At 5:47 in the video you can hear an F-22 Raptor pilot calling out “FRANK01, Splash one!” after the balloon was hit with an AIM-9X Sidewinder.
The interesting composite clip (posted on YouTube by Airplane Ian) featured in this article includes interception audio from the shoot-down of the Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. 2023 off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The clip also includes video of the shoot-down and a time lapse of ADS-B flight tracking data from the region.
As already reported, the shooter is FRANK01, an F-22 Raptor based out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. and they are coordinated with HUNTRESS, callsign for North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)’s Eastern Air Defense Sector control.
The audio is not in real time, so the footage and flight tracking data are not fully synced up.
At 5:47 in the video you can hear an F-22 pilot calling out “FRANK01, Splash one!” after the balloon was hit with an AIM-9X Sidewinder.
“The balloon is completely destroyed!” a pilot adds. A US Air Force (USAF) spokesperson and a US official told Air & Space Forces Magazine the audio communications were authentic.
USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said:
“The audio is authentic and depicts communication from the 1st Fighter Wing pilot confirming the aerial target was destroyed. It’s important to clarify this audio is communication between the pilot and air traffic control that can be heard by anyone on the same frequency.”
Noteworthy flight trackers and ordinary citizens were able to monitor radio frequencies and air-tracking services as the F-22 Raptor scored its first known air-to-air kill, firing a missile from 58,000 feet and ending the weeklong saga of a Chinese balloon floating over the US.
For days, the Department of Defense sought to explain how a surveillance asset from its main rival had managed to end up—and stay—in American airspace, even as the US acknowledged it was tracking the balloon that was trying to take a peek at sensitive national security sites.
The balloon first entered US air defense identification zone (ADIZ) near Alaska on Jan. 28, north of the Aleutian Islands and moved largely across land, a senior defense official said. But the balloon continued to fly even as the U.S. tracked it, the official said, and entered Canadian airspace on Jan. 30., which is protected jointly by the US and Canada through North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), before reentering US airspace in northern Idaho Jan. 31.
Two F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were scrambled from Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nev. on Feb. 1, 2023 to observe the balloon over the continental US.
President Biden was briefed on the balloon and asked for military options the senior defense official said.
The senior defense official said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and VanHerck recommended “not to take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field,” which led to Biden deciding not to use force against the balloon. According to the Pentagon, the balloon is still at a “high altitude” over the continental US, though they declined to specify its protected flight path or current location.
Then on Feb. 4, 2023 at 2:39 pm Eastern time, a US Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptor from the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. successfully shot down the spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. The Raptor fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder into the approximately 90-foot wide balloon, causing it to fall towards the Atlantic Ocean.
F-15s (callsigns EAGLE01 and EAGLE02) from Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass., as well as multiple tankers assisted in the effort. The Eagles helped coordinate the F-22’s shot, which was taken six miles off the coast. The F-15s then monitored the balloon debris as it fell, using their sensor pods to pinpoint its location. A search is now underway by the US Navy and US Coast Guard to gather up pieces of the balloon.
The Raptor did not use the AIM-120 AMRAAM for “safety considerations” because the AMRAAM has a larger warhead, so the preferred option was the AIM-9X, The head of NORAD and US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck explained. VanHerck also said he was not aware of any air-to-air other engagements occurring at that altitude.
VanHerck added that it was up to Langley’s 1st Fighter Wing to determine if the F-22 should receive a black balloon painted on the side, denoting a kill.
On Feb. 6, 2023 VanHerck that NORAD failed to detect Chinese surveillance balloons that have previously entered US airspace.
“As NORAD commander, it’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those threats. And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.”
Photo credit: David Henry / U.S. Air Force