November 30, 2022

CTV News denied even open-source levels of information by DND

A CP-140 Aurora aircraft, call sign Demon 02, patrols the Mediterranean Sea to help build maritime situational awareness in associated support of NATO’s Operation SEA GUARDIAN on April 11, 2022.     Please credit: Corporal Braden Trudeau, Canadian Armed Forces photo
From the statements made on behalf of DND about releasing even the most basic levels of detail about Op NEON, a 35 day operation that flew out of Kadena Air Base in Japan, I think we need to question the "national security" need to avoid publicising details about overt (not covert) operations. Aircraft flying as part of Op NEON can be categorized as overt from their transponder posture, identifying themselves as RCAF CP-140 Aurora 140103 to any receiver in line of sight of the aircraft, including space. Denying basic information for reasons of "national security" doesn't hold water for overt operations in 2022.

You should read this first:

Canadian military plane intercepted by Chinese jets 'numerous' times in recent weeks
by Todd Coyne 2022-11-29 for CTV News

In a statement credited to DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande, CTV News was told for reasons of national security DND would be unable to answer questions about how often RCAF CP-140 Aurora 140103 was intercepted by the PLAAF during their Operation NEON sorties. DND also refused to give any details about when the CP-140 arrived to Kadena Air Base, when they left, how many flights they flew, how long the flights were, which of those flights were intercepted, on which day, or identify what kind of plane had done the interceptions, beyond saying the intercepts were “numerous”. Why? National security; operational security. To paraphrase, the public can’t know these details, or it would compromise the national security of Canada. I’m here to tell you that’s just not true, we have many of the details already. I think DND PA is misrepresenting the operation, taking an overt presence off the coast of China, and making it seem like a covert reconnaissance operation they couldn't possibly tell us about. There was nothing covert about the operation, so we can all talk about it; I documented the vast majority of the operation from my home office using publicly available information.

First, RCAF CP-140 Aurora 140103 landed at Kadena Air Base on 2022-10-04, and departed Kadena Air Base on 2022-11-07; they operated from Okinawa for 35 days. The DND spokesperson did not give that level of detail to Todd Coyne of CTV News for reasons of national security.

The Mode-S transmissions from the transponder of RCAF CP-140 140103 were picked up by the @ADSBexchange network of transponder receivers performing fifteen sorties from Kadena Air Base on the following days and approximate times:
  1. 2022-10-08 between 01:06 - 04:17 UTC
  2. 2022-10-09 between 00:58 - 07:46 UTC
  3. 2022-10-14 between 05:33 - 10:34 UTC
  4. 2022-10-15 between 04:15 - 08:15 UTC
  5. 2022-10-17 between 23:50 and 06:00 UTC on 2022-10-18
  6. 2022-10-19 between 01:40 - 09:15 UTC
  7. 2022-10-21 between 00:54 - 08:30 UTC
  8. 2022-10-22 between 00:54 - 08:41 UTC
  9. 2022-10-24 between 02:27 - 09:36 UTC
  10. 2022-10-25 between 02:08 - 09:59 UTC
  11. 2022-10-27 between 00:50 - 07:12 UTC
  12. 2022-10-28 between 00:52 - 07:46 UTC
  13. 2022-10-30 between 01:07 - 07:39 UTC
  14. 2022-10-31 between 00:51 - 07:21 UTC
  15. 2022-11-02 between 01:01 - 10:06 UTC
Provided I didn't miss any, that makes ~15 flights, totaling ~100 hrs of flight time. The DND spokesperson did not give that detail to Todd Coyne of CTV News for reasons of national security.

It is not reasonable to claim disclosing which of the above listed flights were intercepted is a threat to national security. The party who were doing the intercepting already knew the Canadians were there, that’s why they were being intercepted. The Canadian aircraft itself was broadcasting its own altitude and identity with their transponder. The crew were, at times, broadcasting their identity, location, and why they were there, over the radio in plain English. This was not a covert operation that the government isn't being forthright about; Op NEON is an overt operation done in plain view of China. There is no reason to limit what the Canadian public know about overt operations, up to the same level as would be reasonable for the adversary to know. How many times the RCAF flew sorties, and how many times they were intercepted, are very reasonable things for the Chinese gov't to know by now. They can draw from the same open sources as I do, as well as their national technical means.

In contrast, here is what was publicly and voluntarily disclosed in 2021 at the end of their fall Operation NEON deployment; not all, but many more details. (

While everyone can appreciate that Public Affairs is busy and doesn't have the time to research every little thing, Op NEON is a month+ long operation to monitor and identify ships smuggling goods to or from DPRK. It's a big deal. The public should be told how that went, at least to a level of detail comparable to what's available by way of public sources. Dismissing requests for the official version of events, up to the same level of detail available from public sources, claiming "national security", doesn't seem reasonable or well considered.

Outstanding questions for parity:
  • How many sorties were performed for Op NEON?
  • How many hours were flown during those sorties?
  • How many vessels of interest were identified?
  • How many possible illicit ship-to-ship transfers were observed?
Additional questions:
  • How many intercepts were performed by the PLAAF?
  • Were any of the intercepts considered unprofessional?
  • During which days were the CP-140 Aurora sorties intercepted?