‘Ukraine’s eyes and ears in the sky’ are the names of the American and British RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft these days. The Boeing, which can intercept and intercept communications deep inside Ukraine with their sensors, regularly skims along the Ukrainian border in Poland, Slovakia and Romania. And they can be followed by flight spotters and via websites like FlightRadar24.
Before the Russian invasion began, RC-135s flew incessantly over Ukraine to monitor the build-up of Russian troops across the border. Now the American and British planes are operating in NATO’s neighbors to Ukraine because they do not want to become a target of the Russian Air Force. The United States also uses drones to spy on the Russians, including in the international airspace over the Black Sea.
With Global Hawk, the largest drone in the United States flying at high altitudes, troop formations can be depicted. Also in the air are NATO Awacs radars orbiting Poland and Romania near the Ukrainian border. Officially, the Awacs aircraft are in the air to monitor Member States’ airspace. But the Boeing E-3 also makes it possible to spy on the Russian Air Force’s operations in Ukrainian airspace up to 400 kilometers.
Major General Pieter Cobelens, former director of the Dutch military intelligence service MIVD, does not believe that the West is ‘disabled’ now that it can no longer fly over Ukraine. “The closer you are to the enemy, the better, of course,” said Major General BD. “By flying past the borders, there is still plenty to see and valuable information to the surface.”
The US and British governments are constantly releasing details of the actions of the Russian invading army. Or they warn of possible actions on the part of Moscow, such as the use of chemical weapons. How do they get that information? And how do they know, for example, that Putin’s advisers are not telling him the truth about the disappointing course of the war?
The reconnaissance and observation flights of the Boeing and drones are only part of the resources that the United States in particular spends learning all about the Russian actions. With the deployment of satellites, the old trusted spy work, the use of informants in Russia and the establishment of wiretapping operations, efforts are also being made to get as complete an intelligence picture as possible.
Information for Ukraine
‘With the so-called operational intelligence, the sensors from planes and satellites, you can already now build a good and reliable picture of the course of the battle and of troop movements’, says General Retd Tom Middendorp, the highest ranking military officer between 2012 and 2017 as commander of the armed forces from the Netherlands.
In order not to tip the Russians, people in all languages are silent about how the United States obtained certain information. Have the Americans heard senior Russian generals in Ukraine talk about Putin? Could these intercepted conversations form the basis of the analysis that the Russian leader is being misled by his people? The media must always settle for a concise answer: ‘This is clear from our intelligence.’
Washington also prefers to remain silent about whether the United States shares all information from the observation and drone flights with Ukraine, so as not to dismiss Moscow unnecessarily. “We’re delivering a huge amount of intelligence to Ukraine,” Avril Haines, the head of all U.S. intelligence services, told Congress last month. Only behind closed doors was she willing to elaborate on exactly what Kiev is getting.
Secret information as a weapon
The striking thing about the Ukraine War compared to other wars is that Washington and London are more willing to disclose classified information if they deem it necessary. The British report daily on Twitter how the battle is going. They were one of the first to report that the Russians were suffering heavy losses. The Americans warned that the Russian army could use chemical or biological weapons.
According to Cobelens, who as MIVD chief was to handle the intelligence from his American colleague DIA between 2006 and 2011, the Russians were surprised by the US proactive tactics. Cobelens: ‘The information war is now very important. The United States showed Putin in such a way that they knew what his intentions were and that they understood him. The Russians realized that they were being monitored and that it was becoming complicated, as with the use of chemical weapons, to merge everything else. ‘
Professor of War Studies Frans Osinga understands that some eyebrows were raised when Moscow was accused of possibly secretly using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, after all, the United States faced the world when it turned out that its intelligence was false and that Baghdad had no weapons of mass destruction at all.
A British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’, a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft, carries out a mission to gather intelligence on Russian forces in Ukraine.https: //t.co/I0b65NEtJb
– UK Defense Journal (@UKDefJournal) March 1, 2022
“What the Americans are saying now can be a scam,” said Osinga, a former F-16 pilot. “But you should not assume that. You’re not just saying this. We must assume that the United States has good sources for this. WHO? Of course, we do not know. But the United States has had good information about Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine from the beginning. They are now showing Putin that they know what he is doing. Do they have a mole in Moscow because of the story that Putin is not getting the right information? It is pure speculation ‘.
Cobelens: ‘The fact that the United States has a source close to Putin seems far-fetched, but you can not rule it out. There are enough people in his environment, people with power or money, who have their own agenda. It could be anyone, like an oligarch. Who has been appointed as Putin’s successor? Including the head of the intelligence service. What is now being said about Putin is an old fact and applies to every dictator. Hitler also received only good news from his own people. ‘
The former spy boss does not want to erase the importance of spies on the spot in the US and other countries’ efforts to obtain good information. ‘These two countries were already spying on each other before World War II,’ argues Cobelens. ‘They both work with local people. It is not for nothing that so many diplomats are now being deported. ”