Why The US Military Picked This Aircraft To Shoot Down The Chinese Balloon, UFOs

Purported Chinese spy balloons and UFOs are taking over the headlines this month. Social media is awash with all manner of theories regarding foreign airborne objects appearing in U.S. airspace. Theories range from the probable, like foreign governments doing their best to stealthily collect strategic intel, to the bizarre, where the United States is now at war with extra-terrestrials. Regardless of what is happening, the U.S. Air Force seems to have things under control for the time being.

On February 4, a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, was transferred from Langley Air Force Base's 1st Fighter Wing, where it launched an AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile at a large balloon that was reportedly a spy apparatus operated by the Chinese government, according to a press release from the Department of Defense. The balloon first entered U.S. territorial airspace near Alaska in late January and was rendered confetti six miles off the coast of South Carolina. The United States has a large arsenal of combat ready aircraft and other high tech weapons ready to counteract threats way more advanced than a surveillance balloon at a moment's notice. So why was the F-22 Raptor chosen for the job? 

The best fighter jet the USAF has to offer

As mundane as it may sound, the spy balloon was actually the first air-to-air "kill" by the F-22 since it joined the Air Force arsenal in 2005. The F-22 is called a fifth generation fighter jet by its manufacturer Lockheed Martin and considered one of the best fighter planes to ever exist. The Raptor is also a stealth aircraft. That doesn't mean it's invisible, however. You will absolutely hear one fly over, if it's close enough. But the F-22's shape and its material make it capable of slipping through radar and staying undetected. 

Its exact speed is classified, but according to released specifications from the Air Force, the Raptor can go over Mach 2. As for its munitions, the Raptor has access to a 20-millimeter cannon, two of the aforementioned Sidewinder missiles, and six more AIM-120 missiles. It is unequivocally one of the most capable aircraft in the world today, and the Air Force has 183 of them. 

The F-22's specific role as dictated by the Air Force is what's called an "air dominance" fighter and its sole purpose is to have complete control in the skies above the above the United States. If anything shows up to challenge that, in this case a Chinese surveillance balloon or a UFO, the F-22 is there to stop it.