Navy-Contracted Salvage Ship To Get Chinese Spy Balloon Remains

HOS Rosebud set sail from the Joint Expeditionary Base named Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., on Wednesday afternoon, per ship spotters. Relevant defence officials also confirmed to USNI News Monday that the ship would be embarking on additional material to recover the remains of the 200-foot balloon surveillance balloon. 

Since the balloon and commuter jet-sized surveillance pack below was shot down by an Air Force F-22 Raptor on Saturday, navy divers, Coast Guard cutters, and warships have continuously been on station and at the debris field. 

The balloon reportedly crashed in approximately 50 feet of water inside the territorial waters off the Myrtle Beach coast, S.C. As of Wednesday, the warship USS Carter Hall and the Coast Guard’s USCGC Yellowfin were close to the shootdown site, per signals from the automated identification system. 

The Coast Guard cutters, USCGC Venturous, USCGC Richard Snyder, and USCGC Nathan B. Bruckenthal, were aiding in patrolling the debris field.

Navy surveillance ship dubbed USNS Pathfinder, the guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin, and a guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea were on the scene following the crash but departed. On Wednesday evening, Pathfinder had been steaming north off the North Carolina coast, per AIS.

On Wednesday, photographs of Navy Explosive Ordnance Group 2 were released. These showed that sailors were pulling the fabric from the envelope of the balloon and from the ocean and picking through flotsam. The unit has been using Mk-18 Mod 2 Kingfish and Mk-18 Mod 1 Lionfish crewless underwater vehicles or UUVs are empowered with side scan sonar and help hunt for debris even in shallow water.

Poor weather hindered searches earlier in the week. Still, sea states on Tuesday allowed divers and explosives ordnance specialists to carry out underwater recovery and salvage, and underwater survey actions continue with crewless underwater vehicles, a Pentagon spokesman named Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder informed the reporters on Wednesday.

USNI News understands that Rosebud will bring complex salvage UUVs and other systems, which can fetch debris to the surface. For instance, similar plans had been used to recover a Navy F-35C from over 12,500 feet underwater in the Pacific. The surveillance package reportedly slung below the balloon’s envelope is thought to weigh about a thousand pounds, officials have informed.

Beyond the present recovery mission, the Pentagon reportedly acknowledged that the wreck was a part of a sophisticated Chinese surveillance mission, and there have been at least four other US overflights by several other spy balloons.

References: USNI, New York Times

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