New video footage posted online shows the moment a U.S. military aircraft shot down a Chinese spy balloon near the South Carolina coast on Saturday.
Videos posted to social media showed what appeared to be a fighter jet circling around the balloon before it shot the balloon down.
In another video posted to Twitter, a person is heard yelling that “they got it, there it goes.” The balloon then appears to collapse in the sky.
A 45-second clip posted to Twitter shows the balloon before it was shot down. It then floats downward while the U.S. military jets continue on their path.
President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden said after getting off Air Force One en route to Camp David, according to The Associated Press news agency.
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the United States this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.
The giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. About 2:39 p.m. EST, a U.S. military jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, officials said.
A news release issued by the Department of Defense confirmed it was an F-22 Raptor that shot down the aerial device.
“The balloon, which was being used by the [Chinese military] in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III said.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials on Sunday fumed over the downing of the balloon, saying the regime “strongly disapproves of” the incident. The CCP again asserted that the balloon was used in a “civilian nature,” although such claims have been previously downplayed by U.S. officials.
A number of both Democrat and Republican officials have said that the balloon should have been shot down days ago after it was spotted near Billings, Montana. Defense officials had told reporters that the Pentagon considered downing the aircraft but decided against it.
“President Biden asked the military to present options and on Wednesday President Biden gave his authorization to take down the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to us civilians under the balloon’s path,” said a senior Defense official speaking on background, according to the DOD news release. “Military commanders determined that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was overland.”
The shooting down of the balloon prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close airspace in parts of North and South Carolina, shutting down three airports.
“The FAA has paused departures from and arrivals to Wilmington (ILM), Myrtle Beach International (MYR), and Charleston International (CHS) airports. The agency has also closed additional airspace,” an FAA spokesperson told news outlets Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.