DoD Buzz

Predator Intercepts No Big Deal

Dear readers. I've been out of circulation for most of the last two weeks, coping with a family medical problem and cherishing the holidays once we got some very welcome good news. I hope you've noticed our newest addition to the Buzz firmament: Manu Sood, editor of As he explains on his website, 8ak "stands for '8 Arms of Knowledge' and comes from the 'spider' that was written to trawl the net for news. 8ak is India's first newspaper for the Defence (Defense) Sector and covers all military/armed forces news from the Army, Navy and Airforce." Manu's copy will appear periodically.

Meanwhile, following this paragraph is a story I put together just before the holidays. I think it's still very relevant. Almost everybody picked up the Wall Street Journal's story about the gap in the Predator's security but very few noticed this authoritative rebuttal from the man who should know as much or more than anyone else about whether this really was a serious security flaw. After all, as the WSJ reported, the US military has known about this "weakness" since Bosnia...

The head of Air Force ISR -- the guy who oversees Predator training and equipping -- says that the Predator data that was broadcast in the clear and intercepted by bad guys in Iraq did not have "significant impacts" on US operations.

That's what Lt Gen. David Deptula told my colleague Steve Trimble over at Flight Global.

"Nothing is compromised. I want to get information out to the joint forces on the ground, you follow me? If someone does pick [the video feed] up and they don't know the context of how the information is being used, what's the compromise?" Deptula told Trimble.

Overall, Deptula said, deploying and using Predators in greater numbers provided important information of great use to troops, benefits that far outweighed any weaknesses resulting from intercepted data.

"There's an insatiable demand to get information out to folks on the ground," Deptula told Trimble, "and the way you do that is maximizing the number of systems that can provide the information and then rapidly equipping folks with the receivers to pick it up."

And, the UAV operators and ground troops developed new tactics to prevent the enemy from using intercepted signals.

"There is a balance between getting the information out and the risk that you're taking that a potential adversary might pick it up," he says. "But you have to be inside the signal area that's being transmitted [to intercept the signal], and in many cases that's very small."

Personally, I cherish the picture of some Taliban, Al Qaeda or AQI guys picking up the feed just as they realize the picture they are watching is the same one being used to guide the missile heading straight for them.

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