A US fighter jet has shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that a US defence official said was intended to monitor sensitive military sites across the country.
Videos have appeared on social media showing the balloon being 'popped' before falling into the sea off the South Carolina coast.
US President Joe Biden ordered the balloon to be taken down on Wednesday, however, it was advised to wait until the balloon was over water to avoid anyone on the ground being harmed.
An F-22 Raptor fighter from the 1st Fighter Wing was launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and fired one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at the balloon, the US Department of Defense said.
F-15 Eagles flying from Barnes Air National Guard Base supported the F-22, as did tankers from multiple states.
The Navy deployed the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship in support of the effort.
The mission has now shifted to one of recovery.
There are currently US Navy and Coast Guard vessels establishing a security perimeter around the area where the balloon came to Earth.
They are now searching for debris.
Senior defence officials have said they are not sure how long it will take to retrieve the balloon but it came down in such a shallow area should make recovery "fairly easy".
Chinese officials have admitted that the balloon is theirs but insist that it is a weather balloon that was blown off course.