WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Photos released by the Navy Tuesday show the recovery of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon a U.S. aircraft shot down over the weekend.
Pictures posted on Twitter were of sailors assigned to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group recovering the high-altitude balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Feb. 5. The balloon had been shot down the previous day.
On Monday, the debris field was roughly the size of “15 football fields by 15 football fields,” according to Pentagon officials.
U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen VanHerck said the 200-foot tall aircraft was in about 50 feet of water. Due to current weather conditions, VanHerck said the Pentagon was very “cognizant” of ocean currents.
Due to those currents, officials warned coastal U.S. residents that some debris — which Naval Criminal Investigative Service and FBI agents are working to collect — may float ashore. They advised individuals not to touch any of it, and instead contact law enforcement.
As to why the balloon wasn’t shot down sooner, VanHerck said it wasn’t worth the risk since it didn’t present a “physical or military threat.”
The balloon was first spotted on Jan. 28 and, over the course of several days, floated over the U.S., including areas that contained military bases and missile silos.
China has maintained the balloon was not being used for intelligence gathering and was a civilian weather balloon.
“The United States turned a deaf ear and insisted on indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship that was about to leave the United States airspace, obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice,” Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said.
The “Gang of Eight” will receive a private, classified briefing this week about China and the balloon that was shot down off the Carolina coast, Capitol Hill sources told NewsNation.
The “Gang of Eight” consists of Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate of both intelligence committees: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Mark Warner, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. Mike Turner.
McCarthy requested the meeting on Feb. 2.
NewsNation writers Caitlyn Shelton and Stephanie Whiteside contributed to this report.