President Joe Biden’s administration has spent more than $1,600,000 shooting down what may very well be $12 balloons. Biden addressed the nation for the first time Thursday on the U.S. military shooting down objects over the past two weeks, four total shoot-downs, involving a Chinese spy balloon and three additional still unknown objects.
Later on Thursday, after Biden’s address, a report emerged that one of the unknown objects might have been a $12 balloon belonging to an Illinois-based hobbyist club.
Aviation Week reported, “A small, globe-trotting balloon declared ‘missing in action’ by an Illinois-based hobbyist club on February 15 has emerged as a candidate to explain one of the three mystery objects shot down by four heat-seeking missiles launched by U.S. Air Force fighters since February 10.”
The outlet said the club’s balloon, a silver coated, party-style, Pico balloon, was last seen on February 10 at 38,910 feet off the west coast of Alaska. That happens to be the same day Biden ordered an F-22 fighter jet to shoot down an object at around that altitude in that area.
Matter of fact, the outlet reported, the descriptions of all of the three still-unidentified objects that were shot down after the Chinese spy balloon “match the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small Pico balloons, which can usually be purchased for $12-$180 each, depending on the type.”
The military has acknowledged it used AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to shoot down each object. Each missile costs around $400,000. One object required two missiles after the first one missed, bringing the total cost of shooting down the three objects to more than $1,600,000.
According to Popular Mechanics, those costs do not include operating labor and fuel costs for operating the F-22s, or other aircraft involved in the shoot-downs. Operating costs for F-22s are $85,325 per hour.
The costs do not include recovery operations, which have been ongoing for days in three different locations.
The Biden administration has been mocked on social media for spending so much money to take down what are potentially hobby balloons. Here are some examples after Biden’s speech on Thursday:
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted: “To be fair, Biden is providing powerful deterrence for any high school science clubs that might try to invade America..”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “Biden shot down some kids’ science project with a $400K sidewinder missile! (By the way) Biden admitted in his speech today, while not acknowledging this situation directly, that the balloons they shot down were likely just being used for ‘research or recreation.'”
Former Michigan Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI) mocked it as the “Great Balloon Panic of 2023.” Meijer tweeted: “RIP to the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade’s $80 ham radio transmitter balloon, likely the victim of friendly fire by a $143,000,000 USAF F-22 firing a $485,000 AIM-9X Sidewinder missile during the Great Balloon Panic of 2023.”
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