Wings Over Europe: Part Two

4 Sept 2023

Open Source ADS-B is one of our favourite sources.

Being technology nerds, we are always looking for interesting stories that involve using technology to leverage information. Some of the best examples of this can include ADS-B technology that identify aircraft movements and AIS that give the same advantages to commercial shipping.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you might recall that we’ve written about this a few times previously with articles on both AIS and ADS-B.

Today we’ll take another look at aircraft movements to see what platforms we can find. As usual, we’ll be using ADS-B exchange so we can filter by types of interest. Should you wish to have a look yourself, they are a free service and can be found here.

European Traffic:
As you’d expect to see during a conflict, looking through Europe shows many military platforms active during our research period with some of the more interesting ones to be found here.

The first platform of interest we found was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon. A militarized version of Boeing’s 737, the Poseidon was a jet replacement for the cold war era P3 Orion.
Our Poseidon appears to be working off the coast of Romania and is leaving some interesting tracks on the map.
USAF P-8 Poseidon. Source: ADSB Exchange

Our next platform of interest is one we’ve seen before. JAKE17 is a Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint. JAKE17 has been appeared regularly in this position. While the Rivet Joint is an older platform, it’s electronic intelligence gathering abilities mean it’s a critical component of the modern battlefield. While it’s quite common for the Rivet Joint’s to fly a racetrack pattern, using their antennas to peer deep into contested territory, we can see today that JAKE17 has moved through NATO territory following no particular pattern.

JAKE17, a US RC-135 Rivet Joint heading to it’s allocated station. Source: ADSB Exchange
Today’s flight was not the usual racetrack. JAKE17

Moving across, we see a 2 ship flight of F-16s from the Belgian Air Component. The F-16 is Belgium’s front line fighter although in the coming years they will be operating the F-35 as a replacement. Also for those who aren’t aware, Belgian fighters operate under an Air Policing mission, where Benelux countries share the responsibility of providing air coverage to all nations.

MACE81 and MACE82, a two ship flight of Belgian F-16's.

Asia Pacific:
Moving to the Southern Hemisphere we see an interesting platform that isn’t really renowned for it’s military prowess. Its a Philippines Air force Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Open Source research on this platform shows that it’s used as a Utility platform, with no specialized role. Still, it’s an interesting frame to see when you’re looking for military aircraft.

A Cessna172 from the Philippines.

Our next platform is particularly interesting. It’s a USAF Boeing 747–200 with the callsign Titan-25. This looks to be a special mission platform, or more specifically the E4-B Nightwatch. Also known as the “Doomsday Plane” the Nightwatch is a National Airborne Operations Centre, providing continuity of Government during a wartime situation. If you’d like to read more about the Nightwatch, you can do so here. This aircraft is en route to Hawaii and was observed in the vicinity of ASY-646, an RAAF Globemaster.

Apocalypse on the Go. The E4-B is the NAOC, an essential piece of the USAF’s ability to provide airborne command.

Our last platform for the day belongs to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Its a Beechcraft King Air 350. The RNZAF has no front line fighter and is compromised mainly of utility aircraft, although they maintained capable anti submarine platforms in the shape of the P3 Orion. The Orion was replaced in the later parts of the 2020’s with the new P-8 Poseidon.
Because of this, aircraft such as the King Air provided utility to the air force giving both training and transport capabilities in a package that is reasonably cheap to procure and operate. While our King Air that’s the focus of today has no tail track we can see he’s cruising at 284 knots at 24000 ft.

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