Jacob Stokes, senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific security programme at the Centre for a New American Security in Washington, also suggested that surveillance may turn out to be just one of multiple roles for specialised balloons in a new age of atmospheric warfare. They could serve as back-up communications relays, if satellites are knocked out or blinded by counter-measures. Or a balloon could serve as a mother ship, carrying a canister containing a swarm of drones that could unleashed on enemy territory.
Alternatively, it could be used as a high altitude platform from which to launch missiles.
“This particular incident has catalysed this discussion about what balloons can be used for,” Stokes said. “I think the meta take is that there are many more uses for this than the general national security community was aware of.”
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