back to article 5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

That the US and other nations operate spy satellites capable of taking very detailed photographs of Earth is not in doubt. But the idea that those satellites have been pressed into service to find downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, and that it is therefore possible to infer some of the satellites' capabilities, is very …

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  1. Tromos

    Of course it's military...

    ...why else would it have a classification (albeit that of unclassified) on it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: Of course it's military...

      Yes nothing convinces the sheeple (sorry Matt B for pinching your stuff) batshit paranoid commentator on the register even an article that clearly states it isn't military.

      FYI. most government documents both military and civil have a classification

      1. Tromos

        Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

        Who imposes a classification if not the military? Also, citation please for most government documents having a classification. Or are you just an opinionated loudmouth?

        1. Valeyard

          Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

          Who imposes a classification if not the military? Also, citation please for most government documents having a classification. Or are you just an opinionated loudmouth?

          I worked for the HMRC. Every single document was given a classification, even if that classification was that it was completely unimportant security-wise. Hope that helps.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Of course it's military... @Tromos

          Apologies Tromos my FYI was more tongue in cheek. I didn't realise that there would be anybody on here who was sufficiently ignorant to not know that all official government documents are classified.

          Government classification 101 link below -

          https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251480/Government-Security-Classifications-April-2014.pdf

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

          Tromos you complete .....

          https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-security-classifications

          As per the previous posts, its not just the Military that 'classify' OFFICIAL documents, general governments also 'classify' documents. In addition, many private or commercial organisation also classify documents such as "Commercially Sensitive" in order to make p

          These classifications are also known as 'Handling Codes', which dictate how an individual within an organisation should handle, store or distribute documents or files (e.g Data etc)

          Documents get 'classified' the clue is in the name - that is arranged in classes or groups of document types.

          An

          1. Don Dumb
            Boffin

            Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

            @AC - These classifications are also known as 'Handling Codes', which dictate how an individual within an organisation should handle, store or distribute documents or files (e.g Data etc)

            Your along the right lines but you're not correct either, you are confusing different labels. I'll try and explain :-

            Classification refers to the level of information security afforded tot he document.

            Handling codes, or 'Handling Restrictions' to give them their proper title, go alongside the classification to denote who may (or may not) see the document (which is different from the level of classification the document has). Usually the handling restriction is usually a list of countries.

            Caveats go alongside the classification and/or the handling restriction to denote extra information about why the document is classified or how to treat it 'Commercial' or 'Personal' could be two examples.

            A Security label on a document could include many words, but the classification is the one that will always exist, even if it is just 'unclassified'. Handling restrictions, caveats, etc may or may not be included as appropriate but they aren't the same as the classification.

        4. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

          In all US government agencies every document that is not a public announcement or press release is classified -at least FOUO - For Official Use Only.

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Of course it's military... @Titus Technophobe

          Even the post office classified documents, even if only to state "Crown copyright reserved" at the lowest level.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Happy

            Re: Of course it's military... @some less ignorant posters above

            The original flaw in my argument being that I know very little of how our "colonial cousins" government classify documents.... nice to see that it is much the same as the UK.

    2. Bloakey1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Of course it's military...

      Hmmm.

      The fact that it come from the Department of Defense Intelligence and Security is also an indicator.

      Not sure why you got down voted.

      Here have an upvote.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Of course it's military...

        " Department of Defense Intelligence and Security is also an indicator."

        A counter-indicator. DoDI&S is not 'military'. America's premier spy-sat agency - the NRO - is not 'military'.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course it's military...

      I think it's unlikely to be military because there's not a lot of point in surveying, spending valuable limited bandwidth and analysing thousands of square miles of the strategically and tactically unimportant Southern Ocean.

      Spy sats are good for surface targets, like ships, but the Southern Ocean is a very hostile place for surface vessels to operate and whilst it may be a good out-of-the-way sort of place for subs to loiter subs aren't good spy sat targets, which are better tracked by other systems, such as SOSUS. There just aren't really any targets from where the Southern Ocean is the best place to operate; apart from loitering to waste time there's just not a lot of point in having military resources in the Southern Ocean so there's little point in having spy sats survey it.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Just FYI, SOSUS is apparently only for the Northern Hemisphere.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I think you & Wikipedia are largely correct but I'd be a bit surprised if there weren't a few stations off the south coast of Australia/Tasmania; targets detected in the northern Atlantic and moving south would be followed by a western sub but you'd also want to keep an eye on subs entering the Indian Ocean from the East via the South Pacific. I certainly agree that there won't be any SOSUS sensors in the Southern Ocean itself; there isn't really anywhere for the sensors to be linked to, apart from Australia (I don't think that political relations have been good enough for stations to have been set up on Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Luck).

      2. Swiss Anton

        Re: Of course it's military...

        "so there's little point in having spy sats survey it"

        But spy satellites have to fly over the southern ocean to be of any use for spying on the north. The only constraints for surveying the southern ocean are the amount of image storage space available and how quickly those images can be downloaded to free up that storage space. Twenty years ago, when I worked on some satellite mission scheduling software for ESA, these were real issues, but I can't imagine that this is the case now.

      3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re; LeeE Re: Of course it's military...

        "....there's not a lot of point in surveying, spending valuable limited bandwidth and analysing thousands of square miles of the strategically and tactically unimportant Southern Ocean...." Well, apart from the efforts made tracking Soviet and Chinese nuke subs. Oh, and arms smugglers and sanctions buster (especially North Korean ships). Anyhooooo, it is not a military satellite's pic, not unless they deliberately reduced the clarity and resolution. If it was a spy-sat shot you would not only be able to see any text on the mystery object, you'd probably be able to read it if it was bigger than the text on a car registration plate. To give an idea of the capabilities of the tech, USN P3C Orions have been able to read the labels on drums on smuggler boats in the Mexican Gulf at a range of 100 miles plus using electronic imaging. This is a commercial shot and I suspect they lucked out as a real spy-sat would already have confirmed what the floating object actually was.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: Re; LeeE Of course it's military...

          Regarding the "unclassified" classification, all satellite images gathered by DigitalGlobe and the like must be screened by a government agency before release to the public (by law). Nothing surprising there. I have processed many satellite images (all previously cleared) and in terms of resolution this looks like many commercial images I have seen. I have no clearance (nor feel an urgent need to get one) for military work.

          The only higher-resolution remote sensing images I have seen were aerial (not satellite) images taken after the Haiti earthquake. These were 15cm in resolution. More is probably possible, but not needed in most applications, as it only leads to an explosion in data size. For commercial images, this is an important consideration. Many, if not most applications only really need a resolution in the order of 1m which already leads to roughly 150 terapixels of data to cover just the earth's land mass. Moving to 0.25cm you have a 16-fold increase in data size (and processing time if your processing algorithms are O(N), otherwise it is worse). You need a very good business case to justify that.

    4. Psyx

      Re: Of course it's military...

      "Of course it's military...

      ...why else would it have a classification (albeit that of unclassified) on it?"

      That's the most stupid thing I've read all day.

      You do realise that your nation's clandestine services (NSA, GCHQ, CIA, whatever) are all non-military, right? By your telling they can't create classified documents!

      Some information doesn't even need to be designated with a classification after creation by *anyone*: Any document created by anyone in the US which would be of use in creating atomic weapons is 'Born Secret'. So if you doodle a bomb design on a post-it, then it's classified.

  2. David Roberts
    Pint

    Hindsight?

    Having been told that I was barking up the wrong tree (or words to that effect) in previous MH370 comments when I suggested that someone should have found signs by now using the much vaunted spy satellite technology, all I can say now is:

    (1) Nyah!

    (2) Hope that they have really found the wreckage if the plane has gone down. At least the relatives will get some kind of closure.

    Beer just because it is Friday.

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: Hindsight?

      According to a supergrass in court last week a shoe bomb was issued to some Malaysian Jihadists. Have an open mind myself but it has taken 20 odd years for the truth of the Lockerbie bombing to come out perhaps we can expect smoke and mirrors here.;

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Hindsight?

        Er ... how could even a successful shoe bomber account for the plane crashing in the South Indian Ocean, when it should have been headed in the direction of Beijing?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Hindsight?

          A shoe bomb (or any other kind) could have caused critical damage to the aircraft, requiring it to immediately try to return home; which could have explained the new route programming. The same device could have crippled communication systems, and/or filled the cockpit and cabin with toxic smoke, meaning communication could have been impossible.

          Not my theory, read it in a paper somewhere...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

    Tinfoil hats ON!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

      Ooops forgetting where I am, I up voted that one on the basis it was sarcasm . Please correct to a down vote if you feel you got an undeserved up vote.......

    2. Simon Harris
      Coat

      Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

      Err.. wouldn't a tinfoil hat be a nice shiny target for a spy satellite to track?

    3. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: This is why I don't have a sunroof in my car!

      Why are you afraid that the spooks will see that your head is bald ?

  4. Zot

    Last weeks images.

    You know the sea debris images that were published last week, then China said sorry, it was a mistake.

    What were they images of exactly, if not the plane?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last weeks images.

      The oceans are full of debris... it could be a wrecked ship, a load lost at sea, tons of things...

      But the image just shown, to me looks like a wave... just like the one to the side of it... nothing odd about it at all. but that is to my un-trained eye... now if we had 3d images, then we'd know the depth of that object.... You know, like the british did during WW2 with their spy planes...

      1. Zot

        Re: Last weeks images.

        They said it was in three parts:-

        http://www.buzzfeed.com/mbvd/the-continued-search-for-the-missing-malaysia-airlines-fligh

        But they couldn't find anything, apparently. It seemed strange that they would just say that it's categorically not the plane when they didn't find anything in the area. Not that I'm suggesting anything. :)

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: Last weeks images.

        Reported on BBC, the "door" was actually a cable reel.

        I think this article makes it clear, the images that are being released are not the best images available. They're just the completely unclassified reduced-resolution versions. To my mind there's nothing sinister if a government with spy-sats says "we think you should be looking at (coords), but we can't tell you why". (Ditto if it's got passive sonar arrays for detecting submarines, and they picked up the sound of a big impact, or a military radar system that works better / worse / differently to how other players think it does ).

      3. Psyx

        Re: Last weeks images.

        "now if we had 3d images, then we'd know the depth of that object.... You know, like the british did during WW2 with their spy planes..."

        You need stereoscopic cameras for that... which are used on imaging sats (obviously not side-by-side as you wouldn't have sufficient binocular effect to get a 3D image, but instead taking photos forwards and aft), but not all of them.

        Obviously, the moment you put a second camera on-board, you've just added a few million to the bird's cost, so I don't imagine every civilian has (or has the need) for stereoscopic imaging.

        1. Robert Forsyth

          Re: Last weeks images.

          These cameras are not geostationary, you take two pictures the second one from a different place from the first (at a later time).

          Obviously for moving things like waves, it is not going to work.

          1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Re: Last weeks images.

            And with two pictures, what was waves will change. Solid objects will not.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you are wondering how on earth a plane can simply vanish then what about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Lyubov_Orlova

    That's a rather large ship that was drifting around the Atlantic for some time, presumed sunk now. For over a year attempts were made to find it, in vain.

    1. Nigel 11

      For over a year attempts were made to find it, in vain.

      Because it had already sunk? Sometimes there IS a simple explanation. (No-one is going to bother looking for a wrecked ship under a mile of water - it it had still been afloat, it was just about worth salvaging. )

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Facepalm

      It is pretty cruel to just cut a ship loose at sea and the perps should be strung up by their gonads for some righteous drying ... but then:

      In January 2014, there was speculation[19] based on an interview with a salvager in the British tabloid The Sun that the ship might be nearing the coast of England and be infested with cannibal rats. The rumours were subsequently debunked.[20][21] Psychic Uri Geller offered to help locate the ship.[22]

      Okay.jpg.

  6. GreggS

    The old

    report first, get the actual facts later approach. Who says the media is not dumbing down or more alarmist these days.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: The old

      Regarding recent political events, the correct approach is "report whatever fits into a prevailing narrative, don't care about any facts, even later".

      You could gas whole editorial boards and the garden sheds full of gnomically idiotic "opinion" page writers (WaPo and NYT I'm looking at you E.J. Dionne, Krauthammer etc. ) and nothing of value would be lost. Indeed, the average sanity of Earth would be markedly increased.

    2. Psyx

      Re: The old

      "The old"

      That's unfair/

      The old way of reporting is What/Where/When/Why? If you don't have that you don't have a story.

      Nowadays the news doesn't provide information for us to make up our minds, it provides opinion on what we should think.

      Thus a headline about a murder suspect *should* tell us a bit about him; it should NOT say 'Hang the scum'.

  7. Someonehasusedthathandle

    If only...

    If only somebody had a plane that could have been scrambled to the area...

    If only said plane was really fast with a large range...

    If only it was (mostly) declassified because it was made in the 60's...

    If only it could cruise at mach 3 and cover the "arcs" without waiting for a satellite...

    If only someone hadn't been short sighted enough to think that there was no place for a true spy plane anymore...even in an civilian oh sh"t we need to see what happened there role.

    Hell the world can't not have the technology to create a slightly less exotic plane.

    Maybe I'm just too optimistic but it would help to have one in a global SaR scenario.

    1. Thomas Whipp

      Re: If only...

      sorry not buying this -

      a) I've heard the search area described in percentage terms of the total globe, if that's the scale you are using then frankly the chance of ever finding your target if its not actively emitting a signal for you to track is going to be extremely low. Going fast over a stripe is still a tiny fraction of that search area so having a couple of high speed long endurance plans would make very little difference to your odds.

      b) you've got to consider the cost of such a program vs the benefits it generates - I am not suggesting that the likely loss of the plane and those on board isn't a tragedy - but in a global context it wouldn't justify an annual multi-billion pound/dollar program which might make a fractional difference to the chance to locate them in this extremely odd scenario.

      if a repeat of this scenario becomes a serious concern for policy makers going forward then it would be cheaper and simpler to insist that:

      1) every aircraft on certain routes had to subscribe to the service which allows them to relay back in flight data in real time and that the on-board hardware be redesigned/moved such that it couldn't be disabled by the pilots

      2) aircraft start to carry an inflatable buoy with a homing beacon which could be deployed in the event of a crash (so that you have an active signal above the water).

      Alternatively it could be used to justify a standing fleet of airborne patrol radars if a military force was looking for a budget argument (although again I think this would be massively expensive relative to modifying the planes)

      1. Someonehasusedthathandle

        Re: If only...

        Ok maybe I was too subtle. a modern SR-71 is what you need here.

        The original was made to search Russian for nuke bases etc. If it could do that with 60's tech in a country almost the size of China and the US combined this area is not that big.

        If you could quickly scan them and get a rough idea enough to target satellites or another run then how is that not increasing the odds. Being able to search the predicted areas in what 24hours maybe less.

        Cost is a worry but a less exotically manufactured aeroframe(s), less titanium would be a good start, built to do SaR and standoff surveillance is surely a viable task for NATO countries. I've never seen a decent reason for ditching the SR program other than satellites and they aren't up to the task.

        1. Robert Sneddon

          Keyholes

          The KH-11 family of NRO satellites, the last series of big spy satellites we the public know much about have a camera mirror about eight feet across. On a good day they can image down to about 8cm per pixel at ground level, not quite able to read newspaper headlines but not far off. They can't be shot down by the Bad Guys and under international treaties it's OK to fly them over other people's countries without starting a war and they can cover everything from coast to coast in multiple passes and they're always operating.

          The SR-71 could never get than a couple of hundred kilometres across foreign borders to take pictures of places of interest (usually ports and naval airbases) using small cameras from 20km up, assuming the weather co-operated, before they had to turn around and head back out to sea again. They were fuel hogs, a typical 12-hour mission involving several recon penetrations of the Bad Guys borders required as many as eight specialist air-to-air refuelling tankers orbiting safely in international airspace to keep the SR-71 flying. Eventually the Bad Guys developed SAMs that could in fact knock down an SR-71 even at altitude and speed and they stopped being viable aircraft for reconnaissance in enemy airspace except in the minds of starstruck nerds and military geeks.

          As for the satellite images of sea debris we've seen being released, they're probably not degraded much if at all for public consumption. Image quality from satellites depends critically on the camera mirror size but it takes a big satellite like the KH-11 to get decent pictures and commercial observation satellites just aren't in that class.

        2. Thomas Whipp

          Re: If only...

          I don't believe materials are a significant element of the cost of these craft, its the R&D and supporting infrastructure (maintenance, fuelling, air crew training, etc...) which make them expensive.

          People often quote a cost of £XX per air craft, but that drops rapidly as you increase the production run and spread the R&D budget more widely.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: If only...

          Russian nuke bases are bigger than a 777 and have lots of clues pointing to their presence in any given area.

          High res spy sats are only any good if you know exactly where to look. Osama could have been sunbathing naked on the roof of his Pakistani hideout, waving at passing spysats and they still wouldn't have seen him until local intel gave some pointers.

          It's a pity Australia's Jindalee system doesn't look in the general direction the 777 might have flown, although there's a good chance it could have picked up part of the suthern flight track, if it did go that way. Over Horizon Radar is about the only way to track aircraft over wide expanses of ocean and the owners of such systems tend not to want to advertise their capabilities.

          It's still entirely possible that they're looking in the wrong locations. The "range" indicated from pings is absolute maximum possible. There are a number of reasons why the aircraft might have been closer than indicated.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: If only...

            High res spy sats are only any good if you know exactly where to look. Osama could have been sunbathing naked on the roof of his Pakistani hideout, waving at passing spysats and they still wouldn't have seen him until local intel gave some pointers.

            Ah yes, about that...

            New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan has pretty well confirmed that Pakistan not only knew of bin Laden’s presence, but actively protected him. More than that, the U.S. government knows they knew, and the Pakistanis know they know they knew.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If only...

      Exactly, they need Thunderbird 2 !

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbirds_machines

    3. Psyx

      Re: If only...

      "If only somebody had a plane that could have been scrambled to the area..."

      They did. Lots of people did. They are called maritime surveillance aircraft. And they are designed for finding stuff on and under the sea's surface. They operate in all weather and are the right tool for the job.

      "If only said plane was really fast with a large range..."

      Sadly, there is no such thing, what with the SR-71 requiring a shit-load of tankers wherever it goes.

      If you want long range though, Global Hawk is perfect. And of course... maritime surveillance aircraft, with their 8+ hour flight times.

      Or do you honestly believe than an SR-71 could have got there from wherever it might have been based faster than a Western Australian-based maritime surveillance aircraft, despite having to slow down for refuelling a bunch of times?

      "If only it was (mostly) declassified because it was made in the 60's..."

      Oh, you mean the U-2?

      Well it's a good job America still has those, because it appears to be what you mean.

      Or isn't it cool enough because it's not fast?

      "If only someone hadn't been short sighted enough to think that there was no place for a true spy plane anymore...even in an civilian oh sh"t we need to see what happened there role."

      There is shit-loads of room for spy planes, which is why we have things like the RC-130, RC-135, JSTARS, U2. All of them are excellent. And then there's those maritime surveillance aircraft...

      "Maybe I'm just too optimistic but it would help to have one in a global SaR scenario."

      You want Blackbird back. So you leap to a conclusion without any logical chain of reasoning.

      I miss Blackbird too, but in this case (and 99% of other cases) there are half a dozen other planes that are simply better for the job.

      Oh, and in case you didn't read the news, the weather has been shocking, so the maritime surveillance craft have been doing their searches from 500 feet up.

      Do you seriously want to fly backwards and forwards at 500' and mach 3 looking for debris?

  8. harmjschoonhoven
    Unhappy

    One picture is no picture

    Looking at mh370_satellite_image.jpg and especially a version generated with 3 iterations of cvErode(), the feature seems to be a freak wave. Only by comparing the image with scores of sumultaneous images of the surrounding ocean is a conclusion possible.

  9. Ivan Headache

    Resolution

    This has nothing to do with the missing flight.

    I often wondered why the Google Earth imagery of Holland went from fanstatic to barely useable a few years ago. and also why several other high-res pictures siddenly became similarly bad.

    The example I would quote is of the prison in Scheveningen in Den Haag.

    Originally the view was so fanstastic you could see the schadow (sorry) of the tennis net on the court and actually see the netting (true - not making it up for effect). It was also possible to clearly identify individual items in the exercise yard. I'm sure that if any of the tennis-playing inmates had access to the pictures they could easily have identified themselves too - particularly the guy doing press-ups (and his guard).

    A short distance from the prison is Madurodam, Holland's world-famous model village. The images there of the model jumbos at Schipol and the ships in Rotterdam were as good as the images we now see of real life ships and planes now.

    It's all gone - the Holland imagery is now rubbish - as is Paris and London.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Resolution

      It just depends on how each snapshot was taken; the satellite pictures are fairly lo-res, the aerial pictures are hi-res. For example, if you look at Madurodam, the 01-Apr-2005 images are great, the 31-Dec-2005 images are lousy, and the 08-Jul-2013 images are very good.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Resolution

      Presumably the authorities realized that the high-res images were of more use to terrorists, jailbreakers and plain old burglars, than to the rest of us?

      They're still good enough for me to work out the final stages of driving to a rural location where the postcode is several miles wide. (Fifth house on the left, about two miles from the right turn ... it worked first time).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It wasn't a spy sat that gave away the location

    I'm almost certain that the Jindalee OTHR would have tracked that plane considering the following;

    #1: The suspected distance off Perth is easily within range of Jindalee (JORN). Some say it could even detect movements as far north as Singapore so there is a very good chance the plane has left a radar trail for a large chunk of its journey as the system was designed to detect aircraft as small as a Hawk.

    #2: The Australian Government sold the electorate on being able to secure the approaches from the NW of Australia from illegal immigration. If they can detect much smaller wooden vessels coming down from Indonesia with remarkable accuracy then how is a Boeing 777 missed? Multiple assets are deployed and are well drilled as this type of surveillance has been going on a long time.

    I'm betting that the JORN tracked it for a long part of the journey until it left the southern arc of it's coverage from the Laverton radar and the final area has been decided using other calculations like distance/fuel/headings. The UK has sent HMS Echo into the southern Indian Ocean which is something you don't just do on a hunch. This southern search is only being conducted by the nations that can be trusted to not to elaborate too much on defence capabilities this far south to which I am guessing are not as good as it would be looking north-west from Perth.

  11. teapot9999

    Surprised?

    I have been able to see my own car parked outside my house of Google Earth for years so why is anyone surprised about this level of satellite imagery!

    1. David Barrett

      Re: Surprised?

      You know that as you zoom in it switches from satellite to aerial (I.E. Taken from a plane) photography don't you?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprised?

      "I have been able to see my own car parked outside my house of Google Earth for years..."

      Oh, you haven't had images of your property redacted from Google Earth and other public sources?

      Mine's the black-out rectangle.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Surprised?

        How do you black out AC's "Mom's basement"?

        1. Psyx

          Re: Surprised?

          You can black out the basement, but you can't black out the ego that thinks it has something worth hiding from an overhead photograph...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprised, but still skeptical

    The real story here is that even with trillions of dollars in aggregate spending by major players, both government and private, over the last couple of decades, that surveillance capability is just not that good. There are enormous gaps in coverage, and significant inconsistencies in quality over time. The capabilities of these systems have been oversold by those with an interest in keeping their highest bidders paying. One former intelligence analyst once remarked that the reason many top secret assessments were kept classified was to hide the poor quality of the product from the public that paid for it.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

      The problem is that of a needle in a haystack. Mostly, spysats are used to look for stationary things that have a fairly guessable appearance and location. Undefined drifting wreckage in millions of square miles of ocean isn't what it was intended for. A lot of eyeballs (crowd-sourced searching) might help, but that gives away the clasified capability of the system.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

        "The problem is that of a needle in a haystack."

        And that of looking through a drinking straw.

        The problem with an enormously high resolution spy-sat is that its field of view is effectively sweet FA. You fly them over places where you know there is stuff, rather than sweeping oceans hoping to find something in a strip a mile wide.

      2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

        "The problem is that of a needle in a haystack. "

        No.

        The real problem is like that of finding a particular tiny bit of twig in a rainforest. "Needle in haystack" problems are easy, just drop the thing through a dense magnetic field. The needle is rapidly separated out. This has been a solved problem for so long that I can't understand why anyone would use it as an example of something that is difficult. It hasn't been difficult for at least two centuries.

        Using the appropriate technology is most of the solution to any issue.

        For example, if any large piece of the wreckage could be magnetic, using ship and submarine detection gear might be useful - for small areas. If anything in the plane or cargo is likely to bleed, tracking the movements of sharks could be helpful. [Some sharks are tagged for scientific purposes, looking at the records might tell us something.] And if anything on the aircraft was transmitting perhaps amateur radio fans or even radio telescopes might have caught it. These are all unlikely to be successful and probably futile but they make the point that if you use the right detector you can differentiate aluminium from ocean and people from metal.

        But the best technology for this task is probably human eyeballs. Attracting hordes of rubber-neckers might seem a little ghoulish and unconventional, but it could be the best way of finding any debris, assuming there is some.

        If the plane has been stolen and landed intact rubber-neckers may even be useful there but it would mean allowing many tourists into places they generally don't got to go.

        Humans can be quite dim at times but there are very few who would miss a 777 were they to stumble onto one.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

      That's right. Clearly we need to increase, by an order of magnitude or so, the budgets given to spy agencies in our respective countries, to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

      Or we could, y'know, ask why the Malaysian (and Indonesian, if the flight paths speculated so far are anything to go by) militaries weren't doing their jobs and investigating an unexplained radar contact crossing their territories. A couple of scrambled fighters doing a fly-by and looking in through the cockpit and windows (there's always a few portholes left open) - could have answered many of the most perplexing questions we have right now. But it didn't happen, because... why exactly?

      If we can't even ask, much less answer, that question, then what good would any amount of extra kit do us?

      1. Psyx

        Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

        "Or we could, y'know, ask why the Malaysian (and Indonesian, if the flight paths speculated so far are anything to go by) militaries weren't doing their jobs and investigating an unexplained radar contact crossing their territories."

        OTOH, it's their military and their business, not for us to tell us how they should defend their nation's airspace. Malaysia doesn't quite have the budget we have, and maybe doesn't have the jets sat on the runway ready to roll in the same way we might.

        That said, I imagine someone will be getting a kicking, but as it is a private military matter, it'll be behind closed doors.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CSI

    Someone needs to write a GUI in VB to track the planes IP.

    Its the only way we will find it.

  14. SMFSubtlety
    Joke

    diNgo

    Surely they missed a trick here:

    Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO)

    should have been

    Defence Imagery aNd Geospatial Organisation (DINGO)

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: diNgo

      They probably thought of DINGO, and decided that something that bites and occasionally eats babies wasn't the best of names for it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tinfoil or towels...

    0.25m... about 10 inches...

    No, it's not a threat to me. Another order of magnitude improvement and I'll get worried...

    1. annodomini2

      Re: Tinfoil or towels...

      The US had 3" in the '60s

  16. Stevie

    Bah!

    This "debris" was debunked as a Freighter yesterday AM EST on public radio. Why is it still being reported as "debris" for Neptune's sake?

    1. Psyx

      Re: Bah!

      "This "debris" was debunked as a Freighter yesterday AM EST on public radio. Why is it still being reported as "debris" for Neptune's sake?"

      What is more likely:

      That public radio is right in saying that a fuck-ton of professional image analysts can't be right, or vice versa.

  17. Semtex451
    Joke

    I'm sure I've seen pictures of buses and WWII planes ending up on the moon.

    I'm just saying.

    1. Nigel 11

      The human brain evolved to pattern match, and the cost of a false positive was usually far less than the cost of missing a match. The latter tended to involve being eaten shortly afterwards, thereby removing the less hair-triggered pattern matchers from the gene pool.

      So we all spot patterns in random noise. Especially faces and straight lines. Get tired enough, drink enough coffee so you are still awake, and you'll end up hallucinating in a small way. For me it was small creatures running around in my peripheral vision, that weren't really there. (The programming part of my brain was still perfectly "in the flow". Odd things, brains. )

  18. Zot

    Rolls-Royce monitoring system

    I guess that can be turned off as well!? Or they're lying about its analysis effectiveness.

    "A critical aspect of the EHM system is the transfer of data from aircraft to ground. Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) digital data-link systems are used as the primary method of communication. This transmits the Aircraft Condition Monitoring System (ACMS ) reports via a VHF radio or satellite link whilst the aircraft is in-flight."

    Link:-

    http://www.rolls-royce.com/about/technology/systems_tech/monitoring_systems.jsp

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: Rolls-Royce monitoring system

      I guess that can be turned off as well!? Yes, or at least the transmitter part can.

      Just about every electrical component on an aircraft can be isolated, it's almost as if they're worried about fire. This is a requirement of the certification regulations which for a Boeing 777 is probably FAR part 25.

      1. Zot

        Re: Rolls-Royce monitoring system

        Interesting, I guess it all goes through the same information transmitter? Rather than the engines transmitting it themselves.

  19. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Mate - I hope the passengers were not too aware for the duration of flight when fuel was running out - if that was indeed the case.

    But! I am sure someone on tv mentioned that there is a top secret, hush-hush classified US of A island base down there that the plane was tracking on to.

    Maybe they (the top secret, hush-hush base) shot the liner down?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Shamefur Dispray!

      > Capture plane for reasons unknown, possibly having to do with religion and/or a ragequit attitude

      > Divert into vast desert off nothingness to make it disappear

      > By coincidence hit the hush-hush Amurrican Superbase hidden within vast desert of nothingness

      > Hush-hush Amurrican Superbase fires at you as your fuel runs out

      > THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I am sure someone on tv mentioned that there is a top secret, hush-hush classified US of A island base down there that the plane was tracking on to."

      There are several down that way. Diego Garcia is simply the most well known. the french have one further south.

      1. hayseed

        Diego Garcia is British! (NM)

        NM

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Diego Garcia is British! (NM)

          Yeah, the original inhabitants can sing a song about that kind of britishness.

  20. thx1138v2

    Far too much power in far too few hands

    "But mistakes like the ones recorded here are particularly unhelpful if they heighten public paranoia." IMO, the public's paranoia is intolerably low and needs a bit of prodding with a sharp stick. There have been stories about being able to read license plates from satellites for years and you can pretty much assume tha there is a large degree of accuracy in them if commercial satellites are "allowed" to operate at 0.25m.

    I'm not really worried about myself because I'm a nobody and really have no effect on government functions. But apply those same technologies (NSA, satellites, etc.) to the portion of the populace that DOES have responsibility for implementing laws and rules of government contrivance and I see real problems. That level of data can be used to influence everyone in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government at all levels - national, state, county, city, and school district. And not just the primary parties but their families and relatives. That is far, far more power in the hands of far, far too few people.

    Yes, Mrs. Feinstein, you are a member of "all Americans" and so are your family members and you aides and their family members.

    Without a level of paranoia commensurate to the degree of intrusion we are doing nothing more than skipping down the yellow brick road like the Straw Man singing, "If I Only had a Brain".

    A bit more public paranoia could have prevented or, at the very least reduced, the impact of the events of 09/11/2001.

  21. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    There are several down that way. Diego Garcia is simply the most well known. the french have one further south.

    A: Sir we have an incoming plane that is not identified, does not respond to radio request.

    Sir: Do we have eyes on?

    A: Sir, yes sir. Eyes on by flight and by satellite.

    Sir: And?

    A: Sir, the plane is a scheduled flight from Malaysia to Beijing.

    Sir: Strewth dude! We have a 9/11 situation here. Contact Washington, Arlington, Langley and Norfolk on red scramble group call at maximum security with maximum urgency.

    (Discussion takes place)

    Sir: Destroy it

    ???

    1. Psyx

      Y'know that Diego Garcia is only 'near' the southern arc by merit of being in the south of the Indian Ocean, right?

  22. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Facepalm

    CSI

    or Spooks script would have had this solved in no time.

    1. Adrian 4

      Re: CSI

      Sure. We just need some of that hollywood photo enhancement tech.

      1. Psyx

        Re: CSI

        And blue lighting.

        Unless you're in Miami, where science is orange.

  23. P0l0nium

    To put this in perspective.

    The Hubble space telescope looking downwards would have a resolution of about 10cm at 200KM altitude. That's about 0.1 arc seconds.

    Hubble is closely related to US 1970s spy satellites.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I should hope it is not military satellite imagery behind the various "sightings" - the results have been abysmal.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. herman Silver badge

    Bear in mind that the spook sats are not normally tuned to stare at empty ocean. So the reason there is precious little video of that empty area is simply because nobody had any reason to be looking there.

  27. William Higinbotham

    I was talking about land based over the horizon radar. Totally different than Satellite.

    Wrote to Ministry of Defence

    Dear Honorable Senator the Hon David Johnston, Minister for Defence I was reading about your military's radar capability at http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/100years/stories/jorn.html. It would be terrific if your military data from radars was evaluated. I am afraid that because there has not been any data released, that your radar program is defective or the military personnel are failing to do their job. I am afraid that this may show the Russian military that their is a weakness in your system that they can exploit. Sincerely William B. Higinbotham

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Headmaster

      "their"

      there

      "that your radar program is defective or the military personnel are failing to do their job"

      Probably both, as is that caste's custom, but it's not as if Russians were particularly interested in a takeover of the vast stretches of roo-land at the point of the Avtomat Nikonova.

  28. William Higinbotham

    Followup

    Check out Swoardfish, India's long range radar http://defence.pk/threads/history-of-indias-state-of-the-art-radar-making.243398/ and other web news

    Also another author did have the right question

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_03_13_2014_p0-672073.xml

  29. Britt Johnston
    Unhappy

    The truth might be that all this investment in security could be put to better use

    The security aspects could be improved - don't sell aircraft to foreigners, have everyone carry a gps beacon, ban air travel and donkeys, twitter, whatever,....

    But the main topic has been the unfortunate accident, and the security hardware isn't giving answers, because it is not set up to answer this useful set of questions, even when it has a security aspect.

    I saw a depressing interview today where some parochial Washinton correspondent was discussing with top experts how to make all radar track to American standards and ensure that transponder switches be locked away from pilot's fingers. It made me feel not just that US security is an expensive irrelevance, but that if their view prevails, security may be incompatible with safety, or humanity.

  30. Thaumaturge

    Not the least of "their" capabilities.

    As mentioned before I see much higher resolution on the Google Maps satellite image of my little hunk of property. But I clearly recall the most amazing image I ever saw. It was back in the late 80's. I think it was in Aviation "leak" and space technology. It was in an article on real time image processing. The caption declared that the image was of a helicopter 1500 METERS below the water taken from another helicopter hovering 50 meters above the surface THROUGH THE PROPWASH. The helicopter under the water was upside down... and you could clearly read the aircraft identification painted on the bottom. Rumor at the time suggested that spy satellite technology was such that if you had a pack of smokes laying in your outstretched hand that the brand could be identified. I KNOW of at least one image taken at that time that was good enough for facial recognition. That was in the 80's. I don't suppose satellite technology has gotten worse since then.

    1. Dom 3

      Re: Not the least of "their" capabilities.

      "1500 METERS below the water taken from another helicopter hovering 50 meters above the surface THROUGH THE PROPWASH. The helicopter under the water was upside down... and you could clearly read the aircraft identification painted on the bottom."

      April issue by any chance? According to WP at a depth of "100 m (330 ft) the light present from the sun is normally about 0.5% of that at the surface." At 15 times that depth it is pitch black.

  31. Sirius Lee

    Of course it can

    "a US-based outfit known to operate at least three imaging satellites and which last year boasted it can, on request, photograph anywhere on Earth every 12 hours"

    Anyone able to put a smart phone camera in space will be able to claim the same thing: click, wait 6 hours, click, wait 6 hours, click, wait 6 hours, click. There, done and in only 18 hours. OK, you will not be able to *see* much in those images but the claim is honored. Now the real question is: at what resolution can those images be taken?

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