. If it’s geostationary I want rent. I have to live with the fact that the Crown, not I, own whatever’s beneath my feet. Doesn’t mean that any Tom Dick or Harry can take liberties with what’s above my head.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      You may consider seeking help urgently and now in preparation for upcoming disasters such as being swept up and kidnapped by pillaging high-flying and possibly asian balloonists who will hold you for ransom until Blighty releases the recipes for Colman’s Mustard and King Charlie’s favorite Shepherds Pie.

      • English Outsider says:

        They’re welcome. But they’re not getting my curried swede!

        King Charlie? Sounds a rather cuddly term for a reigning Monarch. He’s our Head of State you know. I wouldn’t dream of being so disrespectful to Sleepy Joe.

        Anyway we’ve not got used to him yet. As HRH that is. For us, he’ll always be our Green Prince.

  13. Fourth and Long says:

    The highly secret and immensely powerful organization which we are always in contact with has ennobled itself once more by sharing with interlocutor F&L the correct understanding of the word-pair “Mysterious Balloons.”

    Here it is. If you don’t get it at first, consider these helpers: “Mister Greenjean’s house, kiddies,” and “Auntie Em’s, Dorothy.”


    Mysterious Balloons.

    Is to be read as: Mister IOU’s Ball, Loons.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      Don’t Miss it, the photo and story here:

      It seems a $398,000 sidewinder Miss Silly Missed.

      Missing Miss Silly, that’s what the song will say.

      General Milley discusses Missing Miss Silly! It rhymes.

      Can we change “Lake Huron” to “Lay Cure On” in time for the next pandemic?
      I hope Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley are allowing transexual and LGBTQ+ fighter pilots to take a crack at mysterious (fake, just a little bit maybe) unseen unidentified weather balloons which appeared right after Joe Biden’s state of the union speech and Seymour Hersh’s article. Most celebrated journalist in American history has to publish on substack. Because we have a free press. And freeze peach!

  14. Sam says:

    CBS News has learned that U.S. intelligence watched the Chinese spy balloon as it lifted off near China’s south coast, meaning the U.S. military had been tracking it for nearly a week before it entered U.S. airspace.


    If they’ve been tracking the balloon since liftoff, why this media hoopla? What’s the purpose of firing million dollar missiles at these inexpensive ballons?

  15. elkern says:

    I suspect that China learned more about the USA from our reaction to that balloon than from any pictures it sent home. We have become a nation that can be driven into a frenzy by our Media Overlords, with a government that reacts to everything by shooting at it. We focus on (imagined?) military threats, while China has overtaken us as the world’s #1 industrial power.

    Maybe I’m just too jaded about things like this. AFAIK, nobody has shown convincing evidence that it was a “Spy Balloon” rather than a “Weather Balloon” as China claims. (IMO, it’s most likely Dual Use = good cover).

    That said, we – USA – do need to up our game for working in “Near Space”. One of the things we learned from this is that we apparently don’t have the technical capability to go up there and grab things floating over our country*. Another thing learned is that there is no international agreement on what’s OK and what’s not, up there. Likewise, there is no international framework like Air Traffic Control to track & identify objects in the stratosphere. So, we have some Diplomatic work to do, as well as some R&D.

    * Maybe we *do* have some Skunkworks vehicle which could have grabbed that balloon, but using it would reveal capabilities better left in the dark until there’s a real emergency.

  16. TTG says:

    A lot of people, including myself, questioned the use of $400K missiles to take down the balloons rather than the 20mm Vulcan cannons of the F-22 and F-16. Back in 1998 two Canadian CF-18 Hornets attempted to shoot down an errant research balloon between 27,000 and 37,000 feet. They fired over 1,000 rounds and the balloon kept going. Seems that at high altitude, the gas doesn’t leak out of the balloon. That balloon stayed aloft for days and even gained altitude at one point. US and British aircraft attempted to shoot it down after it crossed the Atlantic with cannon fire and didn’t have much luck either. Eventually enough helium leaked out and it slowly landed.

    Another problem with the first ballon was that it was out of range of the F-22’s cannon. The balloon was still 7,000 feet above the Raptor at it’s max altitude.

    If this is going to be a reoccurring threat, perhaps we need a fleet of “attack balloons.” Lockheed Martin tested some stratospheric high altitude airships (HAA) for surveillance. DOD planed a fleet of ten of these HAA for NORAD. They looked like a Zeppelin, had a 2,000 pound payload and solar power. Add a sturdy drag hook and/or some suicide drones and we’ll own near space, at least over our territory.

    I remember computer games using these battle blimps. “Crimson Skies” had dirigible aircraft carriers and heavily armed dirigible cruisers. This game used 1930s era technology in a US that broke into warring states. Another game, called “Guns of Icarus,” was based on steampunk ideas and had elaborate airships.

    • cobo says:

      TTG: Let’s develop the ability to grab objects from the atmosphere to space.

      How about developing balloon launched modules that can aggregate to whatever size necessary. These modules can rise and stabilize at the necessary altitude. The modules have thrusters allowing them to maneuver as needed, and they have frontal packages that can support a variety of capabilities. These can be used to “grab” balloons, UAVs, etc.

      There can even be thrust packages with armor cladding to “grab” difficult objects. Imagine the innovations such a development program could encourage. Perhaps even the ability to launch spacecraft from upper altitudes.

    • Mike C says:


      One thing on my mind is these incidents have showed that we don’t have very many tools in the kit for these situations. Forget about foreign interlopers for a moment, we don’t have much flexibility for airspace violations period, be they someone’s wayward backyard project, pranks (Jetpack man), some pilot not reading NOTAMs or monitoring guard blundering into a TFR, etc.

      Back to balloons. We actually have a decent amount of experience with high-altitude aircraft. NASA had the ERAST program more than 20 years ago that focused on scientific research UAVs that could fly long endurance missions above 60k feet. The Helios aircraft that came out of that demonstrated straight-and-level flight at over 96k feet. Scaled Composites has the Proteus, which maintained over 60k with a pair of modified bizjet engines. Getting up there and flying slowly enough is not an unsolvable problem.

      What to do about a hostile balloon once we’re there? I started thinking a shotgun would literally do more damage than a 20mm that didn’t fuse, so, why not use a shotgun? Motor up to within spitting distance and blast the top of the envelope til it shreds. But maybe even that’s not necessary, the envelope is the weak link, anything sharp or hot enough could unzip the thing and drop it. Suicide drones is a great idea, but maybe they don’t even need to suicide. And, of course, if they ever get directed energy working right, it will work very nicely at high altitude.

  17. Zoe Brown says:

    This article does a great job of explaining the situation regarding the Chinese surveillance balloons and UFOs that have been shot down recently. Some of my questions have been answered, but I’m still unsure about what exactly is considered near space and if there are any international regulations governing this area. Is near space from 60,000 feet or so to the Kármán line, and are there any international rules in place for this area?

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