Pentagon releases pilot’s close-up photo of Chinese balloon

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U-2 pilot flying high above the Chinese spy balloon took a close-up photo of the large white orb just a day before the Air Force shot the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina. The photo shows the top of the pilot’s helmet inside the U-2 cockpit with the balloon flying below. It was taken Feb. 3 as the balloon “hovered over the Central Continental United States,” according to the caption provided by the Defense Department. The Pentagon released the image Wednesday, more than two weeks after the balloon made international headlines as it transited the United States. The balloon was downed on Feb. 4 by an F-22 fighter jet firing a AIM-9X Sidewinder missile.