But WHY turn off the transponder?

According to Russia Today, Russia accuses Sweden of ”fabricating” incidents. The incident consists of a Russian spy plane being found with its transponder turned off close to Copenhagen international airport. On a collision course with a civilian airliner, prompting the Swedish and Danish air forces to scramble fighter jets to investigate this and warn civilian air traffic in the area.

Any attempt to point out the facts on RT.com makes the KTA (Kremlin Troll Army) flood the comments section with rubbish in order to prevent others from seeing these comments. So I’ll cover the facts that RT somehow missed here:

  • The aircraft in question is a signal intelligence gathering plane.
  • It entered airspace used for approach to Copenhagen intl. with its transponder disabled.
  • Disabling the transponder doesn’t make a plane invisible to military radars. Or any radar that can pick up an airplane, for that matter.
  • Disabling the transponder does makes the plane invisible to civilian aircrafts.
  • The sigint. aircraft and the airliner came as close as 9 000 meters.
  • These planes were on a collision course.
  • The airliner changed its course to prevent a mid-air collision.

First of all, shouldn’t 9 000 meters mean a lot of room to spare? No, not if we’re talking about airplanes flying straight against each other. If each plane has a speed of 600 km/h, it means they are 27 seconds away from impact.

27 seconds from impact.

Add to that the fact that the crew on the civilian plane is oblivious to the danger ahead. They will know about the other plane when they see it. Coming at them at the same speed as a bullet. Yes, a bullet. They wouldn’t even see what hit them before it hit them.

So yes, the Russian plane did in fact create a very dangerous situation. This moves us on to the next question:

Why?

Yes, why would you enter an area with heavy civilian air traffic with your transponder turned off? We know that the military will still pick it up on radar, so it doesn’t mean any kind of stealth benefits. On the contrary, it makes the plane appear suspicious and prompt a closer investigation ASAP, since it shows up on the radar screens but without a transponder code. There must be a reason for it. And I’d like to know why.

Let’s move on to the Russian response: whataboutism, denials, half-truths and false claims, courtesy of Major General Igor Konashenkov and Russia today:

  • ”The Russian aircraft was 70 kilometers away from the flight path of the airliner.”
  • ”The Russian aircraft did not breach Swedish airspace.”
  • ”NATO planes in the region flies with their transponders turned off as well.”
  • ”Aircraft with their transponders disabled are always visible to the Russian airspace control.”
  • ”Those NATO planes with their disabled transponders fly close to Russian borders as well.”

What Konashenkov says might seem sensible to many. But not if you start analyzing each claim. First of all, he never denies the Russian plane being as close to the airliner as 9 000 meters. Instead, he points out that it was 70 kilometers away from its flight path. And that might be true. But the flight path change as soon as the plane turns. And most planes turn following take-off. A half-truth.

And no, the Russian plane never breached Swedish airspace. Interestingly, no such accusations have been made, either. So what Konashenkov does is to deny a claim that was never made, in order to fabricate a false accusation from Sweden.

And do NATO planes fly with their transponders turned off? As Konashenkov claims? I have no idea. And it has no relevance in this case. This is an example of whataboutism, ie to dodge accusations by accusing others. As if you were on trial for burglary, and then asked to be aquitted because there are others who commit worse crimes. Muggings, rape, murder, and so on.

What seems dubious to the claim above is a fact given by Konashenkov himself, namely the fact that those plane shows up on Russian airspace control anyway. Yes, and such is the case here as well. A plane with no transponder will show up on radar, but it will be invisible to civilian aircraft! And why would NATO aircraft do that? We know a disabled transponder doesn’t make you invisible. It makes you more visible because it turns you into an anomaly.

And besides that, even if it happens, it doesn’t create the same dangers as the Russian behaviour. Flying in international airspace with a disabled transponder turns you into a hazard for civilian aircrafts. But you have to be close to a large international airport where there are lots of civilian aircrafts in the air. And considering that all major Russian airports are located inland, that’s not really a problem.

Anyway, the Russian response is just bogus. But what’s the reason for this behaviour?

Is the goal to create a mid-air collision between a Russian spy plane and a civilian aircraft, and then fabricate an international incident from that? To claim that the Russian plane was in fact shot down by Sweden or Denmark, as an excuse to start an all-out war? It wouldn’t come as a surprise.

”A couple of hundred swedes and danes killed by a Russian asshole of a pilot who decided to rid the world of his stupidity by doing a suicide run on an unsuspecting airliner” is a news item that won’t surprise me either.

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