An Interesting Question

Hb7j5hezballah One of you sent me this interesting question which I offer for general discussion.

Pat Lang


"Dear Colonel.

I’ve been enjoying your blog. I’m always happy when I find out where the grown-ups are in serious conversation. And my father, the Commander, taught me to take some talk very seriously.

I just came across a news story that says Hezbollah was able to read message traffic Isreal sent using the frequency hopping U.S.-designed communication system called the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System.,0,3091818.story?coll=ny-worldnews-print

I don’t know a lot about Signal Intel, just what I picked up third hand while my dad was flying with VQ-2 out of Rota Spain in the 60’s.

However, if Hezbollah really has cracked these systems, it raises several questions.

Is it reasonable to assume that some black project in Syria or Iran was able to do this?

Is it more likely that some Syran or Iranian graduate of MIT or CalTec was able to put together electronic gear from Tiawan, China, Russia or the EU and get this capability? I don’t know if this isn’t more frightening than the above or the next option.

Or is it more likely that someone among the major players sold the top of the line to Iran so it could be tested against the best of the last remaining super power. (I note that France or Russia was supposed to have jammers to protect sites from our GPS guided bombs. They sold them to Iraq, but they didn’t work as advertised.)

I wonder if this is something you’d like to send up for your readers to comment on."  MM

This entry was posted in Current Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to An Interesting Question

  1. arbogast says:

    Any answer that underestimates the intelligence and capacity for hard work of the Iranians is avoiding reality.
    It is a popular notion to relegate Islam to the Middle Ages. And to assume that anything modern in Islam is a gift from the “West”.
    Dream on.

  2. Abu Sinan says:

    Some of the best engineers in the world are Muslim. Remember, math as we know it, is an Islamic science.
    I am an engineer and I work with many engineers from all over the Muslim world. I would not be surprised if Muslims helped design these projects.
    When it comes to such thing one should never work on the assumption that the other side will not be able to gain access to your communications.
    Whether they cracked it themselves or paid others to do it, it can be done, and often pretty easily.
    Did you all hear about the lady that went into space the other day? She is an Iranian engineer who made millions with her work here in the USA.
    Engineering is probably the main field of study for Muslim students abroad. The idea that Islam or Muslims are behind on a technological basis is wrong.
    The West should feel lucky that the best and brightest of the Muslim engineers come to the West looking for better money and a better life.
    If they stayed at home working on projects there we might be in more trouble than we already are.
    Were not a significant number of the 9/11 attackers either engineers or in school to become engineers?
    Were not some of the Iranian weapons used in Lebanon basically knock offs, reverse engineered versions of western arms?
    I am interested to hear how others think this event came to pass. The recent happenings in Lebanon should worry Israel greatly.

  3. Will says:

    Hebrew and Arabic are cognate languages similar to French and Italian. Rosh and ras, Aviv and habib. I don’t know if they are mutually intelligle to the casual istener but it can’t be too hard to learn one language for a user of the other.
    A similar but related tech question about cell towers and stealth fighter detections that came up doing the Kosovo war. The British showed that you could detect stealth fighters from the interfence they caused to cell tower signals.
    The first targets in an air war would be the cell towers. That is the U.S. advantage in air war- stealth technology. And apparently cell towers provide a way to crack it.
    Best Wishes

  4. Charles H Milelr says:

    Dear Pat,
    Just a note: the first “elicitation” occurred in Genesis 3:1–the serpent saying sometheing incorrect. Eve responded in vv. 2-3, but exaggerated the command in Gen 2:16-17 in her defense of God…. And the rest is the history we still live with today.

  5. Freeman says:

    The comment by arbogast may well be right, but there could be an alternative explanation.
    Perhaps the Israelis “lost” some radios at the first Hezbolla incursion, when several of their soldiers were killed. If the Israelis then, negligently, omitted to recogise a potential comms compromise and change their codes the described consequencies would follow.
    I hope my guess is correct, else US forces could have a serious comms security problem.

  6. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Speaking as a Ph.D. EECS Geek (more CS than EE overall, but still some EE and DSP by osmosis) and a computer security professional.
    I suspect a lot was actually two sources:
    Cellphones and LOCATION tracking.
    Cellphones are obvious. ALthough the Israelis weren’t supposed to be using cellphones for anything secure, even unsecure information, such as a call home to a loved one, would be a huge trove of information. Given how much else was a bit of a fiasco on the Israeli army’s part, I’d worry about signal discipline.
    THe other is simply location tracking. Although its hard to key in on a spread spectrum signal, its actually really easy to triangulate.
    You have a bunch of receivers, with high precision, synchronized clocks. You record when you get pulses of communication, both start and end, on various frequencies. You can even have reference pulses sent out from known locations, if the clocks are too drifty.
    Then you tie all the data together and the time of flight (Light is actually SLOW by the standards of modern electronics, 3 microseconds/kilometer, in the days when electronic clocks are in nanoseconds), and now you can track where the signal came from.
    Just knowing and trakcing where all the transmitters ARE gives a huge wealth of information. Add in the types of transmitters and an enemy commander can see a wealth of information.
    Such technology is effectively implementation: someone who’s well educated (MS EE, signal processing) could design and implement such a system, be they in Taiwan, China, India, Iran, or the USA.
    Breaking the crypto, on the other hand, would be a BIG deal. IF that happened, it was probably a case of bungled key management combined with one or more captured radios. Or relatively obsolete radios (64 bit keys are brute-forceable, 128 bit AES keys? forgetaboutit)
    Oh, Will, its not that stealth fighters interfear with radio transmitters, its that US stealth is based on scattering and some absorbtion, not transparency (eg, Piper cub).
    As a result, the signals are never bounced BACK at a radar. But if you have dozens or hundreds of transmitters, and a bunch of receivers, you can see the SCATTERED radio energy off the stealth aircraft. THis is known as “Multipath Radar”
    This poses two BIG problems to US air doctrine: not only does it break stealth, but it also breaks anti-radiation missile based strategies, as the transmitters are cheap and pletniful (the transmitters basically just have to broadcast an identity signal and be at known locations) and disposable, while the receivers, the complex parts, are radio-silent.
    The USAF is quiet in public about multipath radar, but I’m willing to bet its considered a big concern in private.
    Colonel, if you have further questions, I can attempt to elaborate in more detail.

  7. Fred says:

    It’s good to see your readers are thinking. I would say that more troubling is that the PRC has far more graduate students at American Universities than anyone else. They get a paid ride from their government and our fine administrators keep adding more – and taking spots away from US students- all while charging more out of state tuition and raising test scores. Damned short sighted.
    Also I think far more troubling is the concerted effort by this administration to project a position of the ‘West’/Christians vs. followers of Islam. You can not beat an idea with bullets or bombs and the continued hypocrisy of the politicians to call to ‘sacrifice’ when it appears all we are actually sacrificing is the lives of those who put our nation first and our nations founding principles.

  8. wtofd says:

    Will, PL can explain in more detail, but Arabic and Hebrew are NOT “mutually intelligle to the casual listener.” They use different alphabets (and not at all in the way Hindi and other northern Indian languages use deva-nagri vs. Urdu with its script.) I think Russian-German is closer to describing the similarities than French-Italian.

  9. Will says:

    The “Arabic Numbers” are technicaly “Hindu.” But they did come to the West thru the Arabs by the Italian “rabbit man” Leonardo of Pisa aka Fibonacci (Filius Bonaccio). His dad had made him learn the system for business in the family counting house at the port of Bugia east of Algiers. Bugia is the same place George Felix’s mother was born. He popularized the numerals in his book Liber Abaci written in the 13th century.
    One thing the Ancient Lebanese, the Phoencicians, did invent beside the Tyrean purple is the phonetic alphapet. Our own script thru the Latin, the hebrew script, Arabic, and even the Hindu script thru Aramaic is descended from it.
    On the subject of Iranian-American engineers, you may want to look up Fuzzy Logic invented by Lotif Zadeh. In binary logic something is either on or off. But often things are not like that. For example there is hot, cold, and warm.
    The subject was popularized by the logician Bart Kosko.
    The Japanese have done great things with it.
    Best Wishes

  10. Leila says:

    Are Chinese students really “taking away spots” from American grad students in engineering? Please. If American students were really motivated to study in large numbers, they would be beating down the doors. Instead they’re all in law school, MBA school or medical school, where they hope to earn much, much more money than measly engineers.

  11. Jon Stopa says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Juan Cole has this: ”
    Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that the Middle East could not bear the problems that would ensue from a break-up of Iraq. He said that if the country did move further toward a breakdown in security, Turkey would protect the Iraqi Kurds.
    I can’t figure out whether that is an overture or a threat.”
    What do you think? There is so much logic here either way. If one were to move these people around as if they were stick figures in a novel, I could see either one. I suppose it depends on whether the Turks could be so rational, and on how much the Kurds hated them.

  12. john in Los Angeles says:

    Macro view:
    Americans are so used to considering themselves superior…and others – notably Arabs – inferior… that they’re losing track of reality.
    1. American science, math, engineering and CS grad schools are full of foreigners. My buddy with a recent Phd. in physics from MIT said there were no Americans in his study group.
    2. Free market, baby. Technology is proliferating like crazy – cellphones in Uganda, sophisticated programming in Kuwait.
    3. The American presumption of leveraging high technology in war has been utterly defeated in Iraq. American high tech weapons systems are designed to defeat other high tech weapons systems. The US will never fight another “standing national Army” – not in our lifetime. Stateless zones – Norther Pakistan, Somalia, Western Iraq, Gaza, So. Lebanon, big areas of Asia, Africa and South America – are the primary source of international conflict and will continue to be.
    4. The NeoCon-Israel axis wants to use military power to avoid political compromise. They have opened their kimono and the natives are…decidedly… not quaking. The defeat in Iraq has been noticed – in Russia, China, Venezuela etc.

  13. arbogast says:

    Seeing that most of our electronics are already outsourced to the Far East, I think Fred’s comments are particularly apropos.
    For the love of God, nothing is more dangerous that a belief in omnipotence.
    This is what makes Don so truly scary. All that talk about killing people. He desperately needs to be tossed down an oubliette. It might be hard on him initially, say for the first several days, but it would help humanity a ton.

  14. Will says:

    Nicholas Weaver’s comment was very informative. To follow up on it.
    Found a very good article on “stealth radar” or “noise radar.”
    Source: Ohio State University
    Date: June 26, 2006
    “Stealth Radar System Sees Through Trees, Walls — Undetected
    Ohio State University engineers have invented a radar system that is virtually undetectable, because its signal resembles random noise.”
    Best Wishes

  15. taters says:

    I believe the US puts out about 50,000 engineers a year, while China does 500,000 and funds heavily.

  16. Fred says:

    Pat, it may be inappropriate to respond to a post, but I believe Leila’s ‘the students should be beating down the doors’ misinterprets the meaning of my post and shows what I believe to be a basic misunderstanding of our culture and the basic economics of collegiate education – especially graduate education. It would make a good topic for another discussion. BTW I’m one of those ‘engineers’ – at least navy nuclear program- who did 8 years active duty to save the money to pay my way through college; and yes I have that MBA too and any decent fuel cell engineer would be making twice what I do. Unfortunately they’ll be getting outsourced to the PRC real quick too, (and the PRC’s energy oil independence program will leap ahead) anyone who’s paid attention to what Wall Street’s strategic vision is doing to our industrial base would be able to connect those dots also.

  17. mike says:

    Arabs and Persians were encrypting messages regarding affairs of state and tax records in the Abassid dynasty more than a millenium ago. A chapter of the 10th century text ‘Adab al-Kuttab’ deals with cryptography.
    The Arabs of that era were also familiar with cryptanalysis or the breaking of codes and ciphers. There are some that say Muslims invented cryptanalysis because of their study of the etymology of words and sentence structure in the fragments of writings that later became the Quran and the Hadiths. Others say that the Arabs built and expanded on the code-breaking efforts of previous or contemporary civilizations because of their massive translation of texts from the Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, Assyrians, Chinese, Indian, Roman, etc.

  18. John says:

    thanks for pointing out the financial disincentives for staying in technical professions. It is much more lucrative to move up into management and stop contributing novel technical ideas. These disincentives are to the detriment of our national security, and are not dicussed nearly enough, in my opinion.
    Also, thanks to PL for the irreplaceable site.

  19. Will says:

    too many posts today. if you”ll indulge one more.
    hebrew is basically the phonecian tongue or west semitic. Arabic is south semitic. All semitic languages are based on the tri-syllabic root. Nouns, verbs, everythng is made from the root. There are consonant shifts between the languages them but they are all basically the same.
    The scripts as well as ours all are based on the the original phonecian alphabet. The hebrew script is block. The arabic script is cursive and derived from the flowing aramaic script.
    here is an example of the commonality. the letter “S”. From the phoencian Sin for tooth. Looked like a w or upper teeth. In arabic it looks like a w. The Greeks turned it on it side and called it Sigma. In Hebrew it is has a stylized block form. In English derived from the Latin script, the Greek Sigma is curved and all association with teeth is forgotten.
    hebrew for tooth is “shin”
    likewise the symbol for eye started as a circle. Arabic word for eye is ayin, hebrew is ayin. Could you get closer?
    Above link is to blueletterbible where you can see hebrew and Greek characters for bible verses.
    Above link is for “eye for eye tooth for tooth” verse
    you can also look up strong’s index for each character to research tricharacter root.
    Here is another eye opener for you. The name Maryam. It means “the bitter one.” In Hebrew and Arabic. Mir=bitter very strange
    best wishes

  20. H.G. says:

    Mr. Weaver gave very good information. It doesn’t matter even if Iranian engineers ARE smarter than Israeli or US ones (by a factor of ten). The simplest and easiest way to intercept communications are by physically getting your hands on a piece of it, not recreating it out of whole cloth and trying to break 128bit encrypted spread spectrum. If ANYONE had that technology, say goodbye to the international economy because that is what most corporate and government WLANs systems use. In fact, much of that equipment is made in Israel (Alvarion).

  21. Don says:

    My only comment would be to reference the excellent site Global Guerillas ( in which John Robb discusses in detail his (and others’) theories about fourth generation warfare. One of the key components of Robb’s posts is the democratizing effect of the spread of technology on warfare; it removes the monopoly on concentrated violence held by nation states and distributes it more evenly to smaller states and non-state actors. Doing so allows smart enemy combatants to hit opposing armies at their weakest points.
    This is also echoed in the comments about Rumsfeld above: the man seems to believe we’re fighting dumb peasants with muskets, not smart people with missiles.

  22. Nicholas Weaver says:

    One other thought, just having a cellphone ON is a huge no-no: this gives a huge amount of trivial tracking information.
    All it takes is one reservist who left his cellphone on and his entire unit’s location can be tracked.

  23. Byron Raum says:

    I have a question about all of this; it seems to me that there’s an inherent contradiction in what we are being told. First, we’re told that the Hizbollah were broken up into teams of autonomous fighters, consisting of at most 1/2 a dozen men. These teams each were supposedly given very sophisticated information about the locations of their adversaries, and not only that, there was some way to find out which piece of information went to which team. It seems to me that the location or locations which could coordinate a system as described by Nicholas, as well as a clearinghouse for the amount of information passing through would present a huge target to the Israelis.

  24. julie says:

    I can’t speak on this specific issue, but 20 years ago the most powerful computer you could buy was a Cray 2. You would have a hard time getting one out of the country.
    Today you can walk into a store and buy a significantly more powerful machine for hundred a thousand dollars. You can carry it anywhere and rin it on a battery. Look at how much of our defence infrastructure was designed on weaker machines. And for free you can get a base of much more sophisticated programs than we had.
    This is typical of a common event. In parts of electronics civilian and even consumer technology started to overtake the military. Indeed the military shifted, many systems are run on windows.
    Military stuff takes a long time to develop, the private sector evolves faster in many areas. And competitors can skunk tank.
    Another example occured in the first Iraqi war. We had a difficult time knocking their communications out because they were using standard commercial products which rapidly found a way toi reroute.
    In the general electronic wars we are possibly quite vulnerable. I am also quite concerned about the high tech buildup to meet the Chinese threat. We will have committed trillions of dollars, be locked into those technologies with huge government debt and if 10 or 15 years down the road they decide to compete they will start with a cheaper, more sphisticated base of technology.
    I think the goal should be to mantain superiority with carefully selected changes, a gradual evolution which ibncludes trying to speed up development time rather than the Rumsfeld plan of committing an extra hundred plus billion to currently design the system that will give us superiority in 10, 15 and 20 years.

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Buried cable. pl

  26. ckrantz says:

    Debka file mentioned Hizbullahs EW capabilities a while back. Interesting if true.
    ‘Part of the reason for Hezbollah’s decisive battlefield performance was that it was gleaning valuable information by monitoring telephone conversations in Hebrew between Israeli reservists and their families on their personal mobile phones.’
    Another interesting assessment on the war.

  27. The Agonist says:

    Hezbollah On Crack

    Did Hezbollah crack Israeli communication codes?

  28. Marcello says:

    “Were not some of the Iranian weapons used in Lebanon basically knock offs, reverse engineered versions of western arms?”
    The iranians make a TOW clone, the Toophan.Some of them, as well as some lebanese regular army TOWs, may have been used.
    But the Hizbos were apparently using
    Konkurs/Fagot/Sagger for the most part.
    “We will have committed trillions of dollars, be locked into those technologies with huge government debt and if 10 or 15 years down the road they decide to compete they will start with a cheaper, more sphisticated base of technology”
    Nope.The military requires a wide range of sophisticated, expensive and dedicated technologies which have to be developed well in advance.
    “The USAF is quiet in public about multipath radar, but I’m willing to bet its considered a big concern in private.”
    Multistatic radars have their own problems.

  29. Grimgrin says:

    If Hizbullah was using a decentralized command structure they probably didn’t need to co-ordinate all the information they were getting. My understanding is that Hizbullah orgnized their defences by dividing their territory into regions, and had small teams operating independantly in each one. In that case, if the signals team gets info that unit X is heading for region Y, they just forward that info to their contact for region Y and let the commander on the ground deal with it as they see fit.

  30. BigJohn says:

    “Another example occured in the first Iraqi war. We had a difficult time knocking their communications out because they were using standard commercial products which rapidly found a way toi reroute.”
    We tried blowing up the landlines between Baghdad and Basrah/Kuwait in hopes they would switch to HF radio. Dragon Fix (HF collector/jammer) was then used to exploit comms…it worked to a certain extent, but they repaired the lines faster than we expected.

  31. Dave of Maryland says:

    I recall reading Venik’s Aviation three years ago, during the initial phase of the current Iraq war. On their website they claimed to post near real-time translations of encrypted US military communications. Now I wonder if it was real, or fake. Anyone know?
    It’s also been reported Ahmed Chalabi sold US military codes to Iran a couple of years ago.
    It seems plausible to me that decoding the communications of the world’s only super power would be the No. 1 goal of just about every other country on earth – including most if not all of our allies.
    I would further imagine that leaders with US military bases in their countries would be keenly interested to know what we’re up to. Such as how many personnel are on-base at any given moment, what kind of weapons (nuclear & non-nuclear) may be stored there, what the alert status may be at any given moment, etc.
    The biggest secret in the world may well be the extent to which the entire world has broken our codes, and the necessity for their doing so. Or am I just being paranoid?

  32. mike says:

    The greatest breakthrough in code breaking in the ancient world was frequency analysis of individual letters. The first known description of this technique was by a Muslim.
    9th century scientist & philosopher Al-Kindi, born in Kufa Iraq not far from Najaf, wrote: “A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages”. Among other subjects it gave detailed discussions of statistical analysis of letters and letter combinations in Arabic.
    Regarding the Hindu numerals that Will mentions above; it is interesting to note that Al-Kindi popularized the use of those Hindu numerals among Arabs.

  33. Michael Murry says:

    Speaking of secrets, I just read an incredible interview of General Abizaid by Jim Lehrer on the Newshour. Apparently, someone has managed to keep some very important secrets from General Abizaid: like the color of the sky in the real world.
    Can one encrypt stupidity? Does one even have to?
    The principle objections we hear these days for not sensibly withdrawing our marooned and over-exposed military forces from Iraq recapitulate precisely the same moronic excuses we heard thirty-five years ago for why we could not withdraw our marooned and over-exposed military forces from South Vietnam. You see, if we stop acting stupidly, our friends won’t respect us and our enemies won’t fear us. This assumes, of course, that our friends respect and our enemies fear our stupidity.
    Do we really think that an entire world doesn’t already know this “secret” about us? Why do our own “secrets” so often only manage to keep us in the dark about ourselves?
    Anyway, my own gag moment came when Abizaid said: “And when they [the Iraqis] don’t need our help any longer, we’ll wish them the best.” Why, I must ask, do American presidents and generals assume that occupied foreigners want or need our bloody, bungling “help”? And why do President Bush and General Abizaid find it impossible to utter the one word that everyone desperately longs to hear them say: namely, “leave”?

  34. Geoff says:

    This is out of my league for now, but here is Bruce Schneier on the subject: “Basically, the problem is operational error.” But he points out that if Hizbollah was able to crack these codes or whatever, “the last thing they want is for it to appear in the press.” But “a few good disinformation stories are a good thing” for groups like Hizbollah.

  35. Got A Watch says:

    “I recall reading Venik’s Aviation three years ago”
    The rumor at the time was that Veniks had connections in the GRU (or whatever three letter acronym they use today for Russian Military Intelligience). They were able to post almost real-time reports of battlefield action, indicating a high degree of signal interception and decryption. Reports were posted within an hour or two of the action occuring, along with pointed analysis. Veniks is sort of like a discount Russian Janes Weapons, focus a lot on very advanced technlogies, probably has very good connections in the Russian military, very interesting reading at
    I am sure in the past 3 years, Iran has benefitted from the proximity of US forces all around them – lots of signals to intercept. If the Russians and/or Chinese (plus North Korea) are helping them with technical asistance in decryption and analysis, it is entirely possible Western military communications are highly compromised, but what general is willing to entertain that idea in public?
    Another area I never hear people talking about is the over-reliance on GPS satellites by the West. If the Iranians or other adversary were able to destroy or disable enough GPS satellites in the Middle East region, Western forces offensive capabilities would be rendered ineffective. I don’t know how they could do it, but if they did, things could go very badly wrong for the West. I believe they might try most anything, from lasers to hacking to kinetic projectiles to interceptor missiles, but would it be succesful, who knows at this point. I know the GPS system is supposed to be redundant, but would it withstand the loss of several units at once in one region? Still seems to be a severe vulnerability against a savvy and capable opponent. Just a thought I had one night.

  36. Will says:

    for more discussion in like vein see
    “Hez Hacked Israeli Radios”
    other military intel topics at that site
    best wishes

  37. Abu Sinan says:

    To the Arabic v Hebrew point, I speak Arabic but have had limited interaction with Hebrew speakers.
    I have watched shows on TV that were in Arabic and found that I could understand a fair amount of what was being said. The same was when we watched The Passion of Christ, the Aramaic scenes, some of them seemed almost to be 100% Arabic. I, as a non native speaker could get about 50% of these scenes.
    When watching Hebrew newscasts I found that I can understand the idea of what is being talked about, but not detail. For me it was similar being in Denmark. I speak German and Danish is close, but not enough to really have a command on what was being said.
    I think it is the same for Arabic speakers trying to listen into Hebrew conversations. I think rather we need to keep in mind that many Arabic speakers also have learned Hebrew. Many Israel Arabs speak Hebrew, often almost as a first language. Keep in mind as well that this area of Lebanon was under Israeli occupation for some 20 years so it is entirely likely that a fair amount of these Hizb’Allah fighters speak Hebrew fluently.
    Hizb’Allah most certainly has a pool of “intelligence agents” as it were, and these people most certainly would be able to speak Hebrew. It is important to know the language of your enemy. Many Israelis speak Arabic for this very reason.
    It is said that the commando raid that the IDF tried in Lebanon after the ceasefire failed partially due to the fact that the Israeli commandos tried to pass themselves off as Arabs. But once the talking starts, it is very hard, if not impossible, for a non native speaker of Arabic to pass themselves off as a local.
    But knowledge of the language of the enemy is key. I have read that Josef Goebbels knew Hebrew for this very reason.

  38. mike says:

    Most GPS satellites are not geostationary. In other words they traverse over a region instead of staying above it. Now of course with enough ASAT weapons you could try to take them all out. But the first attempt would be an act of war and you would face massive retaliation against your ASAT launch sites.
    I would think that surreptitiously spoofing GPS downlink signals would be a better option. The military version of the GPS downlink signal is encrypted which helps to guard against such attempts. But if it is true that the Hizb broke the Israeli encryption then it could possibly be done.

  39. Lao Hong Han says:

    A propos the commentary on various methods of detecting “stealth” aircraft, I am reminded of the downing of the F-117 (iirc) over Serbia in 1999. At a demonstration there the next day, protesters carried signs reading “Sorry. We didn’t know it was invisible.”

  40. Will says:

    A few points:
    *stealth means invisible to radar not optics. I believe the Serbs used a plain optical tracker to shoot the plane down back in ’99- that’s what happens when you use predictable flight paths.
    *cognate langs. Arabic and Hebrew are cognate languages. A speaker of Arabic could with some effort learn hebrew. he/she would have to do some work but nothing like trying to learn Turkish, Persian, or Chinese.
    I was amazed in college when I picked up a textbook on Akkadian, the language of the Babylonians and checked out a few words in the vocabulary. “Kalb” for dog was one. Same as in Arabic, same same as in Hebrew. East Semitic, another cognate language.
    Another intersting language is Farsi or Parsi- Persian. An Indo-european language. Few people realize how close Kurdish is to Farsi or how widely spoken it is in Central Asia. It is the language of the Tajiks in Afghanistan and Tajikstan where it is known as Dari. It is also spoken in other former Soviet Central Asian Republics to some extent such as Uzbekistan, Dari was the lingua franca of India until supplanted by English in the 19th Century.
    Best Wishes

  41. Michael Murry says:

    The names “Iran” (Persia) and “Erin” (Ireland) both stem from the Sanskrit word “Aryan,” meaning “noble.” My, how those Indo-Europeans did get around.

  42. confusedponderer says:

    Abu Sinan,
    as for Goebbels speaking Hebrew ‘to know the language of the enemy’ … that is far fetched. You suggest he was antisemitic already at the age of 12, making him choose Hebrew for the reason you allege …
    I rather think it was the classical German high education of that time. It is very likely that he learned Hebrew the same way as he probably learned Latin and Greek: Because it was on his syllabus.
    The alternative to not-learning would have been getting spanked. That said, he did not have a choice. I also doubt that the rigorous methods of enforcing education created his anti emitism. In that case, he probably would have had ample reason to hate the French, Italians and Greeks as much as he hated Jews.

  43. Got A Watch says:

    “But the first attempt would be an act of war and you would face massive retaliation against your ASAT launch sites.”
    But in a crisis where it seems the USA is going to attack Iran anyway, so what? How many GPS sats are in the ME region? Not more than 20 or so I bet. Attack them all at the same time. I don’t think they can really be protected against a determined enemy. The Chinese and Soviets were long rumored to have “hunter-killer” satellites in orbit which could deploy clouds of ball-bearings or other weapons to attack “enemy” satellites. The how-to info is probably available on the net.
    “stealth means invisible to radar not optics. I believe the Serbs used a plain optical tracker to shoot the plane down”
    I recall reading years ago about the Soviet Union deploying optical observers along border areas to detect for cruise missiles and stealth planes. Just lots of small observation posts with optical observation gear. Of course, they must be able to communicate with HQ to report the intruders. Still it seems a very low tech way to counter the stealth threat. No radiations from radar to give them away, just put lots of these low cost posts everywhere. They won’t be able to detect high altitude objects, but since most “stealth” attackers would also be flying very low following the topography, they should be able to detect some. Especially if you cluster them in strategic areas like overlooking the valleys between high mountains. Just a thought.
    My point is if the enemy is smarter than you give them credit for, they will probably surprise you with some low-tech counter to your perceived “high-tech superiority”, as in Lebanon recently.

  44. mike says:

    Got-a-Watch: You are right of course that they are smarter than we give them credit for, and that they will probably suprise us with a low tech counter.
    My original point was that GPS birds are in an MEO sometimes called a geocentric orbit. They circle the earth analagous to what the moon does. They are not stationary over a particular region. Also there are only a total of 24 to 30 working GPS birds in orbit, so the number over the middle east region probably varies between 6 to 10, which possibly makes your scenario of destroying them easier.
    The other point I was trying to make is that “spoofing” GPS birds might possibly be more effective than destroying them.
    Let’s hope that the Air Force has contingency plans for any possible threats against GPS. I also hope the Army & Marines still teach basic map & compass, and land navigation w/o GPS at Ft Gordon and Quantico.

  45. Michael says:

    Col – I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments regardging this story:
    this part blows me away: “Mr. Musharraf told 60 Minutes that Mr. Armitage’s message was delivered with demands… Some were “ludicrous,” such as a demand he suppress domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States”

  46. Will says:

    it’s coming back to me from the dim past. Actually it was a fairly sophisticated optical tracker.
    A tv camera hooked up to a servo tracker and controlling the AA gun.
    Still, it was the repeated bombing pattern that did the plane in.
    Best Wishes.

  47. Will says:

    Been making edits to the wikipedia article on the Israel-HA war. There’s an editor there called Tewfik, an Israeli, who owns the site, who has made over a 1,000 edits. He has been deleting my edits.
    I tried to make one that HA did not fight a guerilla war but from well fortified positions. he deleted it. I made one ” a guerilla war from well fortified positions.” we”ll see how that goes.
    I just made an edit
    Disclosing his intent to shortly resign, Ilan Harari, the IDF’s chief education officer. stated at a conference of senior IDF officers that Israel lost the war, becoming the first senior active duty officer to publicly make the admission.[11]
    “Tewfik” means togetherness in Arabic and I”m sure it means the same in Hebrew. But he always seems to insist on getting his way.
    I guess this is an invitation for neutral military types to get involved in these Wikipedia history and military conflict articles and bring some balance to them.
    But it’s lilke the Wild Wild West, anybody can make an edit and anybody can make a delete, but then there’s the dreaded 3RR rule. 4 reverts in the same article in 24 hours and you can get reported and blocked.
    Best Wishes

  48. Syndroma says:

    “How many GPS sats are in the ME region?”
    To answer it simply: All of them. These sats are in high-altitude non-synchronous orbits. To put an object (like sat-destroyer) in such orbit requires quite a capable launcher. Few nations have this capability. Much easier to destroy two GPS ground stations than sats themselves.

  49. Marcello says:

    “The Chinese and Soviets were long rumored to have “hunter-killer” satellites in orbit which could deploy clouds of ball-bearings or other weapons to attack “enemy” satellites. The how-to info is probably available on the net.”
    ASAT weapons are much more complicated that you realize.Nuclear tipped ballistic missiles are probably easier tech wise and would be a show stopper, but Iran has neither.
    “My point is if the enemy is smarter than you give them credit for, they will probably surprise you with some low-tech counter to your perceived “high-tech superiority”, as in Lebanon recently.”
    ATGMs are hardly cheap or low tech.

  50. Got A Watch says:

    “ATGMs are hardly cheap or low tech.”
    Yes, but compare the cost of a knock-off Iranian TOW or Sagger clone to the cost of a Merkava 4. In Hizbullah’s case, these weapons cost them exactly $0, since Iran pays the tab. The price was perfect for Hizbullah, not so much for Israel.
    Compare what it cost Hizbullah in $ to wage war for a month, vs. Israel’s costs for a month of not even all out war. It was probably a ratio of 1:50 or higher.
    My thoughts on GPS were just speculation, based on how dependent our military capabilities are on GPS working properly. No GPS, no cruise missiles, night-time precison bombing etc. I would say the confidence you have that the GPS system is beyond attack is precisely what makes it a prime target to an enemy. If you are correct, we have no worries – if they take out GPS capability, even temporarily, we have a lot to worry about. Which is why if I were Iranian or North Korean etc. I would be dreaming up new ways to attack it.
    IMHO the recent side show in Lebanon probably gave Iran/Syria/North Korea etc. a lot more intelligience on how the western military would operate in an “Iran crisis” than any we gained about them. Not that any lessons will be learned at the top. It seems likely the USA will use a “Shock’n’Awe” campaign on Iran, and it will probably be as effective in the long run as Israel was in Lebanon.

  51. Marcello says:

    “No GPS, no cruise missiles, night-time precison bombing etc.”
    I would not be so sure about that.Cruise missiles have multiple guidance systems, laser guided weapons are still available etc.It would be painful but it might not be a show stopper.
    “I would say the confidence you have that the GPS system is beyond attack is precisely what makes it a prime target to an enemy. If you are correct, we have no worries – if they take out GPS capability, even temporarily, we have a lot to worry about. Which is why if I were Iranian or North Korean etc. I would be dreaming up new ways to attack it.”
    North Korea failed to manufacture T-72s and they are struggling to make a crude ICBM.They can just dream.
    As for Iran, they are better off developing nukes rather than wasting their efforts into some crude ASAT weapon that might be able to bring down a satellite or two and will probably fail in practice.

Comments are closed.