MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – A large, 30-foot payload from a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was removed from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina on Friday, according to a U.S. official.
The spy craft's payload was picked up by a crane ship, and a senior defense official told FOX News that important electronics and sensors were removed for intelligence processing.
The official said the weather and ocean conditions have not been great since Friday for big crane operations, but they have continued to remove other pieces from the ocean.
Some operations continued on Tuesday, like moving assets to and from the site. On Monday, divers went down briefly without underwater vehicles.
The People’s Republic of China confirmed the balloon belonged to the Asian country and contend it was blown off course during a research and weather-related mission.
U.S. military officials cast doubt on Chinese claims and said all indications point to the massive balloon being a surveillance craft.
President Joe Biden gave the order to shoot down the balloon on Feb. 1, but the directive was not made public until after the balloon was spotted being shot down by a U.S. fighter jet off of Myrtle Beach on Feb. 4.
"Across all of the objects over the weekend, there are certain similarities in terms of characteristics or size, but they are all unique and different in their own way," the official told FOX News.
The senior defense official said the three objects shot down over North America could be sky trash and a lot of possibilities of what they could each be are on the table.
"We're ruling nothing out," the official said. "It’s an open question about sky trash, an open question about weather experiments or other atmospheric experiments."
NORAD/NORTHCOM are hesitant over leaning too much on the pilots' physical descriptions of these different objects because it could be misleading and "could take certain questions off the table," the official added.
"When we start to call it something we stop looking for other things," the official said.