(The Hill) — The Pentagon on Wednesday released a photo of a U-2 spy plane that was hovering above the Chinese spy balloon earlier this month. The photo shows an Air Force pilot inside what appears to be a U-2 Dragon Lady just above the Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 3, while the surveillance device was still flying over the central part of the country.
A website devoted to U-2 spy planes, called Dragon Lady Today, first reported on the existence of the photo on Tuesday.
The Chinese surveillance device was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet on Feb. 4 over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.
Most of the Chinese spy balloon was recovered by the Navy, which wrapped up recovery operations last week and sent the balloon’s equipment and payload to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., for analysis.
U.S. officials have already revealed the balloon hosted antennas and was capable of collecting communications intelligence.
The deployment of U-2 reconnaissance aircraft to monitor and collect intelligence on the balloon was reported by The Drive just two days after the balloon was shot down.
U-2 Dragon Lady planes, operating with the callsigns Dragon 01 and Dragon 99, were monitoring the balloon while it was above the central U.S., according to The Drive.
The U-2s are the only aircraft that can maintain flight at the altitudes in which the balloon was flying, somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 feet in the air.
These aircraft would be able to capture high-quality images of the balloon and may have been able to jam the surveillance device from communication to any satellites above, The Drive reported.