Our Military’s School Bus Metric and Balloon Overkill by Dr. Doug Green

Our Military’s School Bus Metric and Balloon Overkill

by Dr. Doug Green
Twitter: @DrDougGreen
Blog: https://DrDougGreen.com


During the week of February 1, 2023, the United States media was awash with news about a Chinese spy balloon that was making its leisurely way across our country from Montana to South Carolina. We were initially informed about this object by a journalist in Billings, Montana. If our military knew about it when it entered our airspace over Alaska, they didn’t tell us.

What they did tell us is that it was the size of “three school buses.” This was a first for me. Since I started paying attention to our media in the 1950s, it has been common for the media to assume that all but a few of us were too stupid to handle real numbers associated with distances. The most common items substituted for real numbers over the years have been football fields for length and the number of stories in a building for height.

School Buses, Really?

So where did the military come up with the school bus metric? It was clear that the object was spherical, with something hanging off the bottom that looked like eight solar panels. There was nothing about it that cried out school buses to me.

As a former elementary principal who faithfully performed bus duty daily, I can easily envision what three school buses placed end to end look like, and they don’t look much like the spherical Chinese balloon.

Google tells me that school buses are 35 feet in length. That implies that the balloon had a diameter of about 100 feet. Is that really too much for the typical American to handle? I get why they didn’t use football fields, as that would require the use of either fractions (1/3) or decimals (.33), and they know we hated these concepts in school and can’t handle them now.

But, no matter how hard I scoured the media, both left and right, I have yet to find a measurement in feet, yards, or meters representing the diameter of the balloon. If they wanted to use a football metric, they could say it was about three first downs.

The Debris Field

After we shot it down over the Atlantic, we were informed that the debris field was about seven miles long. It turned out that it was only 15 football fields long and 15 football fields wide. At least that takes us back to a familiar metric. However, that’s a 1500-yard square for my numerate readers who might know that a mile is roughly 1600 meters. Why the media didn’t tell us it was about a square mile, I can’t say, as they often use this metric.

Lots of folks wonder why it wasn’t shot down over Alaska or eastern Montana, where the population density is probably less than the part of the Atlantic where they did shoot it down if you factor in people on boats.


I also wonder about the manner in which the balloon was brought down. They tell us that an F22 jet fighter used a sidewinder missile to bring it down. That sounds like overkill to me. Why didn’t they just poke a few holes in it with small rounds and let it gently deflate and float to the surface?

From the videos I saw, the package on the bottom of the balloon immediately disconnected and fell rapidly into the ocean. While water may seem softer than land to you, if a heavy object, say a school bus or three, hits the water at terminal velocity, it might as well hit concrete.

You have to feel sorry for the people recovering the pieces in fifth feet of water. It seems odd that they used fifty feet rather than five stories, but don’t expect consistency from our media.

I must also point out that a single Sidewinder Missile costs about $380,000. This doesn’t count the jet fuel or the total cost of ownership milage of the F22 and the salary of the crew. Add the cost of recovery and efforts to reassemble the mess and make sense of it, and it sounds like real money to me.

Fear Not

I regret if this article dims your confidence in our military and our media, but it’s important to be realistic. That’s why I read and watch both left and right-wing media every day. They don’t often agree, but when they do, they just might be right. We have survived for well over 200 years with presidents who weren’t the greatest, so you have to believe we will get through this.

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