According to several sightings of anomalous aircraft this year, spy plane activity in the U.S. seems to be on the rise. Most recently, a strangely-outfitted spy plane has been circling the city of Seattle for nine days now, and no one seems to know why it’s there or what its mission might be. Thanks to open source flight data websites though, aviation sleuths have been able to piece together what its capabilities are, giving some clues as to what it might be doing in the skies.
The aircraft is an Indonesian-built transport aircraft not typically used by the U.S. armed forces. According to FAA data, the plane goes by the callsign SPUD21, and eyewitnesses report the craft sports a flat gray paint job, completely nondescript other than a small USAF-style serial number insignia on its tail. Aviation watchdog sites noticed the strange plane when it arrived at Boeing Field in Seattle on July 24th. According to military news blog The Drive, the aircraft is fitted with some of the most state-of-the-art surveillance equipment available today:
It is covered in a dizzying array of blisters, protrusions, humps and bumps. These include missile approach warning detectors and large fairings on its empennage for buckets of forward-firing decoy flares, as well as both microwave—the dome antenna behind the wing and flat antenna modification in front of the wing—and ultra high-frequency satellite communications—the platter-like antenna behind the dome antenna. A communications intelligence suite also appears to be installed on the aircraft, with the antenna farm on the bottom of its fuselage being a clear indication of such a capability.
The most striking and mysterious feature of the aircraft is a visual reconnaissance installation on the plane’s left side. This could allow the plane to capture ultra high-definition images of the ground below, including electro-optical and infrared images that can detect activity the naked eye cannot. Similar systems have been deployed in some U.S. cities to provide “persistent surveillance” that gives law enforcement (or whoever else) a panoptic view of everything happening below.
What could the plane be looking for? Is there something the military or some shadowy organization doesn’t want us to know is afoot in Seattle? Despite the fact that the plane bears a USAF-style serial number, the U.S. military claims it has no knowledge of the plane or its mission. Most likely, the plane is part of surveillance or training conducted by the secretive Joint Special Operations Command or Central Intelligence Agency. As to what it might be looking for, anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s. Let’s just hope it’s not a rogue nuke.