Who is Lt Frank Luke Jr? F-22s that shot down Chinese balloon used callsigns named after World War 1 ace

Who is Lt Frank Luke Jr? F-22s that shot down Chinese balloon used callsigns named after World War 1 ace

By Meenakshi Sengupta

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA: The US Air Force shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, February 4, at 2.39 pm ET. An F-22 Raptor from the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder into a 90ft-wide balloon, according to senior US defense and military officials. Videos of the incident showed an F-22 Raptor launching a missile at the balloon, which first entered US air defense identification zone (ADIZ) near Alaska on January 28, north of the Aleutian Islands.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III said in an official statement, “At the direction of President Biden, US fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace. The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above US territorial waters. On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.”

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The statement further read, “After careful analysis, US military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload. In accordance with the President’s direction, the Department of Defense developed options to take down the balloon safely over our territorial waters, while closely monitoring its path and intelligence collection activities.”

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China claims spy balloon was to monitor weather

While China claimed it was a weather balloon with China’s foreign ministry stating in a statement on February 3, “The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure.”

Following the shoot down, Sen Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, as stated by Air&Space Forces, “President Biden made the right decision to shoot down this alleged Chinese spy balloon out of range of American civilians and infrastructure. I look forward to a full briefing on the situation and US plans moving ahead.” The two F-22 Raptors deployed for the mission flew the callsigns, “FRANK01” and “FRANK02,” named after World War I Ace Lt Frank Luke Jr, the “Arizona Balloon Buster,” who destroyed a total of 14 German balloons in 17 days.

Who is Lt Frank Luke Jr?

Born on May 19, 1897, Luke Jr was known as one of the best athletes at Phoenix High School and was also a captain of the track team and a member of the basketball and football teams, stated the 944th Fighter Wing. At 20, he enlisted in the Signal Corps to train as a pilot and was deployed to combat in France as a member of the 1st Pursuit Group of the 27th Aero Squadron. He destroyed 14 German balloons and four aircraft, earning him the title of the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

Commenting on Luke Jr, the commander, Maj HS Hartney, said, “No one had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. He was an excellent pilot and probably the best flying marksman on the Western Front. We had any number of expert pilots and there was no shortage of good shots, but the perfect combination, like the perfect specimen of anything in the world, was scarce. Frank Luke was the perfect combination.” Luke’s final flight took place on September 29, 1918, where the villagers of Murvaux, France, recorded his heroic death.

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