Air Attacks Over Libya Tweeted by Dutch Radio Enthusiast
As military activities continue in Libya, an ex-miliatry radio enthusiast from the Netherlands has taken it upon himself to track the activity of NATO plans in the air over that country and tweet out their activities through the @FMCNL account.
Using commercially available equipment that apparently can be purchased at Radio Shack and some technical know-how “Huub” (aka “BlackBox”) has been observing clandestine air operations for years. Much of his information comes from the publicly available and non-encrypted signals all aircraft are required to send out to avoid mid-air collisions with commercial aircraft. Writing to Wired about his process, Huub said:
“I use a combination of live listening with local equipment, audio streaming, video streaming, datamining, intelligence, analyzing and the general knowledge of [air traffic control] procedures, communication, encryption, call signs, frequencies and a lot of experience on this!”
The information Huub sends out is, to a civilian like me, rather breathtaking. Sometimes, he’s able to note the type of aircraft, its affiliation (country, organization, etc.), and even the tail number. Sometimes, his messages are directed back at the military, such as when he sent a message to the US Africa Command’s Twitter account informing them of what he thought was unsafe operations on an anti-radar aircraft. From his Twitter stream:
@USAfricaCommand be advised, one of your WEASEL’s F-16CJ from 23th FS Spangdahlem Germany has his transponder Mode-S on! NOT secure!
Huub is certainly demonstrating his belief that, as he told Wired, “to listen to this communication is to listen to ‘the truth,’ without any military or political propaganda.” However, not everyone is pleased about it. At least one Twitter user admonished Huub, saying that such Tweets could be placing pilots in danger.
Not being an expert, I wouldn’t know if the information Huub sends out is really damaging to military operations. If he really is using only publicly accessible information though, then adversaries are probably aware of the information as well. It seems more likely that Huub’s Tweets are an intriguing, and still strange, window into warfare as it has been executed for decades, but only now being interpreted for everyday folk.