Ex-RAF Chief say Brits shouldn't 'get their knickers in a twist' over Chinese spy balloons just yet

14 February 2023, 07:45 | Updated: 14 February 2023, 09:10

Ex-RAF Chief says we should find out what spy kit is attached to Chinese balloons before worrying

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The former chief of air staff has said suspected Chinese spy balloons are "an irritation" but "it would be very useful to find out what's actually in them before we get too excited".

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon said until it was known what kind of equipment the balloons were carrying they were "an irritation" adding it was "highly likely" they were carrying "some spy equipment."

But, the defence expert urged caution telling Nick it would be "very useful" to "find out what's in it before we get our knickers in a twist."

Read more: 'We will do whatever it takes': Rishi Sunak pledges to shoot down spy balloons as US warns of growing threat from China

Asked why China would bother with surveillance balloons when it already has "260 spy satellites", he told Nick: "It's a very good question. That's been sort of exercising my mind, what they are getting from a balloon that they can't get from other sources is not clear to me at all, and probably we have enough information available from satellites which they are able to get on to, and frankly using Google and all the rest of it, would give them an awful lot of information.

"I think possibly there's an opportunity to listen in to certain things that they might not be able to do so easily."

On whether such balloons could be shot down if they enter UK airspace, Sir Michael said: "Probably the most likely is let it drift out towards sea and then shoot it down there but I go back to what I said to start with, it would be very useful to find out what's actually in them before we get too excited."

Nick Ferrari: 'Why are we sending £50m to Beijing?!'

The conversation comes after Rishi Sunak said the Government will do "whatever it takes" to keep the UK safe from the threat of spy balloons.

It comes after four unidentified objects were spotted over the US and Canada in recent days - the first of which China claimed was an 'out of control' weather balloon.

The US has since warned that China could continue to pose a growing threat with its collection efforts.

Read more: US defends decision to shoot down three unidentified objects

Nick Ferrari thinks Brits have bigger concerns than Chinese spy balloons

Asked about whether spying devices had been seen in UK airspace, Rishi Sunak told broadcasters: "I want people to know that we will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe.

"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.

"I can't obviously comment in detail on national security matters, but we are in constant touch with our allies and, as I said, we will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe."

When pressed about the possibility of incidents in UK airspace, the Prime Minister added: "As I said, I wouldn't comment in detail on security matters but people should be reassured that we have all the capabilities in place to keep the country safe."

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