On February 4, 2023, an Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. After falling from an altitude of over 60,000 feet, debris from the balloon fell into about 50 feet of water six miles off the coast. Since then, recovery and salvage efforts have begun and the Navy released the first close-up images of the balloon.
Given the foreign nature of the balloon, the Navy detailed sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 to the recovery. These specially trained and equipped sailors are experts in handling potentially dangerous material in hazardous and uncertain environments. Supported by ships and aircraft from the Navy and Coast Guard, EODGRU 2 fished the first remnants of the high-altitude surveillance balloon from the ocean on February 5, 2023.
Military officials noted that the initial debris field from the balloon is 15 football fields wide by 15 football fields long. In support of the recovery effort, the amphibious landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) is collecting debris in the vicinity of where the balloon splashed down. To locate and recover underwater debris, the survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS-60) and at least one unmanned underwater vehicle are also participating.
Although the balloon landed six miles off the coast, changing ocean currents may have carried debris onto the shore. Military officials noted that the public should not collect any debris that they may find on the coast. Instead, the public can assist by notifying local law enforcement personnel if they spot any balloon remnants.