US Department of Defense has announced that an F22 fighter jet shot down a Chinese balloon over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a statement on Saturday afternoon confirming the downing of the balloon which traversed the continental United States.
Senior defense officials revealed that at 2:39 p.m. local time an F22 stealth fighter jet fired an air-to-air missile at the balloon which fell to the water below.
The officials say that recovery work is now underway to collect the debris that are widely scattered over an area of about eleven kilometers.
US President Joe Biden ordered the balloon to be shot down safely as soon as possible on Wednesday.
He said on Saturday that the military waited for the balloon to fly over water so as to avoid risk to people on the ground.
Biden praised the airmen who successfully took it down.
Austin said in his statement that the balloon was used by China to surveil strategic sites in the continental US.
He added that Saturday's downing of the balloon shows that President Biden and his security team "always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding to" China's "unacceptable violation of our sovereignty."
China expressed regret over the incident but continues to claim that the balloon which they referred to as a "civilian airship" was flown mainly for weather research and was blown off course.