Monday, May 5, 2014

Spy planes, civilian airlines and mass shootings

The following headline caught my eye the other day; "Spy Plane Fries Air Traffic Control Computers, Shuts Down LAX".  According to the article, a U-2 altitude (60,000 feet or higher) and route overloaded En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) which is designed to allow faster processing of route requests and in-flight changes.  The ERAM kept interpreting the U-2 flight path as on a collision course with other aircraft, even though the vertical separation (altitude) between the U-2 and other aircraft in the vicinity was several miles.  I find the explanation to be only partially believable.

While I have no doubt the U-2 overloaded the ERAM, I believe it had more to do with the electronics on-board the spy plane then it did simply with its route.  U-2s have been in operation for over 50 years and has been around since at least 2009.  This can't be the first time a U-2 has flown through congested airspace, albeit several miles above it.  I suspect the U-2 had either some sensors or jammers that prematurely came on which were responsible for the computer crash.  The systems are all programmed on the ground, the pilot is merely along for the ride so he would not have had any way of turning the systems on or off.

Back in the early 90s, our radar unit was in a major exercise in Europe.  An EC-111 (Raven) was on-station and started to jam our radar (which puked out 100,000 watts of R/F energy).  We were able to manually switched frequencies to defeat the jamming UNTIL the back-seater got tired of our shit and turned up the energy of his jammer.  He shut us down in a heartbeat and friend some of our equipment.  The point of this story was at least 20 years ago, military aircraft had the ability to shut-down ground based radar (even military ones with frequency hopping capability).  A modern day FAA civilian radar would have no chance against a U-2 if it was switched on at the wrong time.

Most civilians outside electrical engineers and physicists have no idea how much energy electronic jammers, radars and even HF radios produce.  All of these are capable, with enough power and range, to bring down aircraft.  I still am of the opinion the Flight 370 was hit by some kind of R/F weapon.  Perhaps the pilot was planning to divert and land somewhere.  His route may have crossed into protected airspace and a R/F weapon was used on it.  I am reading now where supposedly Al Qaeda terrorists were on board.  Perhaps they had something to do with it or perhaps they were merely passengers.  Terrorist using an aircraft as a weapon again will take some time.  Everyone is looking for that so the next major attack will involve something else.

Something else could be the ability to "turn" our own people against us.  The news is reporting more and more shootings, stabbings and attempted bombings at schools.  According to the Liberty Crier, nearly every mass shooting in the past 20 years was committed by people on psychotropic drugs (article).  Most of these drugs are prescribed to prevent certain behaviors but those prescribing often don't know all of the side effects.  What if the drugs allow one to be more easily programmed via mass media (TV, Internet, video games, etc)?  It would keep our focus off of external threats while keeping us focused on internal threats.  Remember, propaganda encompasses all forms of communication to change attitudes and behaviors.  We tend to think of wartime posters and Voice of America when propaganda is actually more psychological warfare.  When you consider propaganda in that manner, it becomes harder to dismiss the use of mass media by outside forces as a way of turning our own people against us.

In these three examples, the headlines are only part of the story.  The 24 hour news cycle is making impossible to stay focused on one story before the next major headline hits.  Syria and Ukraine are still tearing themselves up but the news has already moved on to the next headline.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the U-2's altitude encoding was too much for the new system.