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Tweeting Operations in Odyssey Dawn
March 20, 2011 6:46 PM   Subscribe

One Dutch radio geek is monitoring the airwaves for information about Operation Odyssey Dawn—and tweeting the surprisingly-detailed results.
posted by Fiasco da Gama (37 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

"Commando Solo" is telling Libyan ships to remain in port – or risk NATO retaliation.

That's General Solo to you, private.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:50 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Gaddafi shot first.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:03 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:07 PM on March 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

I've been following his tweets since yesterday - they are fascinating.

My own speculation, though, is that the planes are broadcasting more "in the clear" than usual because (1) Libya can't do anything with the radio intercepts anyway; (2) they are coordinating lots of military planes from lots of countries and want to avoid collisions/friendly fire; (3) there is perhaps a perceived deterrence value in letting other countries (i.e., Iran) listen in.

In other words, If this was a surprise strike on some other country (i.e., Iran), I doubt you'd be picking up ATC signals as the B-2s flew in.
posted by Mid at 7:13 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Forget Iran, the only lesson Iran gets here is don't give up the WMD program.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

"When the sounds of the #operationoddesydawn aircraft are heard in #Libya it should be a complete surprise"

The editor forgot a "[sic]". Oof.
posted by mkb at 7:20 PM on March 20, 2011

I doubt you'd be picking up ATC signals as the B-2s flew in.

They were actually heard refueling over Nova Scotia on the way out and on the way back, under the callsign "Edgy 81". Recommended twitter feed.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2011

Odyssey Dawn leaves my dishware squeaky clean.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 7:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

Happy to see a link to MilcomMP on here. Great stuff to be heard for those with the capability.
posted by mykescipark at 7:39 PM on March 20, 2011

They were actually heard refueling over Nova Scotia on the way out and on the way back, under the callsign "Edgy 81"

Yeah, no, I get that - I'm saying that I think they would observe more of a "radio silence" sort of thing if they were trying to conduct a true surprise attack.
posted by Mid at 7:46 PM on March 20, 2011

Odyssey Dawn leaves my dishware squeaky clean.

Now with Charybdis scrubbing action!
posted by axiom at 8:25 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Odyssey Dawn leaves my dishware squeaky clean transparent.
posted by pompomtom at 8:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Glenn Greenwald has health insurance. Do you?
posted by joe lisboa at 9:07 PM on March 20, 2011

posted by joe lisboa at 9:24 PM on March 20, 2011

Call of Duty: World At War: Modern Warfare: Rainbow Shield: Odyssey Dawn
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:15 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I do sort of wonder what the process is for thinking up these names, and if they have some dude at the Pentagon locked in a room with a constant miasma of weed-smoke, listening to prog rock, and writing down mission names in a spiral bound notebook covered in sketched pictures of cool ideas for swords.
posted by codacorolla at 5:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

I do sort of wonder what the process is for thinking up these names

There was a while where you made a great deal of effort to make sure that it was basically random.

Time for a long dispersion leading to a related point. Grab a cup of coffee and join us in HISTORY ry ry ry ry ry ry ry

In WWII, we had the Battle of the Beams during the Battle of Britain. Nazi Germany was bombing the UK, and using radio guidance systems to lead bombers to their targets. The first, Kinckebien ("crooked leg") used two transmitters to generate two different beams, crossing over the target. You flew along one, and dropped your bombs when you crosses the other. The technology for each beam is similar to the current ILS systems -- a dual-lobed signal, where you tried to mix the two into a constant signal. The Brits figured out how to generate a fake of one of the lobes of the beam, which allowed them to "bend" the beam away from the target. They got so good at this that Nazi bomber pilots, who were trained at following those same beams back -- and not really trained at other means of navigation, occasionally got so confused that they'd land at RAF bases thinking they were home. A later version, using more beams at a higher frequency, was called X-Gerät (X-device), but the Brits figured out that one -- and since the X-Gerät system would automatically drop the bombs at the target, when they figured it out, the result was a bunch of Nazi bombers dropping bombs about 5km short of the target.

(we are now approaching the relevant point. Honest.)

Then, the British started hearing about this new device called Wotan (the name of Odin in the nothern Germanic tribes.) That's Wotan, the one eyed god. The Brits quickly guess that this was yet another guidance system -- in this case, Y-Gerät -- and, because it had the nickname "Wotan", a one eyed god, it would be a single beam system.

Sure enough, it was. And the British detected the beam in tests. And, as a bonus, it turns out the frequency was the same as the BBC's amazingly powerful (for the time) TV transmitter at Alexandra Palace. So, before Y-Ger*auml;t could be fully fielded, the British were jamming it -- and radio intercept officers picked up huge arguments between German pilots and controllers blaming each other for the problem.

(The point is here!)

The British also realized that they'd stumbled upon this because the Germans used a bad code name. And they wondered how many times *they* had done that -- and thus, the Ministry of Supply came up with the Rainbow Codes. There were several colors -- they rotated by day -- and a large list of nouns. Every time a coded project started, you call up the desk, and they'd look at the Color for the day, and then read the next noun off the list, and cross it off, and there was your code name. So, we had things like Black Arrow, the UK's only satellite launcher, Blue Sky, which entered service as the Fairley Fireflash AAM, and so forth.

Interesting to those who know the UK, they did issue "Black Maria" as a project name.

At least for the current Libya operation, we don't have the political nonsense of Enduring Freedom or crap like that.
posted by eriko at 5:41 AM on March 21, 2011 [274 favorites]

Another candidate aircraft for these transmissions that is in theater is the EC-130 Compass Call aircraft that has been using the callsign Sheen 53. According to the official US Air Force factsheet:

That must be why we are 'winning'.
posted by spicynuts at 6:46 AM on March 21, 2011

Also the comments in the Wired article are quite entertaining. I'm surprised to see people claiming that because the US government lied about why the US was in Iraq & Afghanistan that the Libyan mission MUST be illegitimate. Understandable, but still surprising. Or it is the years of claims that the UN is a snake-pit filled with socialist rent-seekers that makes Qaddafi not a criminal dictator? Either way, that Bush guy has a lot to answer for.
posted by sneebler at 8:21 AM on March 21, 2011

The guy twittering should get paid for being the social marketer of the campaign.
posted by Fascinationist at 8:23 AM on March 21, 2011

Time for a long dispersion

Yes, yes, I do love when I pick the wrong word in a correction and make it "funnier"

Digression. But, hell, y'all have read enough of my posts to realize that digression is what I do best. If I had kids, I'd be doomed to be that grandfather. Matter of fact, I'm going to start all of my posts with "Well, back in the day...."

Matt? Can I have a rocking chair and a sasparillia?
posted by eriko at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wired has a rundown of current US naming procedures, and the list of different names for operations in Libya.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence labeled its participation in the no-fly zone “Operation Ellamy“; Canada’s efforts are called “Operation Mobile.” Ever a patron of the arts, France seems to be the only coalition partner going for the poetic route. It calls its operations in Libya “Harmattan,” referring to a “hot, dry wind that blows from the northeast or east in the western Sahara.”
posted by zamboni at 5:29 PM on March 21, 2011

eriko, that whole comment deserves its own post
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:33 PM on March 21, 2011

I give him props just for his use of the echo effect.

And for shedding light on just when military code names got smart. Now all we need is a rundown of when they went brain-dead again.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:04 PM on March 21, 2011

Tweet me, O Huub, of that ingenious army that travelled far and wide after it had sacked the famous town of Tripoli...
posted by Rhaomi at 7:07 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

eriko: great comment. I find that sort of thing (about the Brits figuring out German technology partially due to badly though-out code names) fascinating. There's some more info on it here, including more German codenames like "Samland" (the USA, you figure it out), and "Heimdall" (A god whose power was "to see for a hundred miles" - long range radar). And there's a big list of rainbow codes that were used here, all of which sound way cooler than the modern Enduring Desert Freedom Shield rubbish (well, maybe not Orange Poodle - but at least no-one is going to guess that that's referring to low altitude, early-warning radar I guess).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:15 AM on March 22, 2011

I would pay good money for an eriko podcast where he tells stories like this one and his involved explanation of how the Space Shuttle ended up the way it is.
posted by ged at 8:20 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

+1 on the eriko podcast.

Churchill had some famous comments on military code names.
posted by Mid at 9:12 AM on March 22, 2011

+favorite eriko, [my mobi highlights both fave and flag]

Mind how you name that product or mission, indeed.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:56 AM on March 22, 2011

Let's not forget my favorite code word story, the Crossword Panic of 1944,
But while some members of MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service, were whiling away their spare moments in May 1944 by doing the Telegraph Crossword, they noticed that vital code-names that had been adopted to hide the mightiest sea-borne assault of all time, appeared in the crossword.

They noticed that the answer to one clue, ‘One of the USA’, turned out to be Utah, and another answer to a clue was Omaha. These were the names, given by the Allies, to the beaches in Normandy where the American Forces were to land on D-Day ... Another answer that appeared in that month’s crossword was Mulberry. This was the name of the floating harbour that was to be towed across the Channel ... Perhaps the most suspicious was a clue about a ‘Big-Wig’, to which the answer was Overlord. This was the code-name given for the entire operation!
It was neither coincidence or a Nazi plot:
Mr Dawe was a compiler of puzzles for the Daily Telegraph and it was often his practice to call in 6th formers and ask them for words for inclusion. At that time the US Forces were liberally strewn through Surrey, particularly in the Epsom area and there is no doubt that boys heard these code words being bandied about and innocently passed them on. I should know as I was then a 6th former there myself, although not involved with this particular matter.
posted by geoff. at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

What’s in a Name? ‘Odyssey Dawn’ Is Pentagon-Crafted Nonsense
posted by fixedgear at 1:06 PM on March 22, 2011

Ah that was a while ago that I read about the old WWII radio ploy. Excellent reminder.

But "Kinckebien"? Tsk. Knickebein. Not kinky-bean but cnee-key-bine.

Splelhcecker ayneno?
posted by Namlit at 4:03 PM on March 22, 2011

The guy twittering should get paid for being the social marketer of the campaign.

Larry Van Horn is one of the great gods of the radio underground. He's been writing about this stuff for decades. If I'd trust anyone to be the social marketer of HF comms, it is he. And he makes a decent living at it, too, so I'd say your wish has already been granted.
posted by mykescipark at 1:38 AM on March 23, 2011

Matt? Can I have a rocking chair and a sasparillia?
Sarsaparilla. (4th grade field trip to Columbia FTW)

posted by ryanrs at 11:52 PM on March 23, 2011

Iliad Tony Orlando
posted by Sys Rq at 2:05 AM on March 26, 2011

eriko, Samland is really USA???

they were obsessed with things Nordic, I would have guessed land of the Sam, or Saami, Norwegian Finnish border, huh.
posted by Wilder at 3:58 AM on March 31, 2011

"Uncle Sam"
posted by Sys Rq at 4:27 AM on March 31, 2011

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