Amid mounting tensions with North Korea, China and Russia, the presence of an unidentified spy plane over the American West Coast is cause for great concern.
Especially when that plane has been spotted for days on end circling Seattle, with no apparent reaction from US military forces.
The plane has at least one marking indicating that it is or once was under the command of the US military. But Air Force officials say it no longer belongs to them.
So, who’s in that plane, and what are they doing?
The Drive investigated:
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.
What the investigators do know is that this particular aircraft either does or did belong to some of the most highly classified units in the US military:
This particular CN-235, with the serial 96-6042, is one of six that researchers commonly associated with the Air Force’s top secret 427th Special Operations Squadron. …The 427th occupies the same space with a host of other “black” U.S. military aviation elements, most of which are affiliated to some degree with JSOC and the Intelligence Community.
It seems the most likely explanation is that the spy plane is being operated by private concerns in cooperation with military elements to hunt down terrorists operating within the United States.
Using military assets for domestic spying is a legal minefield, so it makes sense the plane would be operated by a private civilian body.
The article explains:
In short, if the military placed the aircraft under civilian control to some degree and with an appropriate legal justification, the U.S. military could possibly fly it in support of a domestic operation or one focused on a foreign suspect or organization operating within the United States.
Another possibility is that the plane is involved in secretive anti-terrorism training exercises in an urban setting, though the public is typically made aware of such exercises ahead of time to avoid causing alarm.
The article concludes:
Whatever the aircraft has been doing in the Seattle skies, it seems curious that it’s been using civilian airports for the job. But so far, the plane does appear to be doing a good job of hiding in plain sight with no one able to say who even owns it.