May 19, 2017

Russian Observation flights over the United States, again. (May 18-19 2017)

T-154M-LK1 RF-85655
I've written a lot about the Open Skies Treaty (here), and this week the Russian Federation Open Skies Treaty certified Tu-154M is once again in the skies over the United States.  There has been less media coverage this time, perhaps because the media didn't realize these flights normally happen once every month or two, and over cycled just weeks ago.  In short, 34 nations are signatory to the treaty, that lets the signatories overfly each others territory, with short notice, and members of the overflown nation's military on board, to take 30cm resolution pictures of sites of interest.  30cm is the defined maximum image resolution, and was the same when the Russian's used wet film.  The rest of the countries still use wet film, so far. This time, the Russians flew into Travis AFB on the West Coast, after stops for fuel in Iceland and Canada, and started observation flights Thursday March 18th 2017.  The flight plan would have been tabled either late Monday or early Tuesday, and a memo to all US Military (and related to military) sites that were going to be overflown would have been sent to ensure all unicorns were in their stables, and all stolen alien technology was back underground at Area 51, or, you know, whatever.

Here is a quick and dirty map of the locations they overflew. Why? Well, think of it this way. The sites that the RuAF are taking pictures of have been requested by the Russian Intelligence Community.  Something at these sites is interesting to someone, likely in the Russian defence industry.  But don't they have Google Maps?  Yes, but Google Maps / Bing / Nokia are all routinely tampered with by "Agencies", and the services are happy to do so to keep on governments' good sides. Entire airports can be removed and farms photo-shopped in. Buildings are over-exposed to blot out what's on top. Facilities are entirely pixelated.  Imagery is overtly tampered with, shadows moved, objects cloned. What you see on Google Maps is what the government is allowing you to see; Russia knows that.  While 30cm resolution isn't the greatest commercially available, it is good enough to show tanks loaded on rail cars, new buildings that have cropped up out of nowhere, etc.. They know their camera, and the pictures it takes, have not been tampered with.

Using its new-last-year Digital Electro Optical sensor, the flight has been basing itself out of Travis AFB in California, and at the end of the first day of observation flights, I believe it has taken pictures of the following locations, based on the altitude and airspeed.  Looking at the map below, and where you see a red dot, the plane was between 290-310kn, the sweet spot to take pictures.

Friday May 19th was the 2nd day of overflights and the Russians plotted a very similar route to what they flew in September of 2016.  Unfortunately, they varied their speed more than May 18th so it was a little harder to nail down exactly what they were taking pictures of.  My educated guesses are below:

With two observation flights complete, the Russians flew the first leg of their trip back to Moscow on May 20th, stopping for an overnight stay in Canada at CFB Trenton, which is a treaty approved refuelling stop.  All countries which are signatory to the Treaty on Open Skies must provide logistical support to Open Skies Treaty transit flights.

Russian Open Skies Observation Mission Over USA (April 13-14 2017)

April 13-14th 2017 the Russian Federation conducted an overflight of the United States in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty, with members of the USAF on board.

You will notice the sites along the Eastern Seaboard are all at locations where the Russian Navy AGI Viktor Leonov AGI spotted in February and March.  Coincidence? Absolutely not.  The Viktor Leonov's mission is to profile subs, investigate coastal radar, sonar, subsurface sensors, etc. The Open Skies Observation flight was more than likely to check out the same sites it was performing ELINT on, to "see" from above the interesting things it picked up while it was at least 12 nautical miles from shore.

April 22, 2017

Russian Bombers are not threatening the United States. Stop the madness.

Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear (unknown variant)
Photo Credit: Unknown
Since Donald J Trump won the American election there has been a suspicion that he did so with the help of, and in collusion with, the Russian government.  There has been a concerted information operation by a group opposed to his presidency to overthrow him by all means necessary with an unknown amount of support from within the government (also referred to as "The Deep State").  Part of the psychological operations (psyops) that this group is using to influence public opinion, and depose Donald Trump, seem to involve keeping their base paranoid and afraid; fear of anything Russian specifically. This didn't start with Donald Trump's presidency, it was already underway throughout the election campaign of Hillary Clinton.  The narrative changes over time, as facts change, but essentially Donald Trump is alleged to be some sort of puppet to Vladimir Putin, Putin has blackmail-able info on Trump, Russia has taken over the US with a bloodless coup, all decisions of the White House are somehow related to Putin, anyone opposed to this view is an agent of the Kremlin, supporting a revolution in the Democratic Party led by progressives like Bernie Sanders is juvenile and subversive, anything related to Russia is related to the election no matter how far removed, and anything that goes wrong in America, or the world, is Russia's fault.

I don't think I've even covered the half of it, but you hopefully get the idea that I'm thoroughly sick of people distorting facts regarding military deployments for political reasons and relating everything back to The Orange Menace.


I want those people to STFU and impeach Donald Trump and stop filling Twitter with useless bullshit about how he's about to be deposed next week, two days from now, any day now, oh yes, there are papers being filed, next week, they have proof, just a couple more days, there's a dossier, there's a tape, there's evidence, there are people that said he said they said...

The impact of this paranoid insistence that everything is related to Russia is poisoning the news media and having a significant influence on peoples' view of the world. Military operations that are routine and unrelated are now malicious and suspicious.

There were Russian Air Force planes in international airspace off Alaska on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, with reports containing varying levels of detail, with varying levels of reliability, published by all the major, and not so major, news outlets.


NORAD has not been forthright in publishing information about incursions by Russian Air Force planes into the American Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) ever; in fact, they hardly ever do, but NORAD will tell you a year or two later how many times Russian planes were in the ADIZ previous years.  Let me repeat that because it doesn't make sense.
Russians routinely fly in the ADIZ, and NORAD regularly sends interceptors, or not, depending on their assessment of the situation, but NORAD doesn't usually tell the public about it.  I presume because it's not going to affect anyone's day and they don't want the media to put their political spin on routine military operations.  Well guess what? The media has the story now and it's a gong show of armchair analysis and all the usual varied political actors and pundits have piled on. Oh joy, let the speculation run wild with very few facts.


No, they're not. The message is the public are totally unaware of what's going on if they can't witness the event. No civilians witnessed the event, and therefore cannot give an independent view of the events. All the information about these Russian flights comes from the American Military, Canadian Military, or NORAD public affairs. They control the message, and their message cannot be fact-checked further than what is admitted to, and what the Russians admit to; when there are disagreements it is seen as unpatriotic to question western sources. Independent confirmation doesn't exist.  I'm not saying there weren't planes off the coast of Alaska, I'm pointing out you can't fact-check any of the information provided.  My biggest issue is the news media, the journalists, add a layer of distrust to the facts.  A reporter stated the planes Tuesday were the Tu-95H variety.  While interesting, it's also incorrect; they meant the "Bear H" which is a Tu-95MS. Close, but not quite correct.  Details like this make a difference, especially regarding range, capability, age, where they're based, etc.  and since NORAD isn't issuing press releases, we have to trust the media transcribed the information correctly, which isn't always the case.
I would really prefer NORAD issued statements after every incursion into the ADIZ full of all the information we would ever want, but I know that would be a lot of work for them, so I'm not expecting anything to change.


The constant demand for Trump to make public statements about anything is horrendously disingenuous and incredibly stupid.  Stop asking that he open his yap for anything more than eating and drinking.  Every time he makes a statement he risks an international incident or tanking the stock market.


By Federal Aviation Administration
Public Domain
No, they're not.  Russian planes, some of them "bombers" (but with little detail to fact-check this), flew in international airspace within an area that the American Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). It's the area where, by the time a plane is flying towards the US, the military wants to get up in the air and figure out what's going on, if it's unexpected. The Russians doing this type of flight is routine, as in, it is performed a dozen times a year, but NORAD doesn't announce them, or retroactively when they were conducted.  If a dozen flights happened, one might assume they were spread out to have one every month. But NORAD didn't make that sort of a statement, and wouldn't nail down (they were asked by a journalist) when these approaches happened.  They always quote the yearly number, never a monthly number, which supports the idea that there are seasons to the training, ebb and flow.  What if every spring there is a flurry of air activity off Alaska?  What if that last increase in action was last spring, and NORAD didn't mention it to anyone because of the election cycle?
Oh, you want proof of that? Here you go:
"The incident was the first Russian bomber incursion of a U.S. or Canadian air defense zone this year. Officials said it likely signals the start of Russia’s long-range aviation spring training cycle. Further aerial incursions are expected." Bill Gertz, May 1, 2015
Notice when it was published? MAY 2015.
It's now the end of APRIL 2017.
The timing of last week's incidents supports the idea this is a normal yearly seasonal training cycle, AND NOT RELATED TO DONALD TRUMP.


By Department of Defense - Printed publication
IFR Supplement - United States., Public Domain
Bullshit. If this has any truth to it, it's playing word games off the different ADIZ zones; the Alaska ADIZ is not the same as the West Coast ADIZ, and in July 2015 the bombers said Hello off the California coast.  Maybe it is rare for the flights to be off California? So it's true, but in context trying to give the impression these most recent incursions into the ADIZ are abnormal, when they aren't? I don't know where the idea came from, it's not unusual for the planes to be in the ADIZ.

"Alaska's ADIZ averages about 10 incursions by Russian aircraft a year. The number is "growing slightly," according to Alaska NORAD officials, who characterized the Russian flights as non-provocative training missions." -Alaska Daily News, March 3rd, 2014


I'll add more later, this is just a stub.

March 29, 2017

Russian Navy|ВМФ России Rescue Tug SB-406|СБ-406 visited Jacksonville FL in 2012

Russian Navy Sea-going Rescue Tug SB-406|СБ-406
Photo Credit: Knud Olsen - 26 Nov, 2016
There is a persistent rumour on the internet that needs to be corrected, and a friend of mine encouraged me to do so   :)

Hurricane "Super Storm" Sandy was expected to hit the United States on October 26th 2012 and a nearby Russian Navy Seagoing Tug Boat SB-406|СБ-406 [IMO: 8126551] was granted safe harbour in Jacksonville, Florida... it seems.  Nobody knows exactly what berth it was at, or how it was arranged, but there are rumours that the crew went off and bought a bunch of booze and food, taking advantage of the shore leave.

Somewhere along the lines this fish story got bigger; it was an AGI "Spy Ship", and a Submarine too!

Well, from what I gather, Russian Navy officers would rather die than let you get anywhere close to an AGI or Submarine, so I'm quite sure they weren't there; there was online one tug, which wouldn't have anything classified that wasn't locked up tight.  Yes, the Russian Navy Viktor Leonov was nearby, but not in Jacksonville at that time; Havana maybe?  A submarine is below the waves and relatively unaffected by the weather, and they could scoot away anyhow, so there is no reason for them to come into Jacksonville either.

Anonymous local sources have been quoted as saying:
"The ship in question appears to be the Russian Project 712 Sliva Class Sea-going rescue Tug, SB-406. 255.8 ft. in length with a designated compliment of 43 + 10 salvage crew members. Actual job description of men on boat is unknown.
It has been estimated that up to approximately 40 crew members have been seen. Worker on site reports that he has been working there for 20 months and this is the first military ship that has docked up from any nation.
It was supposed to leave tonight (Sunday, 4 Nov) but come back in sometime after Tuesday"
I'd like to believe that an AGI, a Sub, and a Tug, all stayed in Jacksonville (or around Jacksonville) during Sandy, but it does not look likely with the evidence that is out there.

References: (<-- likely later in the same deployment)

March 05, 2017

The Truth? You can't handle The Truth.

Viktor Leonov - February 27th 2014 in Havana, Cuba
Photo Credit: Unknown
In any DoD / Pentagon / Military Press Release there are at least 4 versions of the truth.

1. The Press Release

Carefully crafted to match the narrative du-jour, the military will put out intentional leaks to journalists, or official press releases through a Public Affairs office, that fit with whatever message they are trying to convey to their citizens and internationally.

NB Classifications
Even "Unclassified" information is a classification, so watch for how the term is used.  (eg, "sorry, I can't give that to you, it's classified" doesn't mean it's Secret or Top Secret, necessarily.)

2. Unclassified / For Official Use Only

You didn't think the Pentagon would tell you what was actually happening did you?  Well maybe they did, maybe they didn't, but there is a less massaged briefing note somewhere that wasn't that Press Release, and has more dirt about whatever it is, and is supposed to be for internal / official use.  Different governments have different names for this classification.  You can find 1950s Cold War briefs that fit into this category if you hunt the public government archives sites to see how boring they are.

3. Secret

"Secret" classification could be something about ship or troop movements, highly detailed maps, perhaps info gained by Satellite intelligence with some details left out for a senior military brief... or many things.  The story in the Press Release will likely look considerably different at this level; it will show casualty counts of an enemy encounter, details about where enemy forces came from and intelligence gathered - but still mostly avoid mentioning the methods (Did the info come from a paid informant?).  You can find examples of this in the Bradley Manning Wikileaks docs from the Afghanistan files.

4. Top Secret (and above)

You're going to find the names of informants, what sort of weapons systems nobody knows about, information about secret satellite programs - whatever. This is where you find "The Truth" if it exists.  You will find blame, you will find unredacted imagery, you will find evidence of things that "don't exist", whatever crazy conspiracy stuff that you think they have at Area 51 is in here, potentially at a higher classification than Top Secret.  My point is, this is where that Press Release has all the truth, or as much truth as you can find.  The Snowdon files are at this level, and they disclose methods and technology used by several agencies.

What we, the public, get as a press release is a shadow of the original story, and only has what the military and the government believe we need to know to keep us satisfied and quiet.

We don't need to know the names of the dead. We don't need to know the names of the local corrupt mayor in some shit-hole mud hut on the other side of the world.  We don't need to know we're paying off some of the bad guys to allow our troops safe passage through their turf.  We don't need to know who we plan on assassinating next.  Let the military do their job, we don't need to second guess them all the time.

Except... (You knew there was going to be a "but", right?)

Russian Naval surface ship movements, when they're literally within sight of the shore, should not be hidden from the public and teased out in geometric riddles. That's just cruel and unusual to those of us interested in tracking  those surface assets.

Hey, Captain, Major, Colonel, General... They know you know where they are. We know you know where they are. Who does it help to keep that information classified and out of reach of Joe Public?

Yes, I understand that the military won't tell us the locations of every Russian sub, if they knew every sub in every ocean, but there is no reason not to share surface-ship movement information near the coast of the USA. Ships can be seen from space, they can sometimes be seen from shore, and they can certainly be seen by sensors, or by a ship that shadows them.  I am pleased for getting the leaks we do from Lucas @ Fox's Pentagon source, regarding the position information of the Viktor Leonov.  She has been off the coast of the USA since mid-February, but I'd really prefer if the military just spilled all the data when the Russians are done their mission so those of us who are interested could analyse the data whole.

Throw me a bone!