There's an ICAO treaty covering - among other things - weather balloons. TL;DR section is Appendix 4 section 2:So China's probably shooting down someone's weather balloon, and we probably shot down three already.
All the free balloons I've seen that are deployed en masse for high-altitude meteorology without obtaining consent are 2 - perhaps 3 - meters in diameter and surely too lightly constructed to be detected by radar. I gather the balloons being observed and shot down in the last week or so have all been immensely larger and permission was never sought.1. Classification of unmanned free balloons
Unmanned free balloons shall be classified as:
a) light: an unmanned free balloon which carries a payload of one or more packages with a combined mass of less than 4 kg, unless qualifying as a heavy balloon in accordance with c) 2), 3) or 4) below; or
2. General operating rules
2.2 An unmanned free balloon, other than a light balloon used exclusively for meteorological purposes and operated in the manner prescribed by the appropriate authority, shall not be operated across the territory of another State without appropriate authorization from the other State concerned.
2.3 The authorization referred to in 2.2 shall be obtained prior to the launching of the balloon if there is reasonable expectation, when planning the operation, that the balloon may drift into airspace over the territory of another State. Such authorization may be obtained for a series of balloon flights or for a particular type of recurring flight, e.g. atmospheric research balloon flights.
When you're comparing metal aircraft to one another this is true - metal is a fantastic radar reflector however through a combination of geometry and maintaining a defined bearing relative to both known and likely transmitters the return can be reduced to a value near or below below detection threshold. Even composites - be they exotic carbon fiber or bog-standard fiberglass - will return radar well enough to be detected. However best I can tell actual weather balloon envelopes are generally made from latex which is apt to present a negligible return of itself being extremely low-density and a terrible conductor thus absorbs very little radar and reflects a negligible fraction of it back; it's the addition of a purpose-built radar reflector as @chillinn has mentioned that makes them conspicuous.According to Ben Rich's book about the F-117, it's the shape of the object that determines the strength of the radar return, not the size.
That thing was never going to hide from an air defense radar paying actual attention to its slice of the sky - likely just enough lifting margin to heft the mass of instruments, comms, power, and whatever sort of navigation it could manage via altitude regulation.The large balloon shot down off the east coast didn't look stealthy at all though, with that basic truss-structure. And I'd assume the balloon itself would also reflect radar. It could be coated with radar absorbing material (RAM) but the shape should still give some return signal.
Same. There are benefits to observing at ~10% the elevation of LEO spy satellites but the odds your adversary will carry on business as usual so you can scoop up some sweet ne plus ultra res photos and SIGINT when they can see the thing coming are small.I really think the point was to learn about detection ability, readiness and response.
Eh, suspect one of the reasons the initial intercept took so long was to arrange to reveal as little as possible.And we played right into their hand, so now now they know.
I still can’t believe we let it fly basically across the entire US before we took it out. The talk is they didn’t want to hurt anybody on the ground. Christ it went over rural Montana! They could of just went in grab the 5-6 people that live there and bring them back after it came down 😂