WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A senior U.S. general responsible for bringing down a Chinese spy balloon said the military had not detected previous spy balloons before the one that appeared on Jan. 28 over the United States and called it an “awareness gap.”
The Pentagon said over the weekend that Chinese spy balloons had briefly flown over the United States at least three times during President Donald Trump’s administration and one previously under President Joe Biden.
Air Force General Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command, said the latest balloon was 200 feet (60 meters) tall and the payload under it weighed a couple thousand pounds.
He did not provide details on previous balloons, including where over the United States they flew.
“I will tell you that we did not detect those threats, and that’s a domain awareness gap,” VanHerck said.
VanHerck added that U.S. intelligence determined the previous flights after the fact based on “additional means of collection” of intelligence without offering further details on whether that might be cyber espionage, telephone intercepts or human sources.
Senior U.S. officials have offered to brief individuals from the previous administration on the details of previous balloons overflights when Trump was president.
Republican Representative Michael Waltz, who serves on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said on Sunday that the Pentagon had told him that several Chinese balloon incidents had happened over the past few years, including over Florida.
A U.S. Air Force fighter jet shot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, a week after it first entered U.S. airspace and triggered a dramatic -- and public