As Chemical Accusations Flew, U.S. Spy Planes Gathered Off of Syria

The aerial missions could be coincidences

As Chemical Accusations Flew, U.S. Spy Planes Gathered Off of Syria As Chemical Accusations Flew, U.S. Spy Planes Gathered Off of Syria
Around the same time that the White House was warning that the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad was planning a chemical attack... As Chemical Accusations Flew, U.S. Spy Planes Gathered Off of Syria

Around the same time that the White House was warning that the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad was planning a chemical attack — and Al Assad himself was visiting Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria — an unusual number of U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy spy planes gathered off the Syrian coast.

Aircraft-spotters, air-band listeners and air-traffic monitors tracked the growing assembly of Air Force RC-135s plus a Navy P-8 on June 26, 2017.

The enthusiast running the popular @CivMilAir and @ADSBTweetBot Twitter feeds followed the flights of an RC-135U Combat Sent, an RC-135V Rivet Joint and the P-8 Poseidon, more or less at the same money Al Assad was posing for photos inside the cockpit of a Russian Sukhoi fighter deployed to Syria.

The Rivet Joint is the USAF’s standard signals-intelligence platform, meaning that it can eavesdrop and pinpoint enemy radio signals and disseminate information about these targets via tactical data-link to other aircraft. The Combat Sent is designed to collect technical intelligence on adversary radar systems.

The P-8 is the Navy’s multi-role surveillance platform and also possesses the ability to snoop on enemy communications and signals. In other words, three of the most important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the U.S. inventory were flying in the air space near Syria at the same time, listening for … something.

Perhaps coincidentally, a WC-135 Constant Phoenix — the Pentagon’s main nuclear-reconnaissance plane — flew from the United Kingdom on June 26 and headed toward the Black Sea under the radio call sign “Lando 90.

The WC-135 is an atmospheric-collections aircraft whose main mission is to detect the radioactive particles that result from a nuclear detonation. On June 26, the Constant Phoenix might have been on a pre-planned deployment for routine strategic reconnaissance.

But it’s worth noting that, for years, there have been rumors that the WC-135 carries sensors for detecting chemical weapons.