by Ruby Henley
I will be discussing the alarming escalation of aircraft incidents currently in the news.
While the United States copes with many threats in the world today, what I am about to report is by far a chilling development. China has actually fired military-grade lasers targeting U.S. aircraft flying near a U.S. military base in Africa.
Sarah Sanders told reporters the following: “There will be near-term and long-term consequences.”
This is not the only instance in which Beijing has targeted U.S. aircraft flying over the east African country of Djibouti.
According to U.S. defense officials, the lasers were fired from the Chinese military base in Doraleh on at least three occasions, resulting in eye injuries for two American pilots.
“They are very serious incidents,” Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters Thursday.
“This activity poses a true threat to our airmen,” she said, noting the United States had lodged a formal protest with the Chinese government. “We expect China to investigate it thoroughly.”
China did not immediately respond to the accusation but has complained in the past about foreign military spy planes flying over its Djibouti outpost, sources familiar with the situation said.
I am shocked to learn this has gone on unabated. Clearly it is an intentional progression of assaults on American aircraft pilots by the Chinese.
The Washington Free Beacon reports the following:
“A Federal Aviation Administration notice to airmen reported April 14 that “there have been multiple lazing events involving a high power laser” near the Chinese military base.
“Use extreme caution when transiting near this area,” the notice states. “If a laser is seen in or near Djibouti, notify immediately tower…”
The notice also said U.S. military air crews were to contact military air controllers.”
The laser incidents followed U.S. military exercises last month off the coast of Djibouti called Alligator Dagger. The exercise was canceled April 5 after two separate air mishaps, including the CRASH of a Marine Corps Harrier jump jet and a CH-53 helicopters, in Djibouti.
Aircraft threats and incidents do not end here, as you will see in the following reports.
On May 2, 2018, a Lockheed WC-130H transport plane, 65-0968, from the 156th Airlift Wing from Puerto Rico crashed near Chatham City, Georgia. There were 9 crewmembers on board – sadly all of them reportedly died in the accident.
Local and social media in the area has shown video and photos of the aircraft burning heavily with debris, including most of the tail section on a roadway. Some flights to the nearby Savannah airport have been affected by the incident, although it is unclear if the aircraft was operating in connection the Savannah facility at the time of the crash.
The Lockheed WC-130H variant of the C-130 Hercules is tasked with weather reconnaissance including hurricane reconnaissance. It can remain in flight for as long as 15 hours and carries specialized meteorological monitoring equipment including the dropsonde wind speed and direction sensor.
This accident continues a series of recent incidents and accidents in U.S. military aviation that has some experts searching for a common contributing factor to the number of recent military aviation accidents.
What is causing this escalation in aircraft incidents? Lasers in the sky? Cyber Threats? Of course, it is both, and the safety of flying comes into question.
The pilot of an aircraft would not be able to see the errors in a hacked navigation system. Therefore, an awareness that something is wrong and needs to be addressed would elude him.
Since networks are interconnected, aviation systems can be hacked easily by those, who seek to do so.
If we only realized how easily this can be done, would we ever fly again and close our eyes while doing so?
The company Raytheon is developing an early warning system that will notify pilots when digital systems appear to be compromised. It will scan communication aircraft systems that control, monitor and transfer data between aircraft for anomalies. After detection, a response can be implemented to contain a threat and prevent it from spreading to other systems.
While it is difficult to track who has access to each system at all times, supply partners need to work together to develop trust and identify and solve cyber risks. Senior management support is necessary to harden aviation systems because budget resources are required to identify, analyze and remediate technical vulnerabilities and minimize exploitable weaknesses.
In a breaking incident, a Russian transport plane crashed on landing at Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Sadly all 39 on board have been reported as deceased.
“The reason for the crash according to preliminary information could have been a technical fault,” the ministry said, adding that the plane had not come under fire according to a report from the ground.
The transporter was around 500 meters from the runway, the statement said.
A commission will investigate the causes of the crash.
Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015, and its intervention has swung the nearly seven-year conflict firmly in favor of its ally in Damascus.
The latest accident comes after a Sukhoi military jet crashed while trying to take off from Hmeimim in October last year, killing two crew.
Russia’s most recent officially acknowledged military loss in battle in Syria was last month when a pilot was killed after his after his plane was downed over Idlib province.
Russia’s official military losses in the war before the crash were 45.
Moscow last month also said that five citizens, not officially affiliated with the Russian military, were likely killed in the strikes in eastern Syria — the first admission of non-military combat casualties.
A C-130 cargo plane operated by the Puerto Rico Air National Guard went down near Savannah, GA during a training mission today. The crash happened about three miles east of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. No survivors were expected.
A total of nine people were on board. The AP describes the crash as such:
The huge plane’s fuselage appeared to have struck the median, and pieces of its 132-foot wingspan were scattered across lanes in both directions. The only part still intact was the tail section, said Chris Hanks, a spokesman for the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association. “It miraculously did not hit any cars, any homes,” Effingham County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Gena Bilbo said. “This is a very busy roadway.”
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