back to article 5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

That the US and other nations operate spy satellites capable of taking very detailed photographs of Earth is not in doubt. But the idea that those satellites have been pressed into service to find downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, and that it is therefore possible to infer some of the satellites' capabilities, is very …

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Of course it's military...

...why else would it have a classification (albeit that of unclassified) on it?

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Stop

Re: Of course it's military...

Yes nothing convinces the sheeple (sorry Matt B for pinching your stuff) batshit paranoid commentator on the register even an article that clearly states it isn't military.

FYI. most government documents both military and civil have a classification

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Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

Who imposes a classification if not the military? Also, citation please for most government documents having a classification. Or are you just an opinionated loudmouth?

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Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

Who imposes a classification if not the military? Also, citation please for most government documents having a classification. Or are you just an opinionated loudmouth?

I worked for the HMRC. Every single document was given a classification, even if that classification was that it was completely unimportant security-wise. Hope that helps.

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Re: Of course it's military... @Tromos

Apologies Tromos my FYI was more tongue in cheek. I didn't realise that there would be anybody on here who was sufficiently ignorant to not know that all official government documents are classified.

Government classification 101 link below -

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251480/Government-Security-Classifications-April-2014.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

Tromos you complete .....

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-security-classifications

As per the previous posts, its not just the Military that 'classify' OFFICIAL documents, general governments also 'classify' documents. In addition, many private or commercial organisation also classify documents such as "Commercially Sensitive" in order to make p

These classifications are also known as 'Handling Codes', which dictate how an individual within an organisation should handle, store or distribute documents or files (e.g Data etc)

Documents get 'classified' the clue is in the name - that is arranged in classes or groups of document types.

An

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Re: Of course it's military...

Hmmm.

The fact that it come from the Department of Defense Intelligence and Security is also an indicator.

Not sure why you got down voted.

Here have an upvote.

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Re: Of course it's military...

I think it's unlikely to be military because there's not a lot of point in surveying, spending valuable limited bandwidth and analysing thousands of square miles of the strategically and tactically unimportant Southern Ocean.

Spy sats are good for surface targets, like ships, but the Southern Ocean is a very hostile place for surface vessels to operate and whilst it may be a good out-of-the-way sort of place for subs to loiter subs aren't good spy sat targets, which are better tracked by other systems, such as SOSUS. There just aren't really any targets from where the Southern Ocean is the best place to operate; apart from loitering to waste time there's just not a lot of point in having military resources in the Southern Ocean so there's little point in having spy sats survey it.

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Just FYI, SOSUS is apparently only for the Northern Hemisphere.

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I think you & Wikipedia are largely correct but I'd be a bit surprised if there weren't a few stations off the south coast of Australia/Tasmania; targets detected in the northern Atlantic and moving south would be followed by a western sub but you'd also want to keep an eye on subs entering the Indian Ocean from the East via the South Pacific. I certainly agree that there won't be any SOSUS sensors in the Southern Ocean itself; there isn't really anywhere for the sensors to be linked to, apart from Australia (I don't think that political relations have been good enough for stations to have been set up on Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Luck).

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Re: Of course it's military...

"Of course it's military...

...why else would it have a classification (albeit that of unclassified) on it?"

That's the most stupid thing I've read all day.

You do realise that your nation's clandestine services (NSA, GCHQ, CIA, whatever) are all non-military, right? By your telling they can't create classified documents!

Some information doesn't even need to be designated with a classification after creation by *anyone*: Any document created by anyone in the US which would be of use in creating atomic weapons is 'Born Secret'. So if you doodle a bomb design on a post-it, then it's classified.

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Re: Of course it's military...

" Department of Defense Intelligence and Security is also an indicator."

A counter-indicator. DoDI&S is not 'military'. America's premier spy-sat agency - the NRO - is not 'military'.

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Boffin

Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

@AC - These classifications are also known as 'Handling Codes', which dictate how an individual within an organisation should handle, store or distribute documents or files (e.g Data etc)

Your along the right lines but you're not correct either, you are confusing different labels. I'll try and explain :-

Classification refers to the level of information security afforded tot he document.

Handling codes, or 'Handling Restrictions' to give them their proper title, go alongside the classification to denote who may (or may not) see the document (which is different from the level of classification the document has). Usually the handling restriction is usually a list of countries.

Caveats go alongside the classification and/or the handling restriction to denote extra information about why the document is classified or how to treat it 'Commercial' or 'Personal' could be two examples.

A Security label on a document could include many words, but the classification is the one that will always exist, even if it is just 'unclassified'. Handling restrictions, caveats, etc may or may not be included as appropriate but they aren't the same as the classification.

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Re: Of course it's military...

"so there's little point in having spy sats survey it"

But spy satellites have to fly over the southern ocean to be of any use for spying on the north. The only constraints for surveying the southern ocean are the amount of image storage space available and how quickly those images can be downloaded to free up that storage space. Twenty years ago, when I worked on some satellite mission scheduling software for ESA, these were real issues, but I can't imagine that this is the case now.

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Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

In all US government agencies every document that is not a public announcement or press release is classified -at least FOUO - For Official Use Only.

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Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

Even the post office classified documents, even if only to state "Crown copyright reserved" at the lowest level.

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Happy

Re: Of course it's military... @some less ignorant posters above

The original flaw in my argument being that I know very little of how our "colonial cousins" government classify documents.... nice to see that it is much the same as the UK.

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Pirate

Re; LeeE Re: Of course it's military...

"....there's not a lot of point in surveying, spending valuable limited bandwidth and analysing thousands of square miles of the strategically and tactically unimportant Southern Ocean...." Well, apart from the efforts made tracking Soviet and Chinese nuke subs. Oh, and arms smugglers and sanctions buster (especially North Korean ships). Anyhooooo, it is not a military satellite's pic, not unless they deliberately reduced the clarity and resolution. If it was a spy-sat shot you would not only be able to see any text on the mystery object, you'd probably be able to read it if it was bigger than the text on a car registration plate. To give an idea of the capabilities of the tech, USN P3C Orions have been able to read the labels on drums on smuggler boats in the Mexican Gulf at a range of 100 miles plus using electronic imaging. This is a commercial shot and I suspect they lucked out as a real spy-sat would already have confirmed what the floating object actually was.

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Re: Re; LeeE Of course it's military...

Regarding the "unclassified" classification, all satellite images gathered by DigitalGlobe and the like must be screened by a government agency before release to the public (by law). Nothing surprising there. I have processed many satellite images (all previously cleared) and in terms of resolution this looks like many commercial images I have seen. I have no clearance (nor feel an urgent need to get one) for military work.

The only higher-resolution remote sensing images I have seen were aerial (not satellite) images taken after the Haiti earthquake. These were 15cm in resolution. More is probably possible, but not needed in most applications, as it only leads to an explosion in data size. For commercial images, this is an important consideration. Many, if not most applications only really need a resolution in the order of 1m which already leads to roughly 150 terapixels of data to cover just the earth's land mass. Moving to 0.25cm you have a 16-fold increase in data size (and processing time if your processing algorithms are O(N), otherwise it is worse). You need a very good business case to justify that.

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Pint

Hindsight?

Having been told that I was barking up the wrong tree (or words to that effect) in previous MH370 comments when I suggested that someone should have found signs by now using the much vaunted spy satellite technology, all I can say now is:

(1) Nyah!

(2) Hope that they have really found the wreckage if the plane has gone down. At least the relatives will get some kind of closure.

Beer just because it is Friday.

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Re: Hindsight?

According to a supergrass in court last week a shoe bomb was issued to some Malaysian Jihadists. Have an open mind myself but it has taken 20 odd years for the truth of the Lockerbie bombing to come out perhaps we can expect smoke and mirrors here.;

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Re: Hindsight?

Er ... how could even a successful shoe bomber account for the plane crashing in the South Indian Ocean, when it should have been headed in the direction of Beijing?

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Re: Hindsight?

A shoe bomb (or any other kind) could have caused critical damage to the aircraft, requiring it to immediately try to return home; which could have explained the new route programming. The same device could have crippled communication systems, and/or filled the cockpit and cabin with toxic smoke, meaning communication could have been impossible.

Not my theory, read it in a paper somewhere...

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Anonymous Coward

This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

Tinfoil hats ON!

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WTF?

Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

Ooops forgetting where I am, I up voted that one on the basis it was sarcasm . Please correct to a down vote if you feel you got an undeserved up vote.......

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Coat

Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

Err.. wouldn't a tinfoil hat be a nice shiny target for a spy satellite to track?

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Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

Why are you afraid that the spooks will see that your head is bald ?

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Zot
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Last weeks images.

You know the sea debris images that were published last week, then China said sorry, it was a mistake.

What were they images of exactly, if not the plane?

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Re: Last weeks images.

The oceans are full of debris... it could be a wrecked ship, a load lost at sea, tons of things...

But the image just shown, to me looks like a wave... just like the one to the side of it... nothing odd about it at all. but that is to my un-trained eye... now if we had 3d images, then we'd know the depth of that object.... You know, like the british did during WW2 with their spy planes...

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Re: Last weeks images.

They said it was in three parts:-

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mbvd/the-continued-search-for-the-missing-malaysia-airlines-fligh

But they couldn't find anything, apparently. It seemed strange that they would just say that it's categorically not the plane when they didn't find anything in the area. Not that I'm suggesting anything. :)

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Re: Last weeks images.

Reported on BBC, the "door" was actually a cable reel.

I think this article makes it clear, the images that are being released are not the best images available. They're just the completely unclassified reduced-resolution versions. To my mind there's nothing sinister if a government with spy-sats says "we think you should be looking at (coords), but we can't tell you why". (Ditto if it's got passive sonar arrays for detecting submarines, and they picked up the sound of a big impact, or a military radar system that works better / worse / differently to how other players think it does ).

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Re: Last weeks images.

"now if we had 3d images, then we'd know the depth of that object.... You know, like the british did during WW2 with their spy planes..."

You need stereoscopic cameras for that... which are used on imaging sats (obviously not side-by-side as you wouldn't have sufficient binocular effect to get a 3D image, but instead taking photos forwards and aft), but not all of them.

Obviously, the moment you put a second camera on-board, you've just added a few million to the bird's cost, so I don't imagine every civilian has (or has the need) for stereoscopic imaging.

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Re: Last weeks images.

These cameras are not geostationary, you take two pictures the second one from a different place from the first (at a later time).

Obviously for moving things like waves, it is not going to work.

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Re: Last weeks images.

And with two pictures, what was waves will change. Solid objects will not.

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If you are wondering how on earth a plane can simply vanish then what about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Lyubov_Orlova

That's a rather large ship that was drifting around the Atlantic for some time, presumed sunk now. For over a year attempts were made to find it, in vain.

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For over a year attempts were made to find it, in vain.

Because it had already sunk? Sometimes there IS a simple explanation. (No-one is going to bother looking for a wrecked ship under a mile of water - it it had still been afloat, it was just about worth salvaging. )

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It is pretty cruel to just cut a ship loose at sea and the perps should be strung up by their gonads for some righteous drying ... but then:

In January 2014, there was speculation[19] based on an interview with a salvager in the British tabloid The Sun that the ship might be nearing the coast of England and be infested with cannibal rats. The rumours were subsequently debunked.[20][21] Psychic Uri Geller offered to help locate the ship.[22]

Okay.jpg.

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The old

report first, get the actual facts later approach. Who says the media is not dumbing down or more alarmist these days.

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Re: The old

Regarding recent political events, the correct approach is "report whatever fits into a prevailing narrative, don't care about any facts, even later".

You could gas whole editorial boards and the garden sheds full of gnomically idiotic "opinion" page writers (WaPo and NYT I'm looking at you E.J. Dionne, Krauthammer etc. ) and nothing of value would be lost. Indeed, the average sanity of Earth would be markedly increased.

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Re: The old

"The old"

That's unfair/

The old way of reporting is What/Where/When/Why? If you don't have that you don't have a story.

Nowadays the news doesn't provide information for us to make up our minds, it provides opinion on what we should think.

Thus a headline about a murder suspect *should* tell us a bit about him; it should NOT say 'Hang the scum'.

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If only...

If only somebody had a plane that could have been scrambled to the area...

If only said plane was really fast with a large range...

If only it was (mostly) declassified because it was made in the 60's...

If only it could cruise at mach 3 and cover the "arcs" without waiting for a satellite...

If only someone hadn't been short sighted enough to think that there was no place for a true spy plane anymore...even in an civilian oh sh"t we need to see what happened there role.

Hell the world can't not have the technology to create a slightly less exotic plane.

Maybe I'm just too optimistic but it would help to have one in a global SaR scenario.

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Re: If only...

sorry not buying this -

a) I've heard the search area described in percentage terms of the total globe, if that's the scale you are using then frankly the chance of ever finding your target if its not actively emitting a signal for you to track is going to be extremely low. Going fast over a stripe is still a tiny fraction of that search area so having a couple of high speed long endurance plans would make very little difference to your odds.

b) you've got to consider the cost of such a program vs the benefits it generates - I am not suggesting that the likely loss of the plane and those on board isn't a tragedy - but in a global context it wouldn't justify an annual multi-billion pound/dollar program which might make a fractional difference to the chance to locate them in this extremely odd scenario.

if a repeat of this scenario becomes a serious concern for policy makers going forward then it would be cheaper and simpler to insist that:

1) every aircraft on certain routes had to subscribe to the service which allows them to relay back in flight data in real time and that the on-board hardware be redesigned/moved such that it couldn't be disabled by the pilots

2) aircraft start to carry an inflatable buoy with a homing beacon which could be deployed in the event of a crash (so that you have an active signal above the water).

Alternatively it could be used to justify a standing fleet of airborne patrol radars if a military force was looking for a budget argument (although again I think this would be massively expensive relative to modifying the planes)

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Re: If only...

Exactly, they need Thunderbird 2 !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbirds_machines

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Re: If only...

Ok maybe I was too subtle. a modern SR-71 is what you need here.

The original was made to search Russian for nuke bases etc. If it could do that with 60's tech in a country almost the size of China and the US combined this area is not that big.

If you could quickly scan them and get a rough idea enough to target satellites or another run then how is that not increasing the odds. Being able to search the predicted areas in what 24hours maybe less.

Cost is a worry but a less exotically manufactured aeroframe(s), less titanium would be a good start, built to do SaR and standoff surveillance is surely a viable task for NATO countries. I've never seen a decent reason for ditching the SR program other than satellites and they aren't up to the task.

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Keyholes

The KH-11 family of NRO satellites, the last series of big spy satellites we the public know much about have a camera mirror about eight feet across. On a good day they can image down to about 8cm per pixel at ground level, not quite able to read newspaper headlines but not far off. They can't be shot down by the Bad Guys and under international treaties it's OK to fly them over other people's countries without starting a war and they can cover everything from coast to coast in multiple passes and they're always operating.

The SR-71 could never get than a couple of hundred kilometres across foreign borders to take pictures of places of interest (usually ports and naval airbases) using small cameras from 20km up, assuming the weather co-operated, before they had to turn around and head back out to sea again. They were fuel hogs, a typical 12-hour mission involving several recon penetrations of the Bad Guys borders required as many as eight specialist air-to-air refuelling tankers orbiting safely in international airspace to keep the SR-71 flying. Eventually the Bad Guys developed SAMs that could in fact knock down an SR-71 even at altitude and speed and they stopped being viable aircraft for reconnaissance in enemy airspace except in the minds of starstruck nerds and military geeks.

As for the satellite images of sea debris we've seen being released, they're probably not degraded much if at all for public consumption. Image quality from satellites depends critically on the camera mirror size but it takes a big satellite like the KH-11 to get decent pictures and commercial observation satellites just aren't in that class.

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Re: If only...

I don't believe materials are a significant element of the cost of these craft, its the R&D and supporting infrastructure (maintenance, fuelling, air crew training, etc...) which make them expensive.

People often quote a cost of £XX per air craft, but that drops rapidly as you increase the production run and spread the R&D budget more widely.

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Re: If only...

"If only somebody had a plane that could have been scrambled to the area..."

They did. Lots of people did. They are called maritime surveillance aircraft. And they are designed for finding stuff on and under the sea's surface. They operate in all weather and are the right tool for the job.

"If only said plane was really fast with a large range..."

Sadly, there is no such thing, what with the SR-71 requiring a shit-load of tankers wherever it goes.

If you want long range though, Global Hawk is perfect. And of course... maritime surveillance aircraft, with their 8+ hour flight times.

Or do you honestly believe than an SR-71 could have got there from wherever it might have been based faster than a Western Australian-based maritime surveillance aircraft, despite having to slow down for refuelling a bunch of times?

"If only it was (mostly) declassified because it was made in the 60's..."

Oh, you mean the U-2?

Well it's a good job America still has those, because it appears to be what you mean.

Or isn't it cool enough because it's not fast?

"If only someone hadn't been short sighted enough to think that there was no place for a true spy plane anymore...even in an civilian oh sh"t we need to see what happened there role."

There is shit-loads of room for spy planes, which is why we have things like the RC-130, RC-135, JSTARS, U2. All of them are excellent. And then there's those maritime surveillance aircraft...

"Maybe I'm just too optimistic but it would help to have one in a global SaR scenario."

You want Blackbird back. So you leap to a conclusion without any logical chain of reasoning.

I miss Blackbird too, but in this case (and 99% of other cases) there are half a dozen other planes that are simply better for the job.

Oh, and in case you didn't read the news, the weather has been shocking, so the maritime surveillance craft have been doing their searches from 500 feet up.

Do you seriously want to fly backwards and forwards at 500' and mach 3 looking for debris?

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Re: If only...

Russian nuke bases are bigger than a 777 and have lots of clues pointing to their presence in any given area.

High res spy sats are only any good if you know exactly where to look. Osama could have been sunbathing naked on the roof of his Pakistani hideout, waving at passing spysats and they still wouldn't have seen him until local intel gave some pointers.

It's a pity Australia's Jindalee system doesn't look in the general direction the 777 might have flown, although there's a good chance it could have picked up part of the suthern flight track, if it did go that way. Over Horizon Radar is about the only way to track aircraft over wide expanses of ocean and the owners of such systems tend not to want to advertise their capabilities.

It's still entirely possible that they're looking in the wrong locations. The "range" indicated from pings is absolute maximum possible. There are a number of reasons why the aircraft might have been closer than indicated.

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Devil

Re: If only...

High res spy sats are only any good if you know exactly where to look. Osama could have been sunbathing naked on the roof of his Pakistani hideout, waving at passing spysats and they still wouldn't have seen him until local intel gave some pointers.

Ah yes, about that...

New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan has pretty well confirmed that Pakistan not only knew of bin Laden’s presence, but actively protected him. More than that, the U.S. government knows they knew, and the Pakistanis know they know they knew.

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Unhappy

One picture is no picture

Looking at mh370_satellite_image.jpg and especially a version generated with 3 iterations of cvErode(), the feature seems to be a freak wave. Only by comparing the image with scores of sumultaneous images of the surrounding ocean is a conclusion possible.

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