The Chinese balloon that flew over the US for eight days included «multiple antennas» capable of gathering intelligence signals, a senior State Department official said Thursday, and the balloon maker has demonstrated ties to the Chinese military.

While China condemned the US for destroying what it said was a weather balloon, the State Department official described the balloon as carrying equipment designed to collect communications and threatened action against Beijing.

According to the official, photos taken by U-2 aircraft at high altitudes confirmed the presence of the equipment, including «multiple antennas… probably capable of collecting and geolocating communications» and «solar panels large enough to produce the power needed to operate». Multiple active intelligence collection sensors. The equipment was «inconsistent» with that of the weather balloons.

NBC News was the first to report on the U-2 flybys.

The official said the United States is confident that the balloon manufacturer «has a direct relationship with the Chinese military and is an approved supplier of the balloon.» [People’s Liberation Army]according to information published on an official EPL purchasing portal.”

The balloons are part of a fleet «developed to conduct surveillance operations» that are often carried out under the direction of the military, the official said.

“The United States will also explore taking action against PLA-linked PRC entities that supported the balloon incursion into US airspace,” the official said, using the PRC initials. «We will also discuss broader efforts to expose and address the PRC’s broader surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security and to our allies and partners.»

On Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder said the United States has collected a large amount of information on Chinese surveillance balloons over time and will be able to detect them in the future.

Ryder told a news conference that «in terms of monitoring and collecting them, we’ve been able to put together a body of knowledge that allows us to detect and act on them.»

US officials previously said there were multiple Chinese balloon flights over US soil during the previous Trump administration and another during the Biden administration.

Ryder did not elaborate on the routes of those flights or other information, but said some of those sightings were later determined by the US government to be high-altitude Chinese spy balloons.

«What we do know is that in some cases, while some of these balloons had not been previously identified, subsequent analysis, subsequent intelligence analysis, allowed us to indicate that these were Chinese balloons,» Ryder said.

He added: “We have publicly acknowledged that we know they were looking to police strategic sites, to include some of our strategic bases in the continental United States.”