Noteworthy, the aircraft operated by Pantelleria airport, a little Italian island off Tunisia: most probably, deploying the plane to a Tunisian airport was not safe, Sigonella airbase, in Sicily, from where U.S. Global Hawk and Predator and Reaper drone operate, was too far and Pantelleria was chosen as the closest base for the clandestine task.
The plane is the civil version of the MC-12W, an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform operated by the U.S. Air Force and equipped with a full array of sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, a robust voice communications suite as well as an electro-optical infrared sensor with a laser illuminator and designator.
The Air Force MC-12W, Army King Airs as well as several civil-registered King Airs (which appear similar to general aviation aircraft during their covert missions), are actually spyplanes used for several Special Operations and particularly capable to “find, fix, and finish” bad guys.
Here below is the track the plane flew on Mar. 22. On top of the article you find the route of Mar. 26’s mission, the last that could be tracked on FR24.
According to an esteem by Flightradar24.com, around 60% of the civil airliners and only a small amount of business jets and military aircraft have an ADS-B transponder. This means that, although you will never spot a Stealth Helicopter nor Air Force One broadcasting its position, speed, altitude and route on the Web, you can still catch some extremely interesting planes. As the evasive US Air Force C-32Bs (a military version of the Boeing 757), operated by the Department of Homeland Security and US Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST), used to deploy US teams and special forces in response to terrorist attacks.
I was wrong.
Although even the Flightradar24 FAQs confirmed that the Air Force One, the world’s most famous and important aircraft, should NOT be visible on their website, for a few seconds around 19.40UTC, the U.S. Air Force’s VC-25 (mil version of the B747), with registration 82-8000, transponder code 3614, advertised its position in the public domain while over Baltimore, descending through FL120 at 310 kts, heading towards Washington D.C. (for landing at Andrews AFB).
I don’t really know the reason for this quick appearance of the AF1 on FR24. A human error? A quick test? Hard to say. I’d expect the IFF Mode 5 with encrypted Mode-S and ADS-B to be paramount on the aircraft carrying the POTUS.
Once again a Foreign Emergency Support Team C-32 (B757) with registration 02-4452, belonging to the 227 SOF (Special Operations Flight) based at McGuire AFB, NJ, appeared on both FlightRadar24 and PlaneFinder on arrival to Andrews AFB just before 08.38UTC on May 15. Noteworthy, using LiveATC radio stream on KDCA approach I’ve heard it using an unusual callsign “Jenna 71” being vectored for an ILS approach for RWY 19L at Andrews AFB. The aircraft hasn’t used one of the callsigns used by the 227 SOF (the most usual of which is “Terra”) but “Jenna” or “Jena” that according to some websites should be used by non-FBI aircraft and non-FBI flight crews involved in FBI operations. For instance, another FBI callsign reported to be use by FBI flights is “Ross”.
Here’s a part of the radio comms of Jenna 71 with KDCA Approach from LiveATC.net archive:
One or two days ago, I read that Flightradar24.com had added a new feeder in Washington DC. So, on Sunday May 08, 2011 at 19.50 GMT I thought it would be nice to try to see which kind of traffic crosses the airspace in the DC area. As soon as I moved the cursor on the East Coast of the CONUS I noticed an aircraft showing the “No Callsign” label. I clicked on it and what I saw really struck me:
The aircraft broadcasting its position, serial, speed, altitute, etc. to everyone was the famous C-32B serialled 00-9001 belonging to the 227th SOF based at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. This is considered a “black” USAF plane as it is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and US Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) and it usually appears in the most unusual locations all around the world. Aircraft spotters have been trying to track its movements and they often report this and few other C-32Bs (B757s) of the Air Force Special Operations Command using bogus serial numbers and always changing Hex codes. Don’t you believe it is somehow weird that such elusive aircraft, deploying US teams in response to terrorist attacks or (as someone speculated) to transport prisoners, was transmitting full ADS-B over the US?
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