Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Pilots in seven near misses with objects that could have been spy balloons in UK airspace in past year | The Sun

PLANES flying over Britain had at least SEVEN near misses with floating objects last year, according to new analysis.

Data from the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) revealed multiple pilots spotted devices that looked similar to spy balloons.

And some of the objects caused passenger safety levels to drop "below the norm".

It comes as Rishi Sunak warned British war planes are on standby to shoot down Chinese spy equipment at a moment's notice.

Shocking UKAB reports showed that on December 17, one pilot flying above north London spotted an object that  "could have been a balloon or an egg-shaped drone" floating at 50-200ft.

And on July 2 a pilot saw "what was first thought to be balloons" at 7,500 feet around Manchester Airport.

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Meanwhile, on on July 16 a captain flying in Hertfordshire noticed an device that was "grey/silver in colour and about the size of a large drone or balloon".

Yesterday, the PM vowed to do "whatever it takes" to protect UK airspace from hostile flying objects.

And he confirmed the army's Quick Reaction Alert Force is on 24/7 notice to protect Brits from Chinese Communist spies.

"We’ll do whatever it takes to keep the country safe," Mr Sunak pledged.

"We have something called the Quick Reaction Alert Force, which involves typhoon planes which are kept on 24/7 readiness to police our airspace, which is incredibly important."


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The PM added: "I can’t go into detail on national security matters, but we’re in constant touch with our allies and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep our country safe."

This morning a former British ambassador to the US and national security adviser cast doubt on Mr Sunak's confidence in combating enemy balloons.

Lord Kim Darroch told Times Radio: "I think we have under-invested in defence for the last couple of decades – one might argue ever since the end of the Cold War – and we don’t have all the kit and equipment that we really need and there are gaps around in the technology our armed forces have.

"So, we will have some capability; whether we have a watertight capability as the Prime Minister says, I'm not so sure."

He added: "But we have enough capability, I think, that people can certainly sleep easy in their beds about."

Last week Defence Secretary Ben Wallace exclusively told The Sun that Chinese balloons could have spied on the UK ALREADY, and he would have shot them down if they were spotted.

The Ministry of Defence will launch an official probe into the matter imminently.

Mr Sunak refused to confirm if a spy balloon has already crossed British skies.

"As I said, I wouldn't comment in detail on security matters," he said.

"But people should be reassured that we have all the capabilities in place to keep the country safe."

Earlier this month the US military took down a balloon the size of three buses, which was spotted lurking near nuke bases around Montana.

A US official said that the balloon had flown over areas that contained sensitive airbases and nuclear missiles in underground silos.

MPs in Britain have sounded the alarm over similar acts happening closer to home.

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns told The Sun: "Our Quick Reaction Force Typhoons keep our airspace safe and have proven themselves time and time again, not least against Russian Bear jets when they've dared us by flying along our airspace to test our response.

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"The US is analysing the capabilities of the Chinese Spy Balloons they've shot down, and then Five Eyes Nations will need to ensure we have the capabilities to detect and destroy any balloons in our skies.

"The Chinese Communist Party is in our skies, on our streets and in our pockets – it's time everyone woke up to the threat, and that they don't play by the rules."

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