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Civilian (Looking) Spy Planes

by John Reed on June 22, 2011

There are more than a few small, civilian-looking planes here equipped with at least one sensor package. I snapped these photos as this plane was being towed through the aircraf display area. You can clearly see the sensor ball mounted under the nose of the plane. This is showing just how compact, and probably inexpensive airborne ISR gear is becoming. On of the major concerns I’ve heard everyone from USAF generals to think tank-types worry about is the proliferation of lightweight yet highly effective ISR gear. I’ve heard several people say ‘just imagine a terrorist group flying a civilian plane equipped with a sensor package over southern lebanon where they could peer into Israel.’ I’ve personnaly flown in a PC-12 equipped with a FLIR sensor package that allowed us to clearly read ship’s names from nearly 30-miles away as we flew over the English Channel. 

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

dave June 22, 2011 at 4:01 am

They could… they could peer into Israel…!!

Oh dear sweet Lord Jesus, whatever will we do!!??!?!??!

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Mastro June 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Maybe buy a few cargo/camo nets and inflatable tanks?

Major armies have been too fat and lazy with this sort of thing.

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Guest A June 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

Are they pulling that bird with a cargo strap??

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Guest A June 22, 2011 at 7:44 am

Maybe it's just me, but the point of gathering intel is to do it as inconspicuously as possible right? So should it come as a big surprise that somebody slapped a FLIR on a seemingly average, private looking aircraft?

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William A. Peterson June 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

No, the idea is to be flying what 'looks like' (to uneducated reporters) a civilian aircraft, so when the U.S or Israel inevitably shoots it down, they can cry "Oh Boo-Hoo! Those nasty people are shooting at innocent, unarmed civilians… Boo-Hoo!"

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Jojofine June 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Looking through an optical device is not an act of aggression.

On the other hand, shooting down unarmed aircraft…

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Marco June 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Men have been killed for looking at another man’s wife a little too long. You think it’s so different for one nation looking at another?

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Chimp June 23, 2011 at 4:00 am

Any country that uses civilian or civilian disguised planes for recce has just made every civilian plane they own a legitimate target.

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Jayson June 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

I want to slap it on my kite or toy remote helocopter I got at Toys R Us and peer into … the playboy mansion … I mean Isreal.

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Mike June 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

An important benefit to the civil aircraft ISR configuration is the low acquisition cost of the platform, and the cheap, global supply chain for maintenance. Much easier to service an model that everyone everywhere uses, rather than one that has only one customer.

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Shawmut June 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Nothing like canonizing the obvious, right Guest A?
Reminds me of class in my past. "Whatever you do, don't loiter. It would take you a generation to learn how to loiter."
Wow, wait till the UN and ACLU get's a hard-copy of a directive ordering it's use.

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Lance June 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm

This is less for military deals. But for law Enforcement and border police.

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Jonathan June 23, 2011 at 12:08 am

I believe that is a diamond twin star. great little plane. My school has a few of them

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Rajarata June 23, 2011 at 12:40 am

I saw this on Air Forces Monthly …good luck peering into Israel fellas….one F-16 shot its kaput !

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Phil White June 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

Hum well I like the plane anyway. What is the darn thing?

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forobviousreasons June 24, 2011 at 2:08 am

Swarms of small disposable flying weapons will overcome all current defence and sensor systems.
Click together UAV’s for a couple of thousand$ launched manually with remote control, satnav, fly by cell-phone are the new weapons of war.
I wonder about ‘reap what you sow’.

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blight June 24, 2011 at 9:11 am

Thanks to Iraqi insurgents using cell phones for IED detonation, the military has a slew of systems for jamming cell phones (but nothing overly long range, which remains a problem). Then again, a few anti-radiation missiles targeted towards transmitters should take care of the problem.

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