Spy/surveillance balloons were widely used during the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union (Russia), but recent events involving the shooting down of a Chinese balloon in US airspace have shown why today they are not a particularly valued capability.


This article by Lily Hay Newman, writing for Wired, makes the following points:
  • Spy balloons were widely used before the development of low-Earth and geosynchronous satellites.
  • Unlike satellites, which are out of sight, the Chinese spy balloon was relatively easy to see, find and destroy.
  • Spy balloons have limited intelligence-gathering capability when compared to satellites.


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