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The Military United States Government Privacy Transportation

A US Spy Plane Has Been Flying Circles Over Seattle For Days (thedrive.com) 232

turkeydance shares Thursday's report from The Drive: A very unique U.S. Air Force surveillance aircraft has been flying highly defined circles over Seattle and its various suburbs for nine days now... The aircraft, which goes by the callsign "SPUD21" and wears a nondescript flat gray paint job with the only visible markings being a U.S. Air Force serial on its tail, is a CASA CN-235-300 transport aircraft that has been extensively modified... It is covered in a dizzying array of blisters, protrusions, humps and bumps. These include missile approach warning detectors and large fairings on its empennage for buckets of forward-firing decoy flares, as well as both microwave -- the dome antenna behind the wing and flat antenna modification in front of the wing -- and ultra high-frequency satellite communications -- the platter-like antenna behind the dome antenna. A communications intelligence suite also appears to be installed on the aircraft, with the antenna farm on the bottom of its fuselage being a clear indication of such a capability. But what's most interesting is the aircraft's apparent visual intelligence gathering installation...

This particular CN-235, with the serial 96-6042, is one of six that researchers commonly associated with the Air Force's top secret 427th Special Operations Squadron... The 427th occupies the same space with a host of other "black" U.S. military aviation elements, most of which are affiliated to some degree with Joint Special Operations Command and the Intelligence Community... [I]f the military placed the aircraft under civilian control to some degree and with an appropriate legal justification, the U.S. military could possibly fly it in support of a domestic operation or one focused on a foreign suspect or organization operating within the United States... It's also entirely possible, if not probable, that the aircraft could be involved in a realistic training exercise rather than an actual operation... The area could have simply provided a suitable urban area to test existing or new surveillance technologies, too, though this could spark serious privacy concerns if true.

Friday an Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs officer confirmed that the plane was one of theirs, describing its activity as "just a training mission," according to Russia Today.

A US Spy Plane Has Been Flying Circles Over Seattle For Days

Comments Filter:
  • Sources (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @07:52PM (#54952909)

    "According to 'Russia Today'"? Really?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      100% right. Everything from a Russian newspaper is propaganda.

      Unlike our own press which is never propoganda. Also, the Iraq war never happened.

      • Comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        Find an RT article highly critical of Putin.

        Now, find a mainstream US news article highly critical of Trump.

        Guess which one is easier?

        Crap, I'll find you a dozen Fox News pieces criticizing Trump.

        • Now find an article in the mainstream media that was as critical of President Obama as they are of President Trump. Just becaise RT toes the party line in Russia because of potential blowback from the Kremlin does not mean our own media becomes passive lapdogs of a President they like because of a few of his claimed political stances (never mind he broke just about every promise he made when campaigning).
          • by unrtst ( 777550 )

            I can't find an article in the mainstream media that was as critical of Mother Teresa as they were of Hitler, but that's due to a useless qualifier ("as critical").

            There were articles that were VERY critical of President Obama, and there are articles that are VERY critical of Trump. Are you claiming the former didn't exist, or are you just saying they weren't quite as critical of Obama? There's a big difference between those.

        • by DanJ_UK ( 980165 ) *
          Fox news...? ...really?
        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          The reason is that the US has been in a situation where it doesn't matter what the people think and they know it. "We are spying on US citizens, so fucking what?"--CIA, NSA, FBI and everybody else.
          "I tell secrets to others, so fucking what" --Potus
          "We cheat and steal, so fucking what" --Big US companies
          I am sure people will know of much more and better examples.

          Why would they try to hide it as the result is the same? As long as there is no accountability, it won't change.

        • And you seriously expect to give toothless western media a pass by comparing all of them collectively to one outlet under a dictatorial regime? Wow, that is sad.
        • Don't mix up things. I only sample them but on RT and Al Jazeera I have seen some of the best journalism available. There is a simple reason:there is little room for critical journalism in western mainstream and the Russians (and Qatar) think it's in their interest to give it a platform. The motivations of the Russian government may not be benign, or they may be a mixed bag (the soft power business can benefit from openness ) but on the foreign front the result is good.

          Personally I think the state of the w

    • Re:Sources (Score:5, Funny)

      by LostInTaiwan ( 837924 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @09:04PM (#54953241)

      My thought exactly. Of all the news outlet available, we resort to citing RT for USAF activities. C'mon, we should be better than this . . . . We have plenty of domestic conspiracy theory news source, no need to rely on Putin's mouth piece.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        My thought exactly. Of all the news outlet available, we resort to citing RT for USAF activities.

        Why not... I mean if I want maps of Russia the first place I'd go is the CIA.

    • "According to 'Russia Today'"? Really?

      Made in China and Sponsored by North Korea. /s

    • Seriously, does /anyone/ do research anymore? I simply googled "Drone" and "Seattle", and the Seattle Times came up first and front row explaining that Trump is going to be there for golf. And here you all are speculating about secret test missions and North Korea? Has everybody gone insane? Here's one. I'll talk about Matt Daemon. He is was found in Boston this weekend. Perhaps he stealing classified military projects from MIT for the drone that's flying in Seattle.
  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @07:55PM (#54952929)
    Someone needs to send a drone up there and check it out.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Is this a joke?

      Flying a civilian drone over 400 feet is illegal. Get caught close to an airplane and at best you'd get jail time and could potentially be charged with attempted murder. The FAA doesn't take drone lawbreakers lightly.

      It's using civilian airports so just go check it out with some binoculars.

      Besides all that what would you want to see? We already have pictures.

    • You need a telescope, not a drone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Howe much more unique can it get.

  • by jrmcferren ( 935335 ) <robbie.mcferren@g m a i l . c om> on Sunday August 06, 2017 @08:04PM (#54952967) Journal

    This sounds exactly like the kind of equipment you would want overhead in a major combat operation. Both visual and communications intelligence along with the means to detect missiles and possibly defend itself are all capabilities you want during major combat operations.

    Why have a drill over a major American City if they aren't trying to spy on Americans? Major cities have a large quantity of communications systems all over the spectrum. Police, Fire, Ambulance, Taxi, and even Amateur radio operate in the ranges of interest. They will be able to receive both local and distant broadcast stations that will change based on position and atmospheric conditions. This is simply an exercise in how to operate the equipment to find and decode various communications. Add a ground component with training signals intentionally generated by the military and this becomes more realistic.

    As for privacy concerns, this is very valid and you should remember that no telecommunications network can be completely secure. It is also important to note that any communications intercepts of civilian communications will be concerned with capabilities, not content.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      most definitely sounds like a shake-down mission before deployment to the skies over the sea of japan to support existing naval fleet already there.

    • Why have a drill over a major American City if they aren't trying to spy on Americans?

      Both because cities are cities in many respects, and because they might want to spy on Americans later.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @11:13PM (#54953769) Journal

      This sounds exactly like the kind of equipment you would want overhead in a major combat operation.

      Well, only 8% of Seattle voted for Trump, so he may be looking for the 92% of Seattle voters that obviously must have committed voter fraud.

      http://www.seattletimes.com/se... [seattletimes.com]

    • The submarine hunter aircraft fly regular missions over all of North Florida - like I'd see one three or four times a week out my window over 100 miles away (inland) from the base where they are stationed.

      We can assume it's training, since there aren't many submarine to hunt in the lakes and rivers around there.

    • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:03AM (#54953897)

      Boeing Field is where a lot of mods for military plane are done. Operational flights do not take place from Boeing Field. Most likly what's going on is the plane is undergoing mods and they are testing these mods in the local area. See my informed post below, I work in Mission Planning at McChord.

    • I participated in an event like this many years back. We played a group of "unlikeables" and hide out in an old semi-abandoned project in an industrial part of town. The unit was doing a workup to deploy and the city i was in was of a similar composition. They used their capabilities to find about a dozen locations we were hiding in and then proceeded to take out the necessary targets. It took about two weeks. There were lots of calls to the local police and FBI about the activity. I don't know if it

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Why have a drill over a major American City if they aren't trying to spy on Americans?

      This can easily be explained by bureaucracy.

      Operations programme A gets X dollars for operations each year, part of that cost is jet fuel. Programme manager realises that he's only used three quarters of this years fuel budget and if he doesn't use up the rest he wont get the same amount next year. So he sends a plane up to burn fuel to ensure his budget isn't slashed.

      Or it could be that Boeing's Everett plant is near by and it's a plane undergoing testing before it's released to the USAF.

      Or it's j

  • flying for a few hours and then landing and then taking off again, for several days straight, I suppose I could buy that. But if you mean it's been in the air for several days straight, then you're wrong.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @08:09PM (#54952985)

    Joint Base Lewis-McCord is less than 50 miles from Seattle, as the drone flies - so the city is convenient. Heck, Boeing Field is only about 4 miles away from downtown, if there are problems. Plus Seattle is remote enough from Washington DC and New York (not to mention smaller) that the country is less likely to freak out now that the surveillance drone has been outed.

    Not to mention that Seattle is a liberal bastion which the current administration probably wouldn't mind messing with a bit.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      now that the surveillance drone has been outed.

      Unless it's not a drone.

      Not to mention that Seattle is a liberal bastion which the current administration probably wouldn't mind messing with a bit.

      Well, it is close to lots of military facilities... (But that would make this perfect for training, especially since it takes off every morning and lands every afternoon.)

      • by boskone ( 234014 )

        not to mention we also had a HUGE airshow this weekend with the blue angels, and had the airspace effectively shut down. they may have been providing security for that event. who knows?

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @11:06PM (#54953751)

      Not to mention Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. There's a LOT of civilian and military air traffic around here. I'm having a hard time picturing most native Seattlites being all that concerned about this. And I'd imagine the current administration has better things to do than to order military flights to mess with the Seattle populous.

      I'm not sure why people are surprised by this. SIGINT is part of the the modern military's war-fighting capabilities. Yes, they're probably monitoring Seattle's communications to practice interception of and analyzing said traffic. That they'd be training their people seems like a perfectly plausible explanation to me.

      What next, people freaking out that out in the desert somewhere, the military is practicing with guns, bombs, rockets, and other weapons that can kill large numbers of people? Or that the military flies simulated bombing runs over civilian targets? This is what they're paid to do - preparing for all aspects of warfare.

      • Or that the military flies simulated bombing runs over civilian targets?

        Was a regular thing at the Scout camp I worked at for four summers. Used our old mess hall as a target.

      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

        What next, people freaking out that out in the desert somewhere, the military is practicing with guns, bombs, rockets, and other weapons that can kill large numbers of people?

        Actually, and sadly, yes [usatoday.com].

        • I should have figured. /facepalm

          Someone should ask the leader of those nutjobs (a retired firefighter) if he thinks it's nefarious that firefighters go around intentionally burning houses down. What? Yep, houses that are scheduled for demolition are occasionally burned down by the fire department. Because, you know... they need to actually practice their craft under as realistic circumstances as they can manage. It's sort of a win-win, as it saves on demolition costs for the owner in addition to helping

      • When aircraft fly simulated bombing runs, they're not hurting anything (at least when they do it correctly). When a SIGINT aircraft is around a metro area, it's probably practicing its intelligence-gathering capabilities, because anything else can be done elsewhere. If the data it picks up isn't destroyed, it's the US military invading the privacy of US civilians. That does have the capability to harm civilians.

  • Checking out coffee shops, trying to decide which one to go to next.

  • by kevmeister ( 979231 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @08:26PM (#54953071) Homepage

    Perhaps the Air Force is taking advantage of the heavy smoke covering the area for training on techniques for imaging under such circumstances. In actual military use in a shooting war, smoke and dust from combat are likely to make optical observation more difficult. I would assume that on-board tech could enhance this, but it may require real-time tuning by the crew.

    The current conditions may provide an excellent opportunity for real-world experience.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...maybe testing capabilities, just in case something is sent over from North Korea?

  • Doesn't Boeing, a Major US Aerospace contractor has a Big Factory and other research facilities in Seattle?

    Perhaps this training excersice over this particular city has something to do with something the guys in the Lab what to measure first hand? As in Reverse-Engineer-hand?

    Because the CASA CN-235-300 is a joint development of Spain (CASA) and Indonesia (IPTN)

    Just saying...

    • by bongey ( 974911 )
      No Boeing might have a follow on contract to add new gear/ avionics/radar/super secret squirrel gear.
    • Doesn't Boeing, a Major US Aerospace contractor has a Big Factory and other research facilities in Seattle?

      Perhaps this training excersice over this particular city has something to do with something the guys in the Lab what to measure first hand? As in Reverse-Engineer-hand?

      Because the CASA CN-235-300 is a joint development of Spain (CASA) and Indonesia (IPTN)

      Just saying...

      Errhumh. So why would Boeing now want to test reverse engineer a plane that first flew over 30 years ago? Especially when the USAF bought that particular plane used from a private US air cargo carrier before the turn of the century?

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Old aircraft are often retrofitted to make use of newer technology, saving a lot of budget vs. creating an entirely new aircraft. I've seen testing periods that lasted weeks.

        • Old aircraft are often retrofitted to make use of newer technology, saving a lot of budget vs. creating an entirely new aircraft. I've seen testing periods that lasted weeks.

          So your claim is that Boeing either borrowed or stole the plane from the USAF to re-engineer the changes the USAF mad to it? Okay.

          • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

            I made no such statement, particularly in this instance because I'm not familiar with it other than through this article. I made a general case comment. OEM manufacturers don't steal or borrow. The military sends them back to the OEM for this kind of work. Get it? Okay?

  • This site is so sad now.
  • HeT! No
  • Its funny that the only way we can find out whats actually going on in the US is to read Russian news.

    • Huh. Went to the google to prove you wrong. Sadly, I found that apparently none of the major US news media have picked this up yet.

  • Hmmmm ... Fake News'? Looks like Fake Houses at that location ... what are they trying to hide?
    http://www.seattletimes.com/bu... [seattletimes.com]
  • The Blue Angles were also in Seattle this weekend for an air show, along with the week prior for practice. Any coincidence here?

    One possibility is that they were testing their tracking of F16s at lower altitudes like what the Blue Angles fly at.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday August 06, 2017 @11:56PM (#54953869)

    Boeing Field is where a lot of mods for military plane are done. Operational flights do not take place from Boeing Field. Most likly what's going on is the plane is undergoing mods and they are testing these mods in the local area.

    If this were an operational flight, more likly the plane would be down at McChord Field, where I work. We do have the 22 Special Forces here at McChord, but spy planes, usually the big 135 mods, fly in and out of here all the time. Sometimes they stay a few days, who knows what they are up to.

    It's interesting that someone spotted this, but the whole "spying on Seattle" thing is a joke. That's not what's happening.

    • Boeing Field is where a lot of mods for military plane are done. Operational flights do not take place from Boeing Field. Most likly what's going on is the plane is undergoing mods and they are testing these mods in the local area.

      If this were an operational flight, more likly the plane would be down at McChord Field, where I work. We do have the 22 Special Forces here at McChord, but spy planes, usually the big 135 mods, fly in and out of here all the time. Sometimes they stay a few days, who knows what they are up to.

      It's interesting that someone spotted this, but the whole "spying on Seattle" thing is a joke. That's not what's happening.

      I'd honestly be very surprised if Boeing did any upgrades on equipment right out of that particular facility, though I could be mistaken. I know that they modify Navy aircraft to the latest hardware revisions down in Florida. I've been to the facility personally. They modify certain Army helicopters in Arizona. They have facilities all over the US that specialize in specific aircraft and, to my knowledge, only do the commercial stuff out of WA.

      • I'd honestly be very surprised if Boeing did any upgrades on equipment right out of that particular facility, though I could be mistaken. I know that they modify Navy aircraft to the latest hardware revisions down in Florida. I've been to the facility personally. They modify certain Army helicopters in Arizona. They have facilities all over the US that specialize in specific aircraft and, to my knowledge, only do the commercial stuff out of WA.

        First, yes, Boeing does work on the 135's at Boeing Field, drive by sometime.

        Second, this isn't a Boeing plane. There are other things going on there. It's named "Boeing Field", but there are a number of small and large companies operating out of Boeing Field.

    • Yes, Boeing's Military Flight Center is located at Boeing Field. I worked on their AEW&C (mini-AWACS for export) planes and that's where they did test flights.
  • That was my first thought and the summary has " These include missile approach warning detectors ".
    Seattle supposedly came within range as of NK's previous missile test. The most recent one is thought to cover the whole of N.America.
    Then there was also the news headline last week of "We're not your enemy," by Rex Tillerson [bbc.com]

  • You know, with some perfectly harmless Bacillus globigii, or Serratia marcescens.

    Or whatever the current iterations of those two completely harmless bioweapons are.

    But, I jest, of course. The US government would never do that to its own citizens.

  • Reminds me - one of the salesman at a place I used to work described one of our products as "almost totally unique" :/

  • Its Seafair weekend. LOTS of aircraft shows (including the Blue Angels), hydro racing, and a ton of other events.

    All of it adds up to LOTS of radar targets and a bodacious quantity of radio traffic with all of the spectators and their FRS/GMRS or licensed amateur radios. Most of the area repeaters have gotten a serious workout this weekend..

    I actually believe training mission.

  • The plane flew 3 times from Boeing Field to Renton Muni. on Juky 24th and 25th, without flying back in between.

    Anyway, according to this https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-u-s-air-forces-most-secretive-squadron-c6bacc520562 [medium.com]

    Arguably the most secretive flying squadron in the whole U.S. Air Force owns a bunch of small Cessnas and medium-size transports that look pretty much exactly like civilian aircraft.

    But the 427th Special Operations Squadron’s mission is anything but mundane.

    ...

    The CN235, for one, “is believed to be used to insert [Special Forces] personnel at small airfields for covert counter-insurgency operations,” according to the Spyflight forum.

    So don't worry guys, they aren't spying on you, they just want to deploy Special Forces in your neighborhood.

  • Sheesh, any time someone writes "begs the question" the peoples they go nuts, but write "very unique" and nobody bats an eye?
  • So now the use training missions to spy on US Citizens?

    They are flying a a hi tech spy plane over a major US population center for training? Sounds questionable in it's legality.
  • "A very unique..."

    Tell me how that works again?
  • Big, lumpy, has eyes on it, a little grey though, but a potato nonetheless.

  • If the Russians say its Ok then surely Trump must have approved it.
    /s

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