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Sunday 31 August  
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Heleen Sittig's picture
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Dutchman simply wants truth about Odyssey Dawn

Published on : 22 March 2011 - 3:53pm | By Heleen Sittig (RNW graphic)
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A Dutchman known only by his first name Huub has received worldwide publicity on the Internet by using Twitter to disclose information about Operation Odyssey Dawn, the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

All the information was collected using ordinary equipment widely available from amateur radio suppliers. But by using Twitter. his monitoring reports have been able to spread worldwide literally within seconds.

On Monday morning, Huub – username @FMCNL – tweeted:

”Hmmm, second fighter showing his ID, a USAF F-15E from 494FS Lakenheath UK, I presume Gaddafis radar equipment has destroyed :o)”

Earlier, the Dutchman tweeted that two US F-16 fighter jets were en route to a base on the Italian island of Sicily. He also reported that a UK refuelling plane had supplied five Eurofighters with new fuel. That’s information which may not be considered of vital importance to the military operations in Libya, but nevertheless information that the coalition would prefer not to release to the general public.

Detailed information
During a war, the release of any piece of information can have fatal consequences. Yet Huub gives out information lavishly, including the callsigns of coalition jets and their flight movements:

“ PSYOPS is airborne again! USAF EC-130J tail nr 00-1934 call sign STEEL 74 in orbit near Libya at FL250.”

Another interesting tweet sent on Sunday evening: Huub picked up a broadcast from a US Hercules transport plane converted to a flying radio station, which was ordering Libyan ships to stay in port or face destruction.

The use of an American military aircraft to broadcast psychological warfare messages is a well-established and widely-publicised procedure. The transmissions on shortwave 6877 kHz as well as FM, have been widely reported in Europe. They can be heard by anyone with a receiver that can resolve Single Sideband (SSB) transmissions, a standard mode used by amateur radio operators. They come from an aircraft known as Commando Solo, which is operated exclusively by the 193rd Special Operations Wing is based at the Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Radio ham and former soldier
Huub is a radio amateur and former soldier currently employed in IT. Huub has emphatically refused to be interviewed and said he would not send any tweets in the coming day. He gave no reason for his decision.
Huub is certainly not the only radio ham trying to follow this kind of operation, but is probably one of the most experienced people in the hobby. Earlier projects of his included following the movements of former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic. He also succeeded in picking up signals from the US presidential airplane, Air Force One.

He told the magazine Danger Room that he links information freely available on the internet to radio traffic he picks up. “My primary objective is to find out the truth, free of military or political propaganda.”

(gsh/as)

 

Discussion

Steve Silverwood 24 March 2011 - 4:21am / USA

At least some of the US aircraft being deployed in this operation are temporarily based at Aviano AB in Italy. That particular base is NOT located on Sicily. As with many USAF operations, aircraft are deployed from various bases to a forward-operating area as close to their intended area of operation as possible. That provides for quick turn-around -- refueling, rearming and, if needed, change of crews -- and quick return to the operating area. In the case of Libya, that forward-operating base is Aviano AB.

I have no doubt US Navy and US Marine Corps aircraft are also operating in Libya, in which case those aircraft would most likely be operating from Mediterranean-based aircraft carriers.

While I commend "Huub's" pursuit of the truth, it might be prudent to delay, by perhaps an hour, any reports of aircraft operating locations or other information that could be of use to Libyan government forces. That information could be used to target those aircraft, putting the lives of aircrews in considerably more danger than they already face.

For example, the report that the EC-130J was operating at "FL250" tells Libyan anti-aircraft gunners to target their fire for that altitude. Without that information, they have to either rely on their own radar equipment or "guess" at the aircraft's altitude. Having that information allows them to set their fuses more accurately, which could cost the lives of the aircrews.

Yes, the truth is important. But whose side is Huub on?

//Steve//
[KB6OJS]

Anonymous 22 March 2011 - 8:26pm / US

What he has done is nothing amazing. The airwaves are completely open and free to receive. Rest assured that any critical or sensitive information was sent over an encrypted link.
His actions equate to warning someone that a police car is ahead of them on the road. Not "breaking news" or some form of astounding information. As a ham radio op we hear many things much more interesting than this.
Those that are distributing this as “news” are totally ignorant of how a radio works.

user avatar
Andy Sennitt 22 March 2011 - 11:20pm

I totally agree with you. Press reports of Huub's activities were totally over the top. What it tells me is that you can use Twitter to create a big story out of nothing. I don't blame Huub - I'm sure he was just trying to share information with others interested in shortwave listening.

I reported the existence of the shortwave transmission in the Media Network Weblog before I had even heard of Huub. By that time, it had already been widely reported by shortwave listeners around Europe. But because Huub put it on Twitter, it suddenly attracted the attention of a lot more people than previous Commando Solo operations. As you say, common sense tells you that information in unencrypted transmissions is not considered sensitive...but why let the facts get in the way of a good story? :-)

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