The U.S. has been using drones for years, but now that technology has become more available to other nations how will the U.S. protect itself?
Also Read: A Navy F/A-18 Flew Low Over Berkeley, California And People Lost Their Minds
Vice News’ Ryan Faith discusses what the U.S. is doing to counter drones:
Earlier this year, VICE News was one of the first media outlets ever granted access to the US military’s annual Black Dart exercise, a decade-old joint exercise that focuses on detecting, countering, and defeating UAVs.As we watched tens of millions of dollars worth of military equipment go up against $1,000 drones, Black Dart demonstrated the way rapidly evolving drone technology is challenging the military’s most basic assumptions about controlling the air. (One civilian drone maker we visited told us that the technology he has at his fingertips is outpacing some RD efforts at big aerospace contractors.) And so Black Dart continues to encourage innovation in the effort to keep the US military one step ahead in the cat-and-mouse game between drones and drone killers.
In 1988, a ski-equipped Lockheed C-130 took off some 800 nautical miles northwest of the McMurdo Station Antarctic Research Center. It was the first time the plane had flown since 1971 – because it was frozen in the ice below for the previous 17 years.
In 1971, the plane was making a resupply run to an international research mission at McMurdo Station when it crashed. These resupply missions gave the United States its active presence on the Antarctic Continent and allowed for the safe conduct of polar research. The 1971 crash tempered that movement. Only a handful of C-130s made the trip and the loss of one put stress on the others. It was declared a total loss, stripped for parts, and left in the ice.
But not for long. New planes are expensive, after all.
The plane crashed on takeoff when a rocket booster struck an engine and destroyed one of the plane’s propellers. The Navy had to take everything of value off the plane and then leave it where it fell, in a remote area of Antarctica known as site D-59.
That’s where the plane was for 17 years until the U.S. military realized that it needed seven planes to make the resupply effort work. A new C-130 would have cost substantially more than a salvage operation. The choice was clear and, in 1987, LC-130 321 was dug up out of the ice-covered snowbank that had formed over it.
After being pulled out of 40 feet of ice and snow, the C-130 was restored at site D-59 until it could be flown to the main base at McMurdo Station. The dry air in Antarctica kept it largely free from corrosion and other threats to the airframe. Sadly, the costs didn’t stop at million. Two U.S. sailors were killed when another Hercules carrying spare parts for the refurbished Hercules in Antarctica went down on Dec. 9, 1987. Nine others were injured.
That crash only strengthened the Navy’s resolve to repair and restore the 16-year-old plane. It gave the mission a deeper meaning for the Navy and the Polar Science Foundation.
When the time came to get the restored plane in the air, it was manned by a five-person Navy crew. The mission began with a “buddy start” from another Navy C-130. The second plane used its prop wash to start the props on the restored C-130. Once a Lockheed engineer certified the plane would fly, and an ice speed taxi assured the crew would reach takeoff speed, the mission was a go.
The two planes flew to McMurdo Station and later, over to Christchurch, New Zealand. The plane was restored completely in the United States before resuming active polar service.
The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.
“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”
G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.
U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)
The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.
As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Medal of Honor recipient and Afghan War Veteran Dakota Meyer recently penned an essay on Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country.
Meyer, who fought beside Muslims while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, points out that Trump’s tactics will likely aid ISIS recruiting and threaten American security. It would also keep out the translators whose services saved American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the interpreter who Meyer worked to get into America safely.
The AGM-114 Hellfire has gotten lots of press. Deservedly so, given how it has made a number of prominent terrorists good terrorists. Here’s the Hellfire’s tale of the tape: it weighs 110 pounds, has a 20-pound warhead, and a range of 4.85 nautical miles.
But as good as the Hellfire is, there may be a better missile — and the Brits have it. The missile is called Brimstone, and at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, MBDA was displaying mock-ups on its triple mounts.
The baseline Brimstone has over 100 percent more range (over ten nautical miles, according to the RAF’s web page) than the Hellfire. The longer range is a huge benefit for the aircraft on close-air support missions, outranging many man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even some modern short-range systems like the SA-15.
Three missiles, three small boats — this is a mock-up of a typical triple-mount of the Brimstone missile on display at SeaAirSpace 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)
The Royal Air Force currently uses the Brimstone on the Tornado GR.4 aircraft and also used it on the Harrier GR.9 prior to the jump jet’s retirement. The RAF will introduce it on the Typhoon multi-role fighters and the Reaper drone currently in the inventory. According to a MDBA handout available at SeaAirSpace 2017, Brimstone made its bones over Afghanistan and Libya.
But at SeaAirSpace 2017, MDBA was showing signs of wanting to put the Brimstone on more aircraft. At their booth was a model of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with four three-round mounts for the Brimstone. Such a pairing could be very devastating to Iranian small boat swarms that have been known to harass United States Navy vessels on multiple occasions or hordes of Russian tanks that could threaten the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
US customs officials are eyeing facial-recognition technology that could be used with border patrol agents’ body cameras, according to a request for information filed by US Customs and Border Protection Oct. 16, 2019.
The agency is exploring technology “for body-worn cameras, software for video management and redaction, and cloud storage supporting an Incident Driven Video Recording System at CBP.” A full copy of the agency’s request for information was first published by The Register’s Katyanna Quach on Oct. 17, 2019.
CBP described facial-recognition software as a “feature of potential interest” and requested information on whether the software is currently available, when it will be fully operational, and why a vendor chose not to offer the technology. The request for information is exploratory and doesn’t mean any government action will necessarily be taken. CBP has already tested body cameras, but they are not standard across the agency.
In its request for information, CBP expressed interest in using facial-recognition software to build a database of people’s faces and run images against that database. It also requested information about the possibility of running comparisons between a person’s ID and an image of their face in real-time.
MQ-9 Predator B UAS operated by United States Customs and Border Protection.
Facial identification is already used widely by law enforcement agencies across the US. However, some lawmakers have begun to take steps to curb that trend: facial recognition is banned for use by police in certain cities, and on Oct. 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill suspending the use of facial-recognition technology by law enforcement for the next three years.
Human rights advocacy groups have decried the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, arguing that it constitutes overly-aggressive surveillance tactics.
“Body cameras were promised to communities as a tool for officer accountability and should not be twisted into surveillance systems to be used against communities,” Chris Rickerd, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters regarding the CBP filing.
A spokesperson for CBP did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Marine Corps: 241 years of butt-kicking and tradition.
Russian Naval Infantry: A Russian military force with 311 years of victory — and defeat.
Which is the deadlier unit in a matchup of the U.S. versus Russia when it comes to naval infantry?
In a major crisis, the U.S. would likely send a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Perhaps the most notable example was its use in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Using a force of five pre-positioned vessels, the U.S. delivered the gear and supplies needed for the 4th MEB to operate for 30 days as additional heavy forces arrived. It wasn’t anyone’s idea of a slouch: It brought a reinforced regiment of Marines (three battalions of Marine infantry, a battalion of artillery, and companies of AAV-7A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, and tanks) for ground combat, and also featured three squadrons of AV-8B+ Harriers, two squadrons of F/A-18C Hornets, a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers, and seven squadrons of helicopters.
A Russian Naval Infantry Brigade is also quite powerful. For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at the forces of Red Banner Northern Fleet, centered on the 61st Kirkinesskaya Red Banner Marine Brigade.
The Red Banner Northern Fleet’s naval infantry force has three battalions of naval infantry, one air-assault battalion, one “reconnaissance” battalion, one “armored” battalion, two artillery battalions, and an air-defense battalion.
If things were to come to blows in Norway during the Cold War (or today, for that matter), these units would go head-to-head. In fact, ironically, the 4th MEB was diverted from preparations for a deployment exercise to Norway to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So, who would win that face-off?
With what is effectively four battalions of infantry, a reconnaissance battalion, a tank battalion, two artillery battalions, and the other attachments, the Russians have a slight numerical edge in ground firepower. The air-defense battalion can somewhat negate the air power that a Marine Expeditionary Brigade would bring to a fight.
That said, some of the equipment is older, like the PT-76 light tank and the BRDM-2 armored car. The BMP-2 is equipping some units, but many still use BTR-80 and MT-LB armored personnel carriers. Very few BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles or T-90 main battle tanks have arrived.
That said, the American Marines have potent firepower of their own. Perhaps the most potent ground firepower would come from the company of M1A1 Abrams tanks. Don’t be fooled by their 1980s lineage — these tanks have been heavily upgraded, and are on par with the M1A2 SEP tanks in Army service.
Marine Corps LAV-25s and LAV-ATs can also kill the armored vehicles attached to the Red Banner Northern Fleet. This does not include man-portable anti-tank missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin or the BGM-71 TOW.
What will really ruin the day for the Russian Naval Infantry is the Marine aviation. Marine aviation specifically trains to support Marines on the ground, and the close-air support — particularly from the AV-8B+ Harrier — will prove to be very decisive.
In short, the Marines might be spotting Russian Naval Infantry seven decades of tradition, but they will show the Russians why they were called “devil dogs.”
Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).
These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.
Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)
Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.
Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.
The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.
Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.
While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.
Myth: There is such a thing as true bulletproof glass
In movies and TV shows, bulletproof glass is often depicted to be indestructible. No matter what weapon is used, no matter how many bullets are fired, bulletproof glass remains intact and unchanged. The only problem is, in real life, bulletproof glass isn’t really bulletproof and it isn’t really glass.
The correct term for “bulletproof” glass is bullet resistant. Why? Because with enough time and concentrated effort or just a big enough caliber bullet, a person can become victorious over the supposed indestructibility of “bulletproof” glass. The strength and durability of bullet-resistant glass depends on how it is made and the thickness of the final product.
Fire a bullet at a normal sheet of glass and the glass will shatter, right? So, how exactly does glass become bullet resistant? There are three main kinds of bullet-resistant glass:
1) Acrylic: Acrylic is a hard, clear plastic that resembles glass. A single piece of acrylic with a thickness over one inch is considered bullet resistant. The advantage of acrylic is that it is stronger than glass, more impact resistant, and weighs 50 percent less than glass. Although acrylic can be used to create bullet-resistant glass, there is no actual glass in the final product.
2) Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is also a type of plastic, but it differs from acrylic in many ways. Polycarbonate is a versatile, soft plastic with unbeatable strength. It is a third of the weight of acrylic and a sixth of the weight of glass, making it easier to work with, especially when dealing with thickness. Polycarbonate is combined in layers to create a bullet resistant product. Whereas, acrylic repels bullets, polycarbonate catches the bullet and absorbs its energy, preventing it from exiting out the other side. Polycarbonate is more expensive than other types of materials, including glass and acrylic, so it is often used in combination with other materials for bullet-resistant glass.
3) Glass-Clad Polycarbonate Bullet-Resistant Glass: This type of bullet-resistant glass uses a combination of materials to create the desired result. We are all familiar with the process of lamination. It is what teachers do to paper to protect it from the unidentifiable substances of kids’ fingers so it will last longer. Manufacturers of glass-clad polycarbonate bullet-resistant glass use the same process. A piece of polycarbonate material is laminated, or sandwiched, between ordinary sheets of glass and then it undergoes a heating and cooling process to mold the materials together into one piece. The end result is a product that resembles glass but is thicker and more durable.
Thickness plays a huge part in a product’s ability to resist bullets. Bullet-resistant glass is designed to remain intact for one bullet or one round of bullets. Depending on the force of the bullet being fired and what type of weapon is used, a thicker piece of bullet-resistant glass is needed to stop a bullet with more force. For instance, a shot fired from a 9mm pistol is less powerful than one fired from a rifle. Therefore, the required thickness of bullet-resistant glass for a 9mm pistol is less than is needed for a rifle. The final thickness of bullet-resistant glass usually ranges from about .25 inches to 3 inches.
The latest and greatest design for bullet-resistant glass is one-way bullet-resistant glass. Yes, it is exactly what is sounds like. One-way bullet-resistant glass consists of two layers–brittle glass and a flexible material such as the polycarbonate plastic material described above. When a bullet hits the brittle glass layer first, the glass breaks inward toward the plastic, which absorbs some of the bullet’s energy and spreads it over a larger area so the polycarbonate material is able to stop the bullet from exiting. When a fired bullet hits the polycarbonate material first, the bulk of the force is concentrated on a small area that prevents much energy from being absorbed. Then, since the glass material breaks outward away from the polycarbonate, the bullet maintains enough energy to break through the glass and travel toward its destination. One-way bullet-resistant glass is most ideal for armored vehicles.
The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you see. Although movies do a good job to entertain us and teach us a thing or two, the truth about bullet-resistant glass is not one of them.
Depending on the size and type of bullet-resistant glass, it can cost between and 0 per square foot.
Although polycarbonate plastic can bond with glass to resist bullets, paper towels can scratch its surface and ammonia-based window cleaning liquids will damage the material.
Obtaining bullet-resistant glass is completely legal in the United States. You don’t even need a permit.
The most popular bullet-resistant product in demand is bulletproof transaction windows like those used in banks.
Ever thought about making your beloved iPad bulletproof? A company in California created an iPad cover made of polycarbonate material to better protect the device. Although the new transparent cover will protect the screen from scratches, dents, and shattered glass, there is no guarantee that the bullet-resistant material will actually stop a bullet.
A sheet of polycarbonate plastic can take an hour beating with a sledgehammer, whereas, an acrylic piece of comparable thickness might succumb in minutes.
Last September, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and tested an aircraft designed under their NGAD fighter, or Next Generation Air Dominance, program. The idea that America might already have a 6th generation fighter waiting in the wings caught the world’s attention, but in the months since, many have come to believe that the aircraft that was tested wasn’t a mature fighter design, but was rather a technology demonstrated used to assess the performance of systems destined for an NGAD fighter.
None the less, these tests mean the Air Force has clearly made some significant progress on what is to become the NGAD fighter, making it all the more miraculous that the American people have yet to learn much at all about this aircraft slated to replace the dogfight-dominating F-22 Raptor. Like the B-21 Raider being developed by Northrop Grumman, the NGAD fighter is an open secret: The world knows it’s coming, we just still don’t know what it’ll be capable of.
So, what do we know about the NGAD fighter? Well, there are some things we can glean through official artist’s renderings and their associated descriptions, and there are other things we can extrapolate based on the capabilities of its longterm competition in China’s J-20 and Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighters. By putting these two groups of assertions together, we can develop a somewhat robust idea of what the NGAD fighter will be expected to do, and how it might go about doing it.
Watch: What can artist’s renderings tell us about the NGAD fighter?
In this video, I break down some of the official images of the NGAD fighter (artist’s renderings) that have been released by the U.S. Air Force in various documents. Then, I compare those images to ongoing aviation trends and previous stealth aircraft prototypes to draw conclusions about what this jet may really look like.
You can read the full article this video was based on, here.
In many of these renderings, the NGAD fighter looks to have adopted a triangular or wedge-shaped design that forgoes the presence of a traditional vertical tail. While both the F-22 Raptor this jet will replace and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter America continues to pump out of Lockheed factories do have fairly traditional tail sections despite their stealthy designs, the idea of a stealth fighter that lacks a vertical tail is not at all without precedent.
In fact, Northrop Grumman’s famed YF-23 Black Widow II, which competed with and lost to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor for America’s last air superiority fighter contract, famously performed as well or better than the Raptor in a number of important categories (including stealth and range), and it too lacked a vertical tail. Today, Northrop Grumman is under contract with the Air Force to produce the forthcoming B-21 Raider, widely believed to be the most advanced stealth bomber in history, so it’s not out of the question to suggest that Northrop may also be competing for a chance at the NGAD fighter using an updated design that shares some commonality with the aforementioned YF-23.
In fact, even Lockheed Martin has released artist’s renderings tied to the prospect of a 6th generation fighter that look strikingly like Northrop’s YF-23 design.
You can read our full coverage on the incredible YF-23 Black Widow II in our feature on it here.
Other facets of the NGAD fighter, like storing ordnance internally, carrying its own electronic warfare capabilities, and leveraging advanced engines meant to increase power and efficiency while further limiting infrared exposure can all be seen in the most recent images tied to the program released earlier this month.
Video gamers are more prepared for military service than people the same age were in previous generations.
“We don’t need Top Gun pilots anymore, we need Revenge of the Nerds,” said Missy Cummings, former US Navy pilot, Assoc. Prof. of Aeronautics, MIT in Drone Wars: The Gamers Recruited To Kill, a documentary film about gamers and drone operators.
With the development of drones and other technologies, it’s easy to understand why she makes that statement. The Navy has even fashioned some of their controllers after popular gaming consoles, such as the X-Box and Playstation, making it a comfortable transition from make-believe entertainment to high stakes shoot em’ up.
Video games have been used by the military to win the minds of young people since 2002 with America’s Army, a first person shooter created and run by the Army. Gamers who play similar first-person shooters get immersed in stories that require teamwork and battlefield knowledge to succeed while having fun.
“Whilst nobody who’s ever played Call of Duty or Battlefield expects to recover from a real-life assault rifle round to the chest by crouching momentarily behind a wall, huge numbers of young people are developing an in-depth knowledge of military hardware, vocabulary and basic technique,” reports Dan Pearson for Games Industry.
The game is so popular that from 2002 to 2008 it was one of the top 10 computer games in the world, reported Corey Mead in a 2013 article for Time magazine. For recruiters, the game is a tool for connecting with people familiar with Army basics, so hosting and attending tournaments is a no-brainer. However, the military is reaching beyond America’s Army. In the video below, you can see military officials attending gaming trade shows searching for the next drone operators.
While 2016 took a lot from us (Carrie Fisher being one of the most recent losses), it also provided us with glimpses into the future.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the new tech of 2016.
1. Carbon Nanomaterials
This article from April outlines the potential of aircraft made in one structure as opposed to many components that have to be assembled. Lockheed Martin made its mark in aviation with its famous Skunk Works in the 20th Century. The nanomaterials could lead to new developments in a wide range of products, from medical applications to building ships.
2. Russia Gets Its LCS Right
Russia began work on the Derzky-class littoral combat ship this year, as WATM reported in November. While the American versions have been in the news with engineering problems, Russia seems to have taken the time to think about what its navy wanted.
Derzky will not be in service until 2021, according to reports. Perhaps, by then, the American LCS will have the kinks worked out of it.
3. New Round for Snipers?
In November, WATM also noted that snipers were taking an interest in the .300 Norma Magnum round. This round offers an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua Magnum round currently used by snipers. The round will be used in the Advanced Sniper Rifle that SOCOM is trying to procure.
4. No More “Feeling the Burn”
The Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble is slated to help keep Marines and sailors assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command from “feeling the burn.”
When the Army began testing the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, comparisons to the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi were quick in coming.
This October, WATM noted it was also being eyed for use in combat re-supply missions. While the Marines have used an unmanned K-Max, this is much smaller and could help resupply a platoon in a firefight.
6. A Bird of Prey that hunts subs
This April, WATM reported on the ACTUV, which could make life very difficult for enemy subs. ACTUV, which stands for Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, displaces about 140 tons and is 132 feet long.
Equipped with sensors and a datalink, this is a robotic scout that can track submarines or other targets, and it has a sustained speed of 27 knots.
7. Russia’s Killer Robot
On Dec. 3, Russian FSB troops carried out a raid that took out the top dog of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Dagestan chapter.
Earlier this month, WATM took a closer look at the gear displayed in a video that was released. The star attraction was a little robot packing what appeared to be a PKM machine gun and two RPG-22s. Now, isn’t this robot cooler than BB-8?
8. Bigger guns on Stryker and JLTV
Since relations between the Russians and Americans seem to be heading south, two vehicles are getting bigger guns. In October, the Stryker got a 30mm turret, and became the XM1296 Dragoon. But this September, WATM reported that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle got a bigger gun in the form of a modified M230. Now, these vehicles can take out BMPs.
So, those are some of the big tech stories out there for 2016. Which military tech story from 2016 is your favorite?
And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.
The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.
The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.
Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.
The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.
They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.
So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.