US release photo of Chinese balloon taken from high altitude spy plane

The image was captured a day before the Air Force shot down the balloon off the South Carolina coast, making international headlines.

US release photo of Chinese balloon taken from high altitude U-2 spy plane

The US Department of Defence has released an image taken by a pilot as they fly over a Chinese air balloon which was shot down earlier this month.

The picture shows the top of the pilot’s helmet inside the high altitude U-2 spy plane with the balloon flying below.

It was taken February 3 as the balloon “hovered over the Central Continental United States”, according to the caption provided by the Defence Department.

The image was captured a day before the Air Force shot it down off the South Carolina coast – while the balloon was no longer over land but still within US territorial waters.

The Pentagon announced last Friday that Navy ships and submersibles had completed recovery of the massive balloon and its payload, which fell in pieces into the Atlantic Ocean.

The payload was recovered from the ocean floor and is being analysed by the FBI, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on Wednesday.

The shootdown led to three other smaller objects also being shot down by Air Force jets within a period of eight days: one over Alaska, one over Canada and one over Lake Huron. Searches for the Alaska and Lake Huron objects have ended.