So why didn’t they use a fighter with a gun? Fire some non-exploding rounds into the balloon which would have caused the balloon to descend slowly, eventually making a soft touchdown without destroying anything on the ground or itself.
But the real question is whey the hell didn’t they shoot it down the minute it crossed into U.S. airspace? Regardless of what it was collecting they allowed it to traverse the entire U.S. If it was collecting information on command and control they discovered that leadership in Washington has as many balls as a hockey team. This could be very bad: both the information the Chinese collected and the inept leadership team we have in place. And that’s the major takeaway for the American public. We have an inept leadership and that poses the greatest danger.
When Panetta and other moderate Dems started to criticize him Biden probably decided that he had to take action. I haven’t been able to locate info on the altitude that the baloon was flying at when shot down but it was previously said to be as high as 120,000 ft, well beyond the gun range of an F22, which probably has an operating ceiling around half that. I imagine that data being collected was being transmited back to China in real time so shoot down didn’t stop intel loss but at least message sent that we won’t allow this and bad precedent avoided.