October 22, 2017

Using AIS to track the United States Navy Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier Fleet

First off, tracking US Navy aircraft carriers using AIS is a terrible idea, because of the seemingly-random and inconsistant US Navy AIS transponder policy. The policy made it's public debut recently as a result of two fatal collisions; that of the USS John McCain, and the USS Fitzgerald. The US Navy provided guidance to commanders to use AIS when travelling in proximity to civilian vessels. However, the safety of the Carrier Strike Group, and the carrier itself, is of paramount concern; so it seems the US Navy is a little reluctant to expose their location consistently across the fleet.

Some ships in the US Navy pop up on public unclassified AIS tracking sites like MarineTraffic.com routinely, while others haven't beaconed once for the past 5+ years. The aircraft carriers are a mixed bag; they aren't just using their AIS transponder to send a "message" to adversaries that they can operate anywhere they want in International waters, they're also broadcasting their location to foreign port facilities who send out pilot vessels and tugs to help their approach into harbour.

Another point about OPSEC; if a US Navy vessel activates their AIS transponder, the commanding officer made a judgement to do so, and expose their position to anyone with an internet connection who can pull up the MarineTraffic.com web page. These are not accidents, they are deliberate beacons for strategic messaging as well as local inter-operation with allied port facilities. Their position is neither secret, or dangerous.  But don't take my word for it; it was the commanding officer who indicated as much when they turned on their transponder. If the ship's commander is perfectly alright with broadcasting their position to the world, you are allowed to know as well, guilt-free, without being a "spy"!

This is not a "loose lips sink ships" situation.

USS Nimitz#CVN68MMSI:303981000NMTZNaval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, Washington
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower#CVN69MMSI:368962000NIKENaval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
USS Carl Vinson#CVN70MMSI:369970409NCVVNaval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
USS Theodore Roosevelt#CVN71MMSI:366984000NNTRNaval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
USS Abraham Lincoln#CVN72?NABENaval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
USS George Washington#CVN73MMSI:368913000NNGWNaval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
USS John C. Stennis#CVN74MMSI:368912000NJCSNaval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, Washington
USS Harry S. Truman#CVN75MMSI:368800000NHSTNaval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
USS Ronald Reagan#CVN76MMSI:369970410NRGNYokosuka Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan
USS George H.W. Bush#CVN77MMSI:369970663NGHWNaval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
USS Gerald R. Ford#CVN78??Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia

October 03, 2017

Open Skies Treaty overflight of the United States by the RuAF Sept 25-29 2017

From September 25th to 29th the USAF played host to an Open Skies Treaty overflight of the United States by the Russian Federation.  Here is the flight plan as captured by FlightRadar24, as best as it was able to track the flight using Mode-S MLAT, triangulating transponder information received by private receivers across the country. You'll notice the green dots are likely sites which pictures were being taken, as they were within the allowable envelope. Provided they were at ~11,000ft, and not banking, they would be allowed take pictures, per the treaty and arranged flight plan.

Flying at 11,000ft indicates the digital electro-optical sensor (that when spoken of before the Senate Armed Services Committee was made to sound like the Death Star by DIA 3-Star General Stewart) was in "medium" altitude mode, and the swath was 7.7km (4.8mi) total width.  Please remember that USAF members are aboard the plane for the entire overflight, the camera being used has been certified by a 22 nation committee, and the resolution of the imagery is worse than commercially available satellite imagery.

As usual, the USAF did not inform the American people of this overflight because their media posture is "passive", by policy. Only the Russian news media, usually maligned as "fake news" or propagandists, inform us of these flights. Why would the US Government be more controlling with the message than the Russians? Wouldn't they want to show a working treaty in action and dispel any fear about the Red Scare narrative? 🤔

(There is another Open Skies overflight going on this week, FYI)