“We had plenty of capacity to scoop that balloon out of the air,” Gingrich said Monday on Fox News. “We used to do it all the time.”
But Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) ― who served in the Air Force ― was standing by with a fact-check, writing on Twitter:
Having served on active duty, I know for a fact the US does not have a balloon scooper aircraft. Newt Gingrich, who never served in the military, has no idea what he is talking about.
Also, unlike the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration shot down the CCP balloon. https://t.co/domZOAxnsp
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 7, 2023
Gingrich mentioned past operations to capture airborne objects, but experts said the techniques wouldn’t likely work with the balloon.
“Back in Vietnam days, they did use helicopters and cargo planes to sort of fling reconnaissance drones and return them so they could get the film, so it’s not far-fetched,” national security analyst Rebecca Grant, an aerospace expert at IRIS Independent Research, told Newsweek last week. “It’s just been a while since we did anything like that.”
The Washington Post cited an “authoritative Pentagon official” as saying the agency considered attempting to capture the balloon, but concluded the technology to do so does not exist. Similarly, an unnamed U.S. official told CBS News that capturing the balloon in the air would not be possible.
Instead, the military shot the balloon down once it reached the skies over the ocean, where the debris wouldn’t pose a threat to people on the ground.
An operation is now underway to recover the balloon wreckage.