WASHINGTON — Using underwater drones, warships and inflatable vessels, the Navy is carrying out an extensive operation to gather all of the pieces of the massive Chinese spy balloon a U.S. fighter jet shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 are seen leaning over a rigid hull inflatable boat and pulling in broad swaths of the balloon's white outer fabric and shell structure.
The head of U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Glen VanHerck, said Monday the teams were taking precautions to safeguard against the chance any part of the balloon was rigged with explosives.
The balloon was an estimated 200 feet (60 meters) tall and was carrying a long sensor package underneath, which VanHerck estimated was the size of a small regional jet.
The Navy is also using ships to map and scan the sea floor for all remaining parts of the balloon, so U.S. analysts can get a full picture of what types of sensors the Chinese were using and to better understand how the balloon was able to maneuver.
The balloon debris is scattered in waters that are about 50 feet (15 meters) deep, but stretch across an area 15 football fields long and 15 football fields across, VanHerck said.