Many have suggested that the Air Force should have just shot down the balloon using a laser or bullets to pop the Chinese balloon, instead of a missile. The reason that the fly boys used a missile is because popping a rogue balloon has been tried before, and it doesn’t work.

It was 25 years ago when the Canadians shot a balloon full of 1,000 holes and they found that this didn’t pop it, because the pressure inside of a balloon at that altitude isn’t high enough to burst the balloon.

Now you know…

On a side note, I was surprised that an AIM-9, which is a heat seeking missile, was capable of locking on to something like a helium balloon.

Categories: Military


Bad Dancer · February 10, 2023 at 6:52 am

One of my history buff friends would go on about what it would take to shoot down observation balloons during the civil war and great war, had no idea.

My proposal was to let the redbull and X Games people in on it. HAHO jump with one of those chainsaws on a pole tree pruning lances.

    Divemedic · February 10, 2023 at 7:04 am

    The balloon was at 68,000 feet. Not too many people who can jump from that altitude, and they would have to jump from a balloon themselves.

    Skyler the Weird · February 10, 2023 at 7:20 am

    The reason it was fairly easy to shoot down German observation balloons in WWI was that they were filled with flammable Hydrogen. If you could hit them with incendiary bullets they would catch fire and explode. American Ace Frank Luke was especially adapt at shooting them down.

    Allied balloons were filled with Helium and were difficult to shoot after down. The Germans couldn’t produce Helium. Even after the War the Germans had to use Hydrogen in their Zeppelins as the Allies refused to sell them Helium. The Hindenburg would not have exploded had it been filled with Helium.

      Gryphon · February 15, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      The Hindenburg was designed from the start to use Helium. It’s Gas Venting System did not have the proper Screens and Valves for Hydrogen, and the Vent Ducts could Trap the Hydrogen. The Fire started when the Mooring Crewman threw down the Rope to the Ground Crew- there is a Video taken by a Cameraman facing the Nose of the Ship, and you can see as the Rope hits the Ground, the Flash of the Static Discharge above the Ship that Ignited the Hydrogen being Vented. It was the U.S Navy that Nixed the Airline from buying Helium- they used Airships for Sub-Hunting, and Helium made them rather “Bulletproof”. They Knew that the Commercial Airships would be pressed into Military Service, as happened in WWI.

OldToolLover · February 10, 2023 at 7:34 am

The latest sidewinder apparently latches onto differences in the heat signature.

    Joe Blow · February 11, 2023 at 6:57 am

    As our host said, Aim9 is heat seeking???? Wtf?

EN2 SS · February 10, 2023 at 9:06 am

Balloon really big, in sunlight absorbing heat against a background of near space cold. No idea, just a wildassed guess. From real pilot stories, the AIM-9 goes for the hottest thing it sees, like a flare and not the plane.

SiG · February 10, 2023 at 10:04 am

I had the same thought about the Sidewinder. I kinda thought maybe the illuminated it with an IR laser from another plane or even the ground. Maybe they got a reflection from sun on the balloon? One thing is for sure, it’s not going to get blocked by clouds 11 or 12 miles up.

A Bigger Distraction · February 10, 2023 at 10:39 am

Chinky barroon take classified documents off news.
Check out the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle launch from a similar balloon for 7500 degree mushroom cloud good feelz.

it's just Boris · February 10, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Re popping a balloon in general, yes, that requires a certain amount of pressure differential, as well as skin material that is elastic and drawn into significant tension by that pressure differential. Even a toy rubber balloon doesn’t go “pop” if it’s not stretched tight.

Poking holes will work, eventually, maybe, depending on the lift gas used (e.g. helium vs. warmer air), onboard supplies (lift gas, heater fuel), and where the holes are, as well as how many there are. A 200-foot-diameter balloon has a surface area of around 126,000 square feet, and encloses around 4.6 million cubic feet. A thousand .50-cal holes have a combined surface area of around 1.4 square feet … that’s gonna take a long time to empty. As I understand it, in WWI the reason bullets worked on airships is, they used incendiary rounds and burned the skins and other flammables in the interior structures.

Re the AIM-9, did it lock onto the balloon itself, or to the instrument package and panels? Also, depending on where it was fired from, the background was probably very “cold” so it would have had a good contrast with the balloon.

    EN2 SS · February 10, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Just for ya’ll’s information, best known, projected fighter on the planet.

    Thrust: 35,000-pound class (each engine)
    Wingspan: 44 feet, 6 inches (13.6 meters)
    Length: 62 feet, 1 inch (18.9 meters)
    Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (5.1 meters)
    Weight: 43,340 pounds (19,700 kilograms)
    Maximum takeoff weight: 83,500 pounds (38,000 kilograms)
    Fuel capacity: internal: 18,000 pounds (8,200 kilograms); with 2 external wing fuel tanks: 26,000 pounds (11,900 kilograms)
    Payload: same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks.
    Speed: mach two class with supercruise capability
    Range: more than 1,850 miles ferry range with two external wing fuel tanks (1,600 nautical miles)
    Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
    Armament: one M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles

Bear Claw · February 11, 2023 at 10:13 am

They were able to lock on to it because of the nuclear power supply.
Just kidding

Angus McThag · February 11, 2023 at 12:07 pm

Sidewinders since AIM-9L have been “all aspect” missiles, which means they can lock onto and hit much cooler targets than the exhaust pipe.

It also means that they really only need a small difference in temperature from background to home in on.

In the decades of development, the software is getting better and better about rejecting locks on things like the sun or seeing that it’s a flare and not a plane.

JaimeInTexas · February 11, 2023 at 11:08 pm

If a laser is capable, cut a slit, long enough to deflate in a reasonable amount ifvtine.

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