The strange sight of a suspected Chinese spy balloon floating across America has caused one of the more unusual diplomatic rows of recent years, with Washington and Beijing locking horns over the giant object, which was shot down off the South Carolina coast. With the U.S. on high alert, other “unidentified” objects have subsequently been shot down over Alaska and Canada. The huge balloon that kicked off the bizarre chain of events was part of a massive aerial spy program linked to China’s military, according to the Biden administration. China has angrily denied this, saying that the balloon was a weather airship that strayed off course, and accusing America of overreacting.
On Wednesday, Beijing said it would take measures against entities related to the downing of the balloon, but did not give details. On Thursday, China imposed sanctions on U.S. defense giants Raytheon Technologies Corp.
and Lockheed Martin Corp.
for supplying weapons to Taiwan — which China has claimed as its own — and regularly faces military harassment from its much larger neighbor. Aviation expert David Cenciotti, author of the Aviationist blog, thinks we haven’t seen the last of these incidents over North America. “I think there might be more sightings in the near future,” the pilot and former Italian Air Force officer told MarketWatch via email. “And I also believe that the rise in aerial shootdowns is somehow linked to the criticism caused by the response to the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the U.S. for days before being shot down.” Related: Spy balloon incident was a ‘coordinated effort to gather intelligence,’ former NORAD operations director says Cenciotti said he thinks the balloon likely prompted NORAD radar system changes, which helped spot the other objects that were shot down. “Monitoring of the airspace has likely been improved, removing some filters that previously discarded slow-moving objects and probably also changing the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) to allow faster engagements and ‘decommissions’ of these objects,” he said. “This will probably lead to more flying objects being investigated by fighters in the future: until the whole process is fine-tuned, some are inevitably going to be ‘false positives’ (i.e. commercial or private balloons with no nefarious intent); others might really be objects launched by near-peer competitors, like the large Chinese balloon shot down on Feb. 4.” In another twist, the White House said Tuesday there could be a “benign” commercial or research explanation for the three high-altitude objects downed over the weekend. Kuan-Wei Chen, an expert in international law, and managing editor of the McGi …