✈ Latest From Airplane Watch ✈

Thursday, May 21, 2015

✈ Top secret ‘Space Drone’ X-37B to Blast Off On Covert Mission ✈

The TOP secret US Air Force space-plane called X-37B will blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida today on a classified military mission.

The pilotless military space vehicle, a quarter the size of a NASA shuttle, is officially called a test vehicle.

Amazingly this is the X-37B's fourth mission.

US Air Force Drone Space-Plane called X-37B
US Air Force Drone Space-Plane called X-37B
The space drone is designed to orbit the earth and its longest flight has lasted nearly two years.

The craft is unmanned and operated robotically.

Previous speculation over X-37B's purpose is that it is used by America to spy on China.

While the Pentagon refuses to discuss its missions, Spaceflight magazine has in the past said snooping on the Asian powerhouse was its most likely purpose.

Editor Dr David Baker said: "Space-to-space surveillance is a whole new ball game made possible by a finessed group of sensors and sensor suites, which we think the X-37B may be using to maintain a close watch on China's nascent space station."

US Air Force X-37B Drone
US Air Force X-37B Drone
Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists agreed the space drone's most likely use was eavesdropping on fellow nations.

He said: "It's conceivable that a spy plane would introduce new versatility into overhead reconnaissance.

"The usual suspects would be targets. For instance, Iran or North Korea, or the various battle zones in the Middle East and elsewhere."

The US Air Force will not confirm how long the latest flight is for but have said its focus is a 'thruster experiment involving electric propulsion'.


The Boeing-manufactured plane, which is nine metres long, is boosted into space by a launch vehicle and then lands just like the Space Shuttle by gliding. All of its three previous trips have landed in California.

Giving brief details on the upcoming mission, Randy Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said: "With the demonstrated success of the first three missions, we're able to shift our focus from initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads."

Also tagging along will be the Planetary Society with a solar-sail demo, which aims to use stars to propel the plane.

It wants to show rockets can be powered by the sun's energy using the sails which will span 344 square feet.

✈ [Photo] Russian Antonov Spy Plane Spotted Over Lancashire UK ✈

A RUSSIAN spy plane has been spotted flying low over Lancashire as tensions between Vladimir Putin and the West mount to near emergency levels.

The Antonov An-30, armed with five high-resolution cameras, was spotted by photographer Steve Bradley, 41, who was astonished to see it over his garden in Colne, Lancashire.

Russian Antonov An-30 Spy Plane Photographed Over Lancashire UK May 2015
Russian Antonov An-30 Spy Plane - Photo By Steve Bradley
It comes as British Typhoon jets were forced to intercept a Russian spy plane last week and escort it away from UK airspace.

In the last month, three Russian warships have been monitored sailing through the English Channel.

MPs in east Lancashire have raised concerns about what the spy plane was doing just 30 miles from Menwith Hill, a hi-tech NATO monitoring station, and 22 miles from BAE Systems military aircraft factory at Samlesbury.

Mr Bradley said he was shocked to spot the military turboprop while working in his garden on Friday.

The semi-professional photographer captured several clear shots of the plane flying from east to west.

He said: "It was a bit scary to be honest. I just saw it flying pretty low and wondered: 'Should that really be here?'.

"My wife was in the kitchen and I just grabbed the camera and took a few pictures. I was dumbfounded.

"Afterwards I looked up the number on the underside of the plane and that confirmed it was a military jet. I suppose some Russian planes must be allowed here but I imagine it's pretty rare."


The Ministry of Defence confirmed the plane, nicknamed the 'Clank' , was from the Russian Federation Air Force and was flying with permission under a 2002 treaty with UK military personnel on board.

However some are still questioning its appropriateness when tensions between the West and Russia are rising.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson and his Ribble Valley Tory colleague Nigel Evans are set to raise the issue of the flight and question Ministers on the treaty in the House of Commons.

Russian Antonov An-30 Spy Plane - Photo By Steve Bradley
Russian Antonov An-30 Spy Plane - Photo By Steve Bradley
The MoD confirmed the plane was from the Russian military but said it was allowed in British airspace under the Treaty on Open Skies.

The treaty allows unarmed surveillance flights to take place in 34 countries across the world.

A spokeswoman said: "It is a completely routine and allowable flight. It will have had UK personnel on board ." Mr Stephenson said: "I am very concerned about this Russian spy-plane being in East Lancashire's skies so close to Menwith Hill and BAE Systems military aircraft division factories in the county.

"I shall be raising its presence and whether the Open Skies Treaty should be reviewed in the light of rising tensions with Russia with ministers in the House of Commons at the next oral Defence and Foreign Office Questions.

Tensions have been rising with Russian aircraft escorted away from our airspace."

Mr Evans said: "I am very concerned and will be tabling written questions to ministers on this flight and whether we should look again at the agreement in the light of recent cases of Russian military aircraft and ships coming close to our shores"

Rossendale and Darwen Tory MP Jake Berry and new Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern also supported their colleagues in questioning the spy plane's presence and the suitability of the treaty in the current international climate.

Burnley Labour MP Julie Cooper said: "This seems very odd. I want to know what this plane was doing and why it was above Colne."

Former Blackburn MP Jack Straw, foreign secretary in 2002 when the treaty was signed, said: "This is a reciprocal treaty which allows us to fly over Russian. Revoking it would heighten tensions, not reduce them.

"The Russians have satellites if they want to study Menwith Hill."

He was supported by Tory former Foreign and Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and ex-NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.

Former Labour defence secretary Lord Robertson said: "This is appropriate under a reciprocal treaty. My concern would be that reducing such military co-operation might lead to misunderstandings and mistakes."

Source: www.express.co.uk/news/world/578583/Russian-spy-plane-spotted-over-LANCASHIRE-Shock-sighting-as-tensions-with-Putin-boil-over

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