Friday, August 31, 2012

Mysterious Booms Part 2: Why Reconnaissance ?

[If you wish, you can save some time and just cut to the final post which is concise and skeptical. See]

Part 2:  Why does it seem that they are always building secret airplanes for reconnaissance ?

In our previous episode, we discussed some of the reasons to believe that there is both a history of development of various kinds of aerospace technologies in secret, but that in general they do not deploy those technologies secretly, except on a few occassions, because it is so expensive.

Often these technologies that are proven as a black project are incorporated into the next generation of aircraft (e.g. fighter, bomber, drone, whatever) and becomes a normal military secret. Or the technology doesn't work well or is not worth the expense and is dropped.

But in a few cases, they go ahead and develop a limited-production model, and put it into special, black, operational use. That is so expensive that they only do so when there is a serious advantage in doing so.

And, it just so happens that in reconnaissance there are a number of reasons why keeping things very secret is desirable.

The more the opposition knows about how you get your information, the more countermeasures he can take and the more you have to worry that they are trying to fool you. A classic example of deception was the creation of an imaginary, second attack army in England before the Normandy invasion, and then making sure that the Germans found out about it. And the last thing you want is for your reconnaissance to be predictable, e.g. they always look every 3 days at 10AM, which is exactly what happens with satellites. They are very predictable, unless you move them around, and that is very expensive. On the other hand, it is much harder to know when a high flying stealthy aircraft is about to be overhead.

Spontaneity is one advantage airplanes have over satellites, but it is not the only one. The others include the ability to put the airplane right over the area of interest, and put it at a much lower altitude than a satellite which makes it much easier to get detail and to collect various kinds of electromagnetic signals. And even very expensive airplanes are much less expensive to build and operate than a satellite.

So if you have built a new vehicle that would work for reconnaissance, then you may very well wish to build an operational reconnaisance unit to operate it and keep it all black. That is what has happened in the past with the U2 and with the CIA Oxcart / SR-71 project. It may be the most effective way to get the information, and less expensive than other options, however expensive it may be in its own right.

So it is plausible that they (e.g. the CIA, the USAF, and others) might do such a thing again.

(Continued in Part 3)

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