BREAKING: U.S. Air Force Just DEPLOYED This To Japan In Response To N. Korea



The U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer” has arrived in Japan.


The aircraft was deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, to monitor Kim Jong Un nuke tests, the Nikkei media outlet reported based on talks with a senior Japan Self Defense Forces official.

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The aircraft was supposed to arrive at its Forward Operating Base last month but it was forced to perform an emergency landing at Sultan Iskandar Muda airport in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on its way to Japan, on Mar. 24, following an engine failure.


The two WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft in service today (out of 10 examples operated since the 1960s) are Boeing C-135 transport and support planes derivative belonging to the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base, with mission crews staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center, reports.

The Constant Phoenix, known as the “sniffer” or “weather bird” by its crews, can carry up to 33 personnel.


Constant Phoenix flies in direct support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System, a global network of nuclear detection sensors that monitor underground, underwater, space-based or atmospheric events. As the sole agency in the Department of Defense tasked with this mission, AFTAC’s role in nuclear event detection is critical to senior decision makers in the U.S. government, says the Air Force.

“Our aircraft is equipped with external flow devices that allow us to collect airborne particulate on filter paper and a compressor system for whole air samples,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Wilkens, a 9S100 and airborne operations section chief in a recent release. “The particulate samples are collected using a device that works like an old Wurlitzer jukebox. An arm grabs the paper from its slot and moves it to the exterior of the fuselage. After exposure, it is returned to the filter magazine where a new paper is selected for use. It’s a simple, yet very effective, concept.”

This is not the first time the aircraft is moved close to the Korean peninsula in anticipation of Kim Jong Un rocket launches; moreover, the WC-135 has already been deployed to Japan back in 2011, when it was used to track radioactive activity around Fukushima following, a type of mission the aircraft had already flown in 1986 following the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union.

According to the Washington Post, a U.S. defense official confirmed that the WC-135 Constant Phoenix atmospheric collections aircraft will be used to detect the amount of radiation from North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb detonation.

Two Cobra Ball aircraft  (61-2662 and 61-2663) are currently deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan, from where it is launched when there are signs of an imminent North Korean test. What is far more surprising is the fact that, in spite of their important role, RC-135S aircraft are among the military planes that can be tracked online by exploiting the signals broadcast by their Mode S/ADS-B transponders.
The transponders can be tracked by going to, which I personally have little experience with the site itself.

Blocking of information about aircraft flying in U.S. national airspace has become difficult, despite the FAA’s current blocking program. This program, which replaced the previous Block Aircraft Registration Request (Barr) system, relies on flight-tracking providers’ agreeing to block information at operators’ requests in exchange for being able to tap into the FAA’s Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) data feed.

The problem with blocking is that simple sub-$100 hobbyist receivers can detect position, speed and identification information by receiving broadcasts from mode-S transponders and ADS-B out transmitters. None of this information is in any way encrypted, and hobbyists can share the information gathered on their receivers to create a network of flight-tracking information. Flight-tracking companies can also use information from receivers, as does FlightAware with its PiAware receiver and Passur with its own receiver network, but FlightAware, Passur, FlightRadar24 and others participate in the agreement to withhold information on blocked aircraft.

Not so ADS-B Exchange. This website was put up by pilot Dan Streufert last year. “This is really just a hobby,” he told AIN. “I got interested in aircraft tracking with PiAware and found that I could expand on that. I threw the site up for the heck of it.”

“The information is being broadcast in the clear over the air,” he said. “Any sense of security that operators may have had is an illusion. If you have a mode-S transponder, you can be tracked. ADS-B makes it a bit easier. The information is already out there, just spend $100 on Amazon to buy the parts and you can receive it. If the bad guys want the information, it’s already out there. We’re not making anything that is not already there.
The U.S. Air Force relies on its small contingent of RC-135S Cobra Ball missile tracking aircraft. Based at Offutt Air Force Base, outside Omaha, Nebraska, and  flown by the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, these intelligence gathering aircraft are often deployed where needed to track ballistic missiles reentry vehicles and warheads during the final phase of flight.
The aircraft is equipped with a powerful radar array on the starboard side of the fuselage, just aft of the cockpit. Several optical quality windows are mounted on the starboard side as well, allowing infrared and visible spectrum cameras to record the warheads during their final moments of flight. A distinctive feature of the Cobra Ball is the black low-glare paint used on the starboard wing, to improve image quality and prevent glare during photography.

(h/t Stars and Stripes)

God Bless.

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