Author Topic: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites  (Read 69686 times)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #20 on: 06/05/2021 04:57 pm »
Yeah, I'm trying ILL. One potential problem is that everything is still closed. Normally, I might be able to use our institution's research library to obtain it--except that our building has been closed since March 2020. And so have most other DC federal buildings. And while I might in normal times go to one of these places as a guest researcher, most of them are closed. So I'm trying to work it, but a lot of things aren't exactly normal operating procedures these days.

Meanwhile, enjoy this image of the Kuznetsov, back when he was actually sailing.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #21 on: 06/15/2021 08:27 pm »
1-Maybe the Library of Congress has it?  Worth a search of the holdings, anyway...  You have to be a researcher and set an appointment to show up in DC and read it, but they likely have a digital copy - if they have it at all - that you can access online.

2-The pics you posted are mostly of ships whose location is fixed and/or well known at some particular point in time.  It's not impossible to catch them, but it's exceedingly difficult to randomly find them at sea.  I know this from, well, experience...  And yes, most sat imagery is B/W, unless you're talking about the more recently designed birds (Maxar, Planet, BlackSky, Dig Globe, and others).  But yeah, there are some really cool pics released to the public!

1-I have since acquired the cover in color. Only "Defence Weekly" is in color. The rest of it is black and white. Not exciting, but it is rather bold with the spysat image.

2-Yeah, that's true. I think that's one reason why the DigitalGlobe analysts were so excited when they caught the Liaoning at sea in 2012.

3-(related to 2) The ocean is big. Spotting ships anywhere in the open ocean with a satellite is not easy, certainly not at high resolution (which also means you're looking through a straw). Most of the images I have are ships either in port or near their ports. I've assembled a nice collection, although I'm more interested in the stories behind them, if there are stories.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #22 on: 06/17/2021 01:34 am »
....
The ocean is big. Spotting ships anywhere in the open ocean with a satellite is not easy, certainly not at high resolution (which also means you're looking through a straw).
....


AIUI. Finding a ship at sea is not that hard. Identifying a ship at sea is hard. It is relatively easy to tracked ship wakes, especially if the ships are traveling at speed.






Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #23 on: 06/17/2021 01:50 am »
....
The ocean is big. Spotting ships anywhere in the open ocean with a satellite is not easy, certainly not at high resolution (which also means you're looking through a straw).
....


AIUI. Finding a ship at sea is not that hard. Identifying a ship at sea is hard. It is relatively easy to tracked ship wakes, especially if the ships are traveling at speed.

Many satellites have a swath width of only a few kilometers. The Pacific is wider than that.

Offline hoku

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #24 on: 06/17/2021 07:34 am »
....
The ocean is big. Spotting ships anywhere in the open ocean with a satellite is not easy, certainly not at high resolution (which also means you're looking through a straw).
....


AIUI. Finding a ship at sea is not that hard. Identifying a ship at sea is hard. It is relatively easy to tracked ship wakes, especially if the ships are traveling at speed.

Many satellites have a swath width of only a few kilometers. The Pacific is wider than that.
Looking for the (turbulent and/or Kelvin) wake widens the search swath quite a bit
https://crisp.nus.edu.sg/~research/shipwakes/shipwakes.htm

Offline edzieba

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #25 on: 06/18/2021 02:14 pm »
In current times, SAR and optical detection of vessel wakes and spectrographic detection of 'ship tracks' (from non-nuclear vessels) makes rapid tasking of photoreconnaissance today possible. In the early days of the first Coronas, the mysterious Quill's limited real-time SAR capability would have been the only option* - for vessels within tracks that could be captured from a ground station - in the event the co-orbiting KH-4A was able to be retasked to point at a suspected ship. The short (4 day) lifetime of Quill and 1964-085A's pointing issues make this a very unlikely possibility, and the lack of remaining information on Quill means if it happened, the only way to tell would be looking through 1964-085A/1015/OPS3358 imagery from 21-25 December for any ships that may appear. I tried to have a quick look for any out of track imaging during that time, but USGS EarthExplorer seems to be down at the moment.


*Apart from happy accidents/"he sailed right under my camera!", timely non-satellite intelligence, or intercepted fleet movement plans, the latter two of which would generally be limited to activities near ports or other fixed objectives.

Offline libra

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #26 on: 06/18/2021 03:53 pm »
In current times, SAR and optical detection of vessel wakes and spectrographic detection of 'ship tracks' (from non-nuclear vessels) makes rapid tasking of photoreconnaissance today possible. In the early days of the first Coronas, the mysterious Quill's limited real-time SAR capability would have been the only option* - for vessels within tracks that could be captured from a ground station - in the event the co-orbiting KH-4A was able to be retasked to point at a suspected ship. The short (4 day) lifetime of Quill and 1964-085A's pointing issues make this a very unlikely possibility, and the lack of remaining information on Quill means if it happened, the only way to tell would be looking through 1964-085A/1015/OPS3358 imagery from 21-25 December for any ships that may appear. I tried to have a quick look for any out of track imaging during that time, but USGS EarthExplorer seems to be down at the moment.


*Apart from happy accidents/"he sailed right under my camera!", timely non-satellite intelligence, or intercepted fleet movement plans, the latter two of which would generally be limited to activities near ports or other fixed objectives.

QUILL and Seasat 14 years apart (1964 - 1978)  seemingly had a major issue: too much data for either onboard storage or ground stations.
CORONA already snapped 800 000 photos of ten millions of squared kilometers; SAR data seemingly was even some order of magnitude more voluminous.
This also applied to Apollo 17 ALSE - Lunar Sounding Radar.

My understanding is that more than some days or weeks of operations just overwhelmed data storage capabilities even at JPL, even on the ground, and even on the Voyager / Viking days.

(My source is a 2002 book about JPL hardships called "Into the black".

That one, a very good read (in passing)
https://www.amazon.com/Into-Black-American-Program-1976-2004/dp/0300184190

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #27 on: 06/18/2021 04:11 pm »
An image taken by a HEXAGON satellite.

Offline GClark

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #28 on: 06/19/2021 08:04 am »
For whatever reason, mirror-imaged.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #29 on: 06/24/2021 04:25 pm »
« Last Edit: 07/12/2021 07:34 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #30 on: 07/15/2021 02:55 am »
https://www.csis.org/analysis/progress-report-chinas-type-003-carrier



My own article has been pretty much ready to go for a few weeks now. I figured CSIS would get an image like this because there have been other photos showing the island on the carrier. So I should finalize my article and run it next week.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #31 on: 07/19/2021 08:33 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4217/1

Flattops from space: the once (and future?) meme of photographing aircraft carriers from orbit
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, July 19, 2021

In 1984, Samuel Loring Morison, an analyst at the Naval Intelligence Support Center outside of Washington, DC, picked three photos off the desk of a colleague. He clipped the security classification stamps off the sides of the photos and provided them to Jane’s Defence Weekly, which had only recently begun publishing. The photos were taken by a satellite of a Soviet Union military shipyard. Knowing that they had a real scoop, the editors at Jane’s put one of the photos on the cover of the magazine and featured the other two in a short article about the latest Soviet naval developments.

The photos were taken by a KH-11 KENNEN reconnaissance satellite, which was then highly secret. They showed a Soviet aircraft carrier (technically, an aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser) and an amphibious warfare ship under construction. They were by far the most detailed reconnaissance photos that had ever been published up to that time, and instantly attracted attention worldwide, resulting in substantial publicity for Jane’s. The article inaccurately reported that the aircraft carrier under construction was to be nuclear powered, but the story was still incredibly important for establishing the magazine’s reputation for inside information.

There was really no way for Morison to cover his tracks considering that he had a part-time job with Jane’s in addition to his day job as a naval analyst, and it did not take long for investigators to trace the photos back to him. Morison was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison for two years. He died on January 14, 2018, aged 73.

Because the photos Morison provided to the media were so famous, they became somewhat of an inside joke among people interested in intelligence collection—spawning, for lack of a better definition, an intelligence meme. In late 1996, somebody leaked a satellite photograph of another Soviet-era aircraft carrier to a journalist, this one working for the conservative-leaning newspaper The Washington Times. For years, Times journalist Bill Gertz had been publishing classified information—including satellite photos—that somebody in the government was leaking to him. Usually the leaks concerned China—which Gertz considered to be a rising menace—although Russia was another topic that Gertz occasionally wrote about based on classified information. Journalists covering the national security beat in Washington were envious of Gertz’s source (or sources) and speculated that the government was trying hard to find the leaker. The Times published the photo on January 1, 1997. The story, “Ukraine won’t finish Russian flattop,” was barely newsworthy except for the fact that it was based on a leaked, classified CIA report and featured a secret satellite photo of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier. Whoever leaked it almost certainly did so with knowledge of the Morison case and printing the photo on the first day of the new year was clearly a taunt, saying “catch me if you can.”



The Brezhnev soon after launching:
https://i.redd.it/79lws8nix3da1.jpg

« Last Edit: 01/22/2023 08:02 pm by Blackstar »

Offline hoku

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #32 on: 07/20/2021 06:44 am »
Nice and "fun" article with a great collection of overhead photographs of flattops!

The article in Jane's mentions that they already had previously published an "artist's impression" of the Soviet carrier, which they had (nick-) named "Kremlin", in their 28 July 1984 issue. According to court documents of Morison's appeal in 1988, he had provided Jane's an artist's sketch several weeks earlier than the photographs.

Is this sketch available online somewhere?

It seems that Derek Wood, the (London-based?) editor of Jane's weekly, was not prosecuted even though he encouraged Morison to provide secret information, met with him in Washington, DC, and paid him for the material he received?

https://www.opengovva.org/foi-opinions/united-states-v-morison
« Last Edit: 07/20/2021 06:47 am by hoku »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #33 on: 07/20/2021 03:35 pm »
It seems that Derek Wood, the (London-based?) editor of Jane's weekly, was not prosecuted even though he encouraged Morison to provide secret information, met with him in Washington, DC, and paid him for the material he received?

https://www.opengovva.org/foi-opinions/united-states-v-morison

I believe that Morison was charged under the Espionage Act, which was rarely used when the classified material was provided to the media rather than to a foreign power. Since then, it has become more common in the US to prosecute people in the US for that, although it is still rare. One of the problems with prosecuting people for that is the risk that more information will become public, so often administrative remedies (firing, loss of pension) are pursued instead.

I don't know anything about his editor and what jurisdiction he would have come under.

A bunch of the Wikipedia source links are dead:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Loring_Morison

« Last Edit: 07/20/2021 03:36 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #34 on: 07/22/2021 01:30 pm »
Somebody pointed me to this satellite image of Liaoning, posted to the internet on July 20. Liaoning is the same ship that appeared in the Jan 1, 1997 Washington Times article (then named Varyag).

https://twitter.com/ImageSatIntl?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

There's also this story that goes along with the 1997 leak:

https://fas.org/sgp/bulletin/sec64.html


Offline libra

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #35 on: 07/22/2021 02:22 pm »
On a sadder note, the Ukrainian shipyard that build both Kuznetsov and Varyag is being liquidated.

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/russian-and-soviet-aircraft-carriers.1948/page-8#post-467503


Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #36 on: 07/22/2021 04:36 pm »
On a sadder note, the Ukrainian shipyard that build both Kuznetsov and Varyag is being liquidated.

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/russian-and-soviet-aircraft-carriers.1948/page-8#post-467503

By the way, the ship on the right in that old photo is the Russian carrier Kuznetsov, and the one on the left is the Varyag, now in service as the Chinese carrier Liaoning. As I noted in my article, there's a fascinating story about how the Liaoning ended up in China.

It looks like the Varyag at left is putting up smoke, so they must have been running the boilers.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #37 on: 07/30/2021 02:26 am »

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Aircraft carriers and spy satellites
« Reply #38 on: 08/02/2021 06:06 am »
In case someone is interested. The unidentified warship in the last photo posted by @Blackstar is likely a Type 45 guided missile destroyer, the HMS Defender (D36). The ship is part of the UK Carrier Strike Group 21 mention in the linked USNI news article.


https://news.usni.org/2021/07/22/carrier-hms-queen-elizabeth-drills-with-indian-navy-ahead-of-more-pacific-exercises
« Last Edit: 08/04/2021 02:55 am by Zed_Noir »


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