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Canadian Air Force wants shroud of secrecy for some of its flights

Photo: Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) says it will look into ways to enhance the security of its air operations by keeping some of its mission-critical flights covert.

The undertaking will be complicated by the proliferation of publicly-available platforms in the past year, which are becoming increasingly proficient at tracking private, commercial and military aircraft in flight.

The RCAF is aware of this, and says that the majority of this tracking is not a concern for many Canadian military flights, such as training flights or search and rescue missions. However, it argues there are occasions where tracking of military aircraft or associated flight data could pose concerns for operational security and safety.

Accordingly, the Royal Canadian Air Force is implementing measures to enhance the operational security on some operational flights, including limiting publicly-available flight data.

The types of flying operations covered by these measures could span much of what the Royal Canadian Air Force does, and would be driven by the context of the operation and by indicators derived from threat assessments.

The service further said the measures applied to increase operational security will be used sparingly. Exactly what steps will be taken to ensure some operation remain secret has not been detailed, but the service says they will taken in close coordination with Transport Canada, NAV Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other partners.

It also noted its aircraft would remain in communication with appropriate air traffic control (civilian and/or military) and “abide by local, national and International Civil Aviation Organization procedures to ensure safety.”

“As an institution of the government of Canada serving all Canadians, the Royal Canadian Air Force will continue to be as publicly transparent as possible, but there are situations where having all operational flight information easily accessible to anyone around the world poses a risk to mission success and security,” said Colonel Jody Hanson, Director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre.

“As a result, we are working with partners like Transport Canada, NAV Canada and the US Federal Aviation Administration to implement some measures to ensure our aircraft can operate discreetly, when required for reasons of operational security.”