Tag Archives: Flightradar24.com

There’s a lonely Il-76T cargo plane over central Syria right now

In spite of the U.S. and allied air strikes over Syria, there’s a Russian Il-76 over central Russia right now.

Not only U.S. combat planes including F-22s and F-16s are currently operating inside the Syrian airspace.

According to Flightradar24.com a lonely Il-76T cargo is currently overflying central Syria. Interestingly, in spite of the Syrian registration “YK-ATB” FR24 tagged the plane as Russian Air Force…

Callsign is “Manny6”.

Image credit: Flightradar24.com


U.S. airborne communication plane could be tracked on the Web for 9 hours during air strike that killed Taliban leaders in Afghanistan

At least seven Taliban militants were killed following a NATO air raid Afghanistan. Noteworthy, a sign of the developing operation may have been a U.S. Air Force E-11A BACN plane orbiting over southeasern Ghazni province, clearly visible on Flightradar24.com.

Although many military aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders they are usually turned off during real war operations. In fact, by automatically broadcasting the plane’s callsign, GPS position, speed and altitude, these special transponders provide information about the plane can be received by ground stations, by other nearby aircraft (thus enhancing situational awareness) and also by commercial off-the-shelf or home-built receivers.

Flightradar24 and PlaneFinder have a network of several hundred feeders around the world who make the flight information received by their home kits available for anybody on their websites, or by means of their smartphone apps.

Even though some pilots have confirmed they are well aware of the above mentioned websites and for this reason are instructed to turn off their transponders when involved in real operation, during the opening stages of the Libya Air War, some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net.

Three years later, a U.S. plane involved in war mission over Afghanistan could be monitored for several hours as it circled at 41,000 feet to the southeast of Ghazni.

The aircraft did not broadcast its mission callsign, but based on the hex code FR24 could identify it as a Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft, an advanced ultra long-range business jet that has been modified by the U.S. Air Force to accomodate Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload.

Within the U.S. Air Force, the modified jet is designated E-11A.

BACN is technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to exchange tactical information and communicate.

By orbiting at high-altitude, BACN equipped air assets provide a communications link from ground commanders to their allies in the sky regardless of the type of the supporting aircraft and in a non-line-of-sight (LOS) environment. In the rugged, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, troops are not always able to establish LOS communications with close support aircraft overhead and moving position or relocating to higher ground could be fatal. In such situation, a legacy USAF A-10 attack aircraft could loiter away from the battlefield while using the BACN link to communicate with a special-forces Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) on the ground until all targeting information is ready before “un-masking” and beginning an attack run.

The BACN system is also deployed onboard EQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs.

Anyway, the E-11A could be tracked on FR24.com for about 9 hours, from 21.54 UTC on Aug. 10 to 06.45 UTC on Aug. 11, when the aircraft got out of the flightradar24 coverage while returning back to Kandahar airfield (?). At the same time a NATO air strike in the same zone killed seven Taliban and wounded four.

Next time NATO is preparing a similar operation, the presence of the orbiting E-11A could expose and jeopardize the imminent air strike.

H/T to Jerod Harris for the heads-up.

Image credit: screenshot form flightradar24.com


You can track the first helium balloons of Google Project Loon’s aerial wireless network

Helium balloons of the future network that should give Internet to everyone in the world fortunately use ADS-B.

If you point your browser to Flightradar24.com and zoom off the coast of New Zealand, you’ll see 7 slow moving aircraft: these are actually helium balloons, part of Google’s Project Loon, broadcasting their position, speed, altitude etc. via Mode-S ADS-B.

Project Loon is a research and development project whose aim is to provide Internet access to everyone, even if they live in rural and remote areas. The project features high-altitude balloons, made from sheets of polyethiylene plastic and measuring 15×12 meters,  placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 20 mi (32 km) with the purpose of crating an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds.

The helium balloons are all “floating” around 1,000 feet to the southeast of New Zealand, and a probably involved in a testing campaign; after the trial (kicked off in June 2013) Google hopes to launch thousands of balloons around Earth to provide global Internet access.

In the wake of Snowden scandal, someone said that the purpose of the project may not be philantropic and the task of the network of balloons would be global communications monitoring. But this is another story.

Top: Flightradar24.com screenshot

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There’s a Russian Air Force “doomsday plane” circling over Sochi

A Tu-214SR circling from a few hours over Sochi for the opening ceremony.

The Tupolev Tu-214SR is a Special Mission Aircraft of the Russian Air Force. Although few details about this special plane are known, the “SR” is belived to be a communication relay aircraft, often accompanying Putin’s presidential aircraft on its travels.

In other words, it is the Russian “doomsday” plane, with an airborne command and control role similar to that of the U.S. E-4B.

Another variant of the same aircraft, dubbed Tu-214R is modified for ELINT (Electronic Intelligence)/ SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) mission.

The aircraft can be tracked on Flightradar24.com and Planefinder.net circling near Sochi (not far from the two U.S. warships in the Black Sea).

Top image screenshot from FR24.com


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[Image] Super Typhoon Hiyan affecting air traffic in Southeast Asia

With sustained winds at 195 mph and gusting to 235 mph, Super Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest tropical cyclone in world history.

After flattening Philppines, the storm is currently over South China Sea moving towards Vietnam.

A quick look at Flightradar24 (with cloud layer active) gives a hint at how the Haiyan is affecting air traffic in the air, with aircraft forced to circumvent the bad weather.

Obviously, only aircraft using ADS-B can be seen on the virtual radar.

Top image: screenshot from Flightradar24.com

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