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China’s Spy Balloons May Have Used Ground Penetrating Radar, Former Navy Seal Says

The FBI lab will uncover the satellite's secrets by examining the wreckage in the coming weeks.

Two Chinese balloons spied on U.S. Navy Seal bases in California and Virginia – including the home of the legendary Seal Team 6 – during the Trump years, claim Biden administration officials. No evidence has been made public. 

Former Navy Seals say that there is a lot that could be observed from the sky above a Seal base. 

“Depending on what they find as far as cameras and sensors, they have the ability to actually see through the ground with ground-penetrating radar,” said Jonathan Gilliam, a former Navy Seal and FBI special agent. “They could be looking at potential missile locations. They could be looking for what aircrafts are in certain locations across the country in these vital areas.” 

The Chinese may be especially interested in Navy Seal aircraft. Following the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on 2011, the Seals left behind a wrecked U.S. Blackhawk helicopter. The never-before-seen stealth helicopter remained damaged in the wreckage that was left behind. Pakistani officials allowed Chinese officials to see and study the remnants of the Blackhawk helicopter used by Navy Seals. U.S. officials subsequently said that Pakistani officials showed the downed helicopter to Chinese military experts before it was returned to the United States. Pakistan has denied the claim. 

Chinese mock-ups from 2021 of a domestically produced Chinese helicopter bare an uncanny resemble to the stealth Blackhawk. 

US Navy SEALs train with an SH-60F “Seahawk” helicopter October 18, 2001 on the flight deck of USS Enterprise. Aircraft from the Enterprise are being used to attack targets within Afghanistan. (Photo by Lance H. Mayhew Jr./US Navy/Getty Images)

The remnants of the balloon are being recovered from the coast of South Carolina. 

“Every single thing in this nation was made in China. We don’t know how their equipment is communicating with our equipment. The ability for them to activate certain phones or systems. A lot of that comes down to what they will find in the FBI lab,” said Gilliam. 

“Where they are now, that water is only about 50 feet deep. That shouldn’t be hard to collect. When the metal structure hits the water it’s going to cause extreme damage… but they should get an idea of what cameras and sensors were on there. They will be taken to the FBI lab for analysis,” said Gilliam, who received extensive training to recover foreign objects at sea during his training as a Navy Seal. 

“The scariest part of this whole thing is that you could put one of those balloons at the top of the country and one at the bottom, they could put an electromagnetic bomb and it could pretty much set this country back to the Stone Age, because everything we do is based on electronics,” said Gilliam.

U.S. Navy divers secure NASA’s Orion Capsule during recovery operations after it splashed down following a successful uncrewed Artemis I Moon Mission on December 11, 2022 seen from aboard the U.S.S. Portland in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. (Pool photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“It would shock me that there would be any advantage to identification of military assets from the balloon that they would otherwise not be able to get,” said Scott McEwen, co-author of the best-selling book American Sniper and co-author (with Richard Miniter) of Eyes on Target. “What is the real reason that they would do and engage in such a provocative measure? I have to say that it was to engage the response from the United States and the administration, and use that response stimulation to whatever strategic planning they would want to make from that,” said McEwen. 

The debate rages over whether the Chinese balloons actually transited American skies while Donald J. Trump was president. Trump officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, deny being briefed on the matter. The press reports of the Biden administration officials are anonymous. 

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