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8 Sep, 2016 11:06

‘US spy planes approaching Russian territory with transponders off a provocation’

‘US spy planes approaching Russian territory with transponders off a provocation’

It is not just a double standard for the United States to have its aircraft fly so close to Russian territory; it is a refusal on the US part to be safe, to fly safe, Karen Kwiatkowski, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, told RT.

Three American spy planes were intercepted by a Russian fighter jet while approaching Russian airspace over the Black Sea, according to US Defense officials, cited by the Reuters news agency. 

On September 7, US P-8 Poseidon surveillance airplanes tried to approach the Russian border twice… with their transponders off,” Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The SU-27 fighter jets that intercepted the US aircraft were acting “in strict accordance with international flight rules,” the statement reads.

RT: How safe is it to fly with transponders switched off? It's well known that civil aviation is unable to recognize an aircraft if they are not turned on, is that right?

Karen Kwiatkowski: That is true. They are tracked by radar, but… this tells the planes in the sky where they are and who they are. 

It is pretty dangerous [not to have transponders switched on] depending on the traffic. In some parts of the world it wouldn’t be dangerous, but certainly in a crowded airspace it is going to be a problem. Particularly in this example, when we do have a big Russian exercise in that area. There is going to be a lot of extra air traffic, and a lot of it maybe military, as well as the normal civilian and transport traffic that you are going to have. So at this particular time given the exercise, it is probably the worst time to have your transponders off. 

RT: Do you think that media are going too far in accusing Russia here? Is it a case of double standards? 

KK: It’s definitely double standards, but that is not unusual with the US and our policy around the world. We have one set of rules for ourselves and what we expect others to do. I do think it’s interesting that Finland in trying to deal with some of the things up in the Baltic area has proposed that in places like this Baltic Sea and around NATO, certainly the Black Sea – they have proposed, and Russia I believe has supported this, that all airplanes keep their transponders on at all times when they are in these areas. 

It is the US that has not been supportive of that. I think even some of the NATO countries are supportive, but the US in particular is not. Clearly given the past history – these has happened numerous times in the past several years - we fly with transponders off when we’re in our surveillance planes. This is a traditional way of doing business to test the so-called enemy, to test their responses. We’re probing, we’re testing their responses – we’re doing it in a dangerous way, and then when something happens, we’re blaming the side that was doing exactly what we hoped and expected they would do. So it is not a good thing. It is not just a double standard – it is a refusal on the US part to be safe, to fly safe...  

These things are fixable, and the fact that we’re not fixing them, the fact that we’re letting these things happen, is a little bit scary. It seems to be a policy-driven provocation, something that is geared to produce a reaction that might play into the hands of those in the United States who are looking for conflict. 

US flying without transponders a provocation

Michael Maloof, former Pentagon officer said that flying without transponders turned off is extremely dangerous, that is why it was right for Russian jets to scramble to at least identify what the aircraft was. 

RT: How dangerous is it to fly without transponders turned on? 

Michael Maloof: It’s extremely dangerous, and it is basically a provocation for a hostile act. I think that the Russian Ministry of Defense should file a formal complaint about that. When an aircraft like that is flying without its transponders it cannot be identified, and it was only right that Russian jets scrambled to at least identify what the aircraft was. And when they did come upon it, they discovered it was one of the more sophisticated - what we call C4ISR aircraft - which has all the latest sophistication on it. 

Basically, the transponders being off tells me at least that the aircraft was probing, sensing what radar systems would light up that would be alerted, and what defense systems would come on as a result in order to identify where they are actually located. But to be in that area… is almost a provocation in itself. You don’t see Russian aircraft flying within 100 km of the US border, or stationing its ships out as we’re doing in the Baltic Sea right now. 

RT: This particular aircraft is capable of hacking military installations. How likely is it in your opinion, that this was why it was flying so close to Russia? 

MM: Well, as I said it has, what I said it has C4ISR – that is command, control, communications, and computers: I – for intelligence; S – for surveillance; R – for reconnaissance. It is the most sophisticated system that we have in probing the electronics of a potential adversary. It is to test, to see what goes on, what defense systems are going on; they can pick up all kinds of frequencies. It is an amazing technology, but its uses are clearly for intelligence gathering. It’s the most sophisticated [type of aircraft] we have.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.