Members of the Westfield’s 104th Fighter Wing assisted in shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina Saturday afternoon.
“As part of our 24/7/365 mission to protect the United States from aerial threats, we launched two F-15C Eagles in support of the successful downing of the Peoples Republic of China surveillance balloon,” Col. David Halasi-Kun, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing.
“We’re very proud to have taken part,” Halasi-Kun said in a written statement on Sunday.
He did not specifically describe the work the crews of the two fighter jets did to bring down the Chinese balloon.
The 104th Air National Guard’s Fighter Wing, which is stationed at Barnes Air National Guard Base, currently has 21 F-15C Eagles assigned to the unit.
The balloon was first seen entering the US air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and moved over land across Alaska and then into Canada. It crossed back into the United States in Idaho on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
While President Biden ordered it downed on Wednesday, advisors said it would be safer to wait until it was over water to prevent injuring people on the ground. Officials collected intelligence on the balloon to learn how it moved and what it was capable of surveilling until Saturday when it moved off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Associated Press said.
The balloon, which was flying at about 60,000 feet, was shot down at about 2:40 p.m. by an F-22 fighter crew that aimed a missile at the balloon, puncturing it. The Navy then took over to recover the debris, the Associated Press reported.
The F-22 Raptor crew took off from Langley Air Force Base, in Virginia. It fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile to take down the balloon, according to officials from the 104th Fighter Wing.
The 104th maintains an all-hours Aerospace Control Alert providing armed F-15 fighters ready to scramble on a moment’s notice to protect the northeast United States from any airborne threat, assuring security for one-quarter of the nation’s population and over one-third of its Gross Domestic Product, officials said.
Officials for the 104 could not be reached immediately for further comment