Tag Archives: Russia

[Updated] Air Force Special Operations Command using Russian encryption software on made-in-China iPADs

Even if they might be called to face Chinese and Russia almost everywhere between Middle East and Asia (or even perform missions inside China or Russia in a less likely WWIII scenario), the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) planes will fly those special operations relying on products developed and sold by some of more dangerous U.S. adversaries.

In fact, the AFSOC in January decided to buy about 2,800 made-in-China Apple iPAD2 tablets to transition from printed documents to electronic devices capable of maintaining and updating the required publications. In other words, instead of using cumbersome booklets difficult to update, flight crews will be able to browse through hundreds navigation and approach charts, and technical manuals in PDF format.

Unfortunately, even if the use of iPADs offers a cost-effective solution to deliver documents and updates in a near-instantaneous standardized manner, the software that will have to secure the data inside the device “even if the device gets lost or stole” is developed and updated in Russia.

According to a Nextgov article by Bob Brewin, GoodReader is a Russian software that supports most common document file formats and also allows the user to view and save web pages, and download, listen to or view photos, audio and videos. But, above all, it can also encrypt files using Apple data protection APIs that will continue to protect the files “even if an attacker jailbreaks your device and uses various hacking techniques to access encrypted files.”

So, after the concerns about the integrity of the iPAD’s hardware supply chain in China, now someone is complaining that special ops crews will soon have to rely on Russian-developed encryption software.

Most probably the source code will be inspected and tested to ensure that it does not contain malicious code.

However not only malware built in the software can be used against AFSOC planes using: what if a licit update operation is used to inject wrong data in the navigation charts used by the U.S. aircrews? In certain conditions, a wrong airport elevation or a lower MEA (Minimum Enroute Altitude) could jeopardise the safety of the flight even if the crew can rely on many other navigation instruments working properly. And what about a Zero-Day attack launched to exploit an unknown vulnerability of the software?

Having said that, the risk of wrong data injection (in this case for human error) or of software glitch exposing the device to hackers attacks also affect domestic software.

Update Feb. 21, 2012 13.50GMT

Looks like the AFSOC has canceled its planned purchase of iPAD2 tablets. Security concerns behind this choice?

Don't get on a Sukhoi Su-27 without wearing this: Russian (and China's Air Force) long range underwear

Long range flights can be extremely critical for combat pilots.
What makes these missions particularly uncomfortable is not only the complexity of the navigation but the lack of restrooms.

The use of urine collection devices called “piddle packs” in small cockpit compels the pilots to disrobe, adjust the ejection seat and distract them from handling the aircraft. A tricky procedure that can be extremely dangerous if lap belts get stuck on the control stick. As happened at least twice in the past causing the loss of two fighter planes (and the succesful ejection of the respective pilots).

Next generation “piddle packs” pump urine from a pilot’s underwear equipped with an inflatable cup and a hose to a sanitary collection bag so they don’t even have to unstrap when they have to go. A system that is particularly useful when wearing not only a flightsuit but also the anti-exposure suit designed for cold water survival.

A similar underwear system was produced in Russia for the Sukhoi Su-27 pilots and transferred to China along with the planes and a full set of pilot flight gear (including ZSH-7 helmets, helmet targeting device, flight suites etc.) when People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) got the Russian Flankers before China started to manufacture its indigenous version of the plane (the Shenyang J-11A, that entered service in 1998).

The pictures (provided by a source who wishes to remain anonymous), show the Russian underwear delivered to the PLAAF. They should be self-explaining about how it is supposed to work (with the main difference being that the hose is connected to the plane and not to a bag), even if they give no hint of actual comfort…

Anyway, since the Chinese Air Force decided to use cheaper homemade flight gear (and long distance flights were seldom performed) this type of “piddle pack” has disappeared from PLAAF’s warehouse soon becoming a collectors’ item.

Russian Sukhoi Su-27s + Iranian F-14s + Iranian F-4s = the most exotic formation ever!

Although some pictures of this unbelievable formation have been already published on aviation website, the Russian Knights, Russian Air Force aerobatic display team has released some more images of the weird formation of Russian Su-27s (with the supporting Il-76), IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-14 Tomcats and F-4 Phantoms taken during the ferry flight that took the the team home from the Bahrain International Air Show 2012.

A unique opportunity to see some really “exotic” planes flying in (quite loose) formation over Iran, in a quite tense period.

Image credit: Sergei Shcheglov Russian Knights via http://sergeydolya.livejournal.com/423952.html (visit this site for more pictures)

From Greece with love: Russia's aircraft carrier flight ops in the Mediterranean sea

If the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag, serving as a testbed for the development China’s future naval aviation, is far from being a factor, Russia’s flagship Admiral Kuznetsov, a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser”, equipped with an air wing of Sukhoi Su-33s and a dozen long-range anti-ship missiles already plays a role in regional crisis.

Indeed, although the Russian Navy officially denied that the deployment to the Mediterranean Sea off Syria should not be seen as a show of support for the Assad regime facing an uprising, the Russian ships presence in the area comes in a period of growing tensions in the region.

The following video, dated Dec. 30, 2011, was broadcast by the Zvezda TV Channel, the Russian nationwide network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense. It shows the Su-33 of the Kuznetsov conducting flight ops in the Mediterranean sea.

Launches, recoveries (with some aircraft missing the wires too…) and aerobatics in the vicinity of the ship.

According to the latest reports, the Russian warship and its battlegroup are currently operating within the Athinai FIR (Flight Information Region).