There is a whole load of US military hardware currently in the Polish and Romanian airspace, running around the Ukrainian Western border and there are also drones providing seemingly 24hours a day monitoring over the International waters of the Black Sea, South of the Crimean Peninsula.
This is not secret information! It is all available in real time on Flightradar24 and if you follow the link, you can see for yourself.
The first thing to notice is that Ukraine is obviously a no-fly zone. Commercial aircraft stopped over-flying a few days ago and all flights are following flight paths across Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.
So how can everyone see this flight information?
Flightradar24, and all the other Flight trackers use a completely decentralised network of ADS-B/Mode S Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast receivers which are run by volunteers and Plane spotters around the world which pick up the signals that aircraft transmit to notify Air Traffic Controls of their position. Primarily, they are picked up by radar but ADS-B is slowly becoming mandatory for all airspace and all aircraft in the world.
The home receivers then channel this data through the internet to Flightradar who then aggregate it onto a world map and hence you can see in real time where an aircraft is and by clicking on that aircraft, all its details, the route it has taken and massive amounts of other information.
What about Military Planes?
Military planes also carry this hardware but I would suggest do have the ability to switch it on and off! I would guess for operational reasons and, and also as a transparent record of flight path, today, I have been watching operations by the US Air Force around the Ukraine so there now follows, a list of flight operations as the US and her allies obviously monitor very closely, the situation in The Ukraine.
I've been watching this on and off for a few days as this drone, which appears to come from just off the coast of Sicily, has been following a constant track along the border of Russian Air Space, South of the Crimean Peninsula, former part of Ukraine, of course. It is a non-weaponised surveillance aircraft operated by the US Air force and Navy as well as NATO .
An interesting event occurred a couple of hours ago as for the first time, a Russian Military Aircraft appeared, flying from Moscow. The aircraft, an Ilyushin - 76MD, after taking off from Moscow, came towards the Black Sea on a direct route of intercept with the drone. Although crossing paths, there was over 25000 feet of vertical separation, i.e. The drone was flying at 56,000 feet and the Russian aircraft at 36,000 feet. Its the only time I've ever seen a Russian military aircraft announcing its location using ADS-B and it then made a 90 degree turn and looks like it landed at Sevastopol.
The drone is in red with the red lines marking its route. Below is a wider view of its path.
A few minutes later and the IL-76MD is losing altitude and speed as it appears to be heading for a Russian military airbase near Sevastopol.
This screen grab came from Romania, just South of the Ukraine border and is a USAF refuelling tanker that provides in-air refuelling to operational aircraft. It has flown from its base in the UK at Mildenhall, but look closely at the picture, just underneath you can see yellow which signifies another plane and after zooming in, it turns out to be an F16 fighter, obviously being refuelled!
And here it is, still flying circuits and providing defensive air-support to some of the large surveillance aircraft in the area such as this...
Which appears to be patrolling the Poland side of the its border with Ukraine.
The small plane you can see highlighted in this shot is actually a US Army aircraft, a Beechcraft C12-Huron and the large yellow one heading South-South-East at this point is also a reconnaissance aircraft that also functions as a command and control center for battle management, a Boeing E-8C.
She is also flying circuits in Poland by that Western border.
The final interesting aircraft movement is this US Army helicopter, a Sikorsky UH-60 or more commonly known as a Black Hawk that has also been flying around 10km from the border with Poland and only 30km from Lviv.
No conclusions or opinion. Simply what is going on militarily by Western forces around Ukraine today. All these screen shots were taken between 1500 and 1900 hrs GMT.
I think if I were flying on a commercial airliner close to the area right now, I would be very nervous!
My very best wishes and heartfelt sorrow at what the citizens of the Ukraine are facing right now and lets all hope for a swift and peaceful conclusion before even more innocent humans lose their lives.
The Blackhawk went right to the border!
And the Royal Air Force are also in the skies...