According to CNN, federal law enforcement agents fly small planes loaded with gear to spy on Americans’ cell phone calls.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, revealed the extent of the program: Federal government gathers the data from Cessna airplanes and can cover most of the U.S. population.
CNNMoney has independently confirmed that at least one federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has used this technology on planes since 2010, according to government documents. The planes carry a box that serves as a dummy cell phone site. That device mimics actual towers, duping nearby cell phones into connecting to it instead of a real phone company tower.
An official at the Department of Justice would not confirm or deny the use of flying spoof cell towers. He said any discussion would let criminals and foreign governments “determine our capabilities and limitations.” The official told CNNMoney that any tactics used comply with federal law.
This news is the latest revelation about the extent of surveillance on Americans by their government. This type of spying has increased dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Local police and federal agents make widespread use of these types of devices. Public records, such as a Florida court transcript, have revealed that police use this technology to gather information about suspects.
“Stingrays,” for instance, are machines that also spoof legitimate company cell phone towers.
It’s probably fair to say that Russia can design and build good fighter planes. They also seem to be perfectly willing to sell planes – or the technology to build them – to other countries. Russia now builds a new Stealth fighter plane called the T-50 PAK FA.
The plane was designed to counter what is probably the U.S.’s best fighter, the F-22 Raptor. The U.S. built 187 F-22s and has already stopped production and there are no plans to build more.
Russia, on the other hand, plans to build and license possibly 1000 T-50s.
America’s first stealth fighter, the F-117A Nighthawk entered production about 30 years ago, and was used in the first Gulf War.
According to usairpower.net: “In the intervening period the Soviet Union collapsed and China industrialized on a large scale. The notion that the United States could hold this technological and strategic advantage indefinitely was never realistic, as appealing as this idea may have been in United States policy circles.”
Usairpower.net claims that during the tenure of Robert M. Gates, the United States Office of the Secretary of Defense had a lack of interest in these new developments by the Russians and Chinese, which led to ignoring or denigrating the creation of the PAK-FA and the new Chinese fighter called the J-20.
Usairpower.net considers this to be a huge blunder “on the scale of the unquestioning belief in the Maginot Line and ‘invincible’ Battleships during the period preceding the Second World War.”
The United States and its many allies have apparently just over 187 F-22A Raptors available to strategically balance the planned Russian PAK-FA build of about 1,000 aircraft for Russian and export customers and some yet to be determined number of Chinese J-20s to be operated by the Chinese.
The large numbers of PAK FA fighters will be reached because of outsourcing and license agreements to other countries.
The Heritage foundation states: “Although Russia is leading the program and shouldering the bulk of the cost, India is set to provide significant assistance, aiming to have a 25 percent stake in designing and developing the fighter (PAK FA).
“India is currently negotiating with Sukhoi to build an Indian variant called the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). India reportedly plans to purchase 250 of these fighters: 200 twin-seaters and 50 single-seaters, with an option for future orders that could increase the total to 300.”
The Heritage Foundation states that Mikhail Pogosyan, General Director of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, calculates that there could be a world market for 1,000 PAK FAs in the next 40 years.
Another likely buyer for the PAK FA is China. Although Beijing is reportedly developing its own fifth-generation fighter aircraft (the J-20), the Chinese military could conceivably buy up to 250 PAK FA planes, especially if its own program encounters delays.
In addition, Russia would likely seek to export the PAK FA to Algeria, Libya, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Other countries that could be interested are: Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, as well as oil-rich powers in the Middle East.
According to the Heritage Foundation, Washington may refuse to sell America’s oil-rich Arab allies F-35s and instead export up to 100 F-35s to Israel – therefore these countries will likely want to purchase the T-50 PAK FAs. The F-35 is a new plane built by the U.S. that will also have stealth capability.
The PAK FA will likely form the basis for several foreign variants, in the same way that the Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter spawned several iterations for other countries. According to Russian officials, the joint Russo–Indian PAK FA/FGFA fighter should be ready by 2015 or 2016. It may also incorporate equipment from third countries, just as Russia has previously integrated French and Israeli technology into its weapons systems. Indian officials hope the FGFA will be fully developed by 2016 so that it can enter service in 2017.
According to the Washington Times, China is building a new stealth fighter, the J-20. Richard Fisher, a specialist on Chinese weapon systems, said “We can be assured that J-20 production will significantly exceed that of the 187 F-22 fighters…”
The US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps are supposed to get a total of 2,443 F-35s.
The F-22 and the new F-35 are meant to replace the Air Force’s F-16 and F-15 fighters. According to sources, that means a total of 2630 aircraft will replace 5932.
In addition to having perhaps 1000 new T-50 PAK FAs in the world, sources state that Russia has over 1500 Mig-29’s, about 1000 SU-27-37’s.
Ibloga.blogspot.com: “And in case you think everything we make is totally superior, consider this from the Federation of American Scientists:”
At about 40 miles apart, the American planes have the advantage because of avionics. At 10 miles the advantage is turning to the MiG. At five miles out, because of the MiG weapons sight and better maneuverability, the advantage is to the MiG. The weapons sight is a helmet-mounted system that allows the missile to follow the line of sight of the pilot’s helmet. Where the pilot looks is where it goes.
To make a long story short: qualitatively and quantitatively, the U.S. (and its allies) may soon no longer have the air superiority that they once enjoyed since the end of the Cold War.
Recently, the pentagon decided to cut the 65th Aggressor Squadron, the United States Air Force F-15 unit that mimics enemy fighters like the Russian Su-27. This squadron was used for training, playing the adversary role in dogfights.
The reason was the cost. According to Time Magazine, the cost per flight-hour for some military jets is gigantic. The F-15 costs roughly $41,921 per flight hour. (This includes fuel and maintenance costs.)
By comparison, the F-16 costs $22,514.
Some European fighter jets like the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen have costs closer to that of the F-16.
The A-10 Warthog costs $17,716 per flight hour. (It is also the subject of a budget battle at the Pentagon and may be cut to help fund the new F-35 Joint Strike fighter.)
Smaller drones like the Predator and Reaper drones cost $4000 or $5000 per flight-hour.
These costs do not include the costs of the bombs and ammunition.