A technical explanation…

The capture of UK soldiers by Iran may be the provocation that is used for war (which would also explain why Tony Blair has not resigned yet). The interpretation of events you are about to read may seem a bit far-fetched. But they may as well happened roughly as described.

The key factoid that triggered my train of thought was Tony Blair threatening to publish “satellite records” of the incident. This can be interpreted in two ways: either the US had a image satellite overhead and would be willing to provide pictures as public evidence, or he wants to publish GPS log data to show that the Brits were still in Iraqi waters, as claimed. At this point we can only speculate what will be published, but here is the interpretation guideline. (Update: Meanwhile the “evidence” has been published , and it uncannily fits my predictions below…)

If they have high-res satellite images, the whole thing was a staged provocation all along. Image satellites are not geostationary, meaning that they are circling the earth and taking pictures at pre-progammed positions of their orbits. This in turn means, that “camera time” is a scarce asset, that is only devoted to worthwile targets or when a really pressing need arises. The area captured by a single picture is only a few square kiometers and can not be too far away from the satellite path. Changing the satellite path costs fuel that can not really be replaced in oribit. In other words: satellites are very seldom pointed at the right spot by accident. By all accounts, the capturing of the Brits has been a relatively quick affair, leaving not much room for the emergency-tasking of a satellite move. So if they show us really pretty pictures, they are either forged or the whole thing has been planed all along, including the positioning of the satellite(s).

If they show us log files of the GPS receivers of the British as evidence for the position, I will not believe them one word. The options range from outright forgery of the logs to (much smarter) generation of a position offset to cause the Iranis to thinks the British have stray into Irani waters. As the british were most likely operating on US military GPS receivers, the manipulators would only have needed to generate an offset of the civilian GPS signal to cause the incident. The Iranians would act on their civilian GPS recveivers in the good faith that they are inside their own waters, whereas the British would be sure to still be in Iraq.

Such an manipulation is fairly easy to accomplish. Either the US Space Command, who controlls the GPS satellites, has programmed it into the satellites (they have acknowledged that they can do with the signal what they like). Or someone has run a local GPS signal generator with the position offset required to cause the problem. Generating a GPS signal with a suitably strong amplifier would cause all civilian GPS receivers in the vicinity to lock onto the fake signal (as the correct one is overpowered), causing them to show positions that are determined by the fake signal. Quite a number of commercial and military systems that are either constructed for this purpose or can easily modified are on the market. There has been even an university project that nearly succeeded in building such a generator.

So whatever they show us, be very very sceptic…

Edited to add: In the 50s and 60s the Soviets manipulated navigation radio beacon signals at their borders to lure US ELINT flights over the border line who were in the strong believe to still be outside soviet territory. The spy-planes were subsequently shot down by soviet fighter jets. The operators are remembered at the “They served in silence” memorial in the NSA museum…

4 thoughts on “A technical explanation…

  1. Markus

    Great post, nice predictions -“unfortunately” (one must say) they became true. To make your writing even more enjoyable for anglophone readers I’d like to point you toward some mistakes in your added comment that you’ve made unintentionally: Even though I’d instantly believe you that any systems on the ELINT planes shut down when they crashed I still think the reason for them to come down originally was to be “shot” at right? And it’s subsequently not “…tially”.

  2. MRE

    I had the same thought….Mess with the GPS signals from Pentagon, and you got the Gulf of Tonkin incident all over.

    Both parties act in good faith, while Pentagon can join later as the savior of British soldiers. A perfect way to start an attack on Iran for Pentagon.

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