The U.S. Air Mobility Command is seeking to remove tail id numbers from military planes in order to hide plane movements from realtime trackers who publish the info online.
According to a statement, the military has become afraid that sensitive missions can too easily become compromised by realtime tracking.
“Understandably, we have concerns about the operational security impacts to these missions in the modern era of on-demand, real-time information,” spokesman James Stewart said, according to Military.com. “Subdued paint schemes that limit identifiable information is one way we are taking a hard look at how we operate to ensure our ability to continue to deliver for America and our allies and partners around the world.”
“Because of operational security concerns, we cannot provide specifics, though our aircraft will maintain markings as required by law,” Stewart added.
There are pros and cons on the matter, gratned.
The change in the paint schemes, first reported by Aviation Week, comes a little more than a month after Air Mobility commander Gen. Mike Minihan sent a memo to his service members telling them to prepare for a war with China and warning them that it could be coming as soon as 2025.
But despite AMC’s stated justification of national security concerns, the new move to obscure some identifying info on planes is both alarming and puzzling to government watchdogs and transparency advocates.
Jason Paladino, an investigator for the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight, told Military.com in an interview Wednesday that, while it may be seemingly minor, the move is making information less available to the public for a seemingly unclear and unjustified reason.
“This is a data point that was previously available to the public that this command, it seems, is deciding for operational security reasons that it won’t get into, that the public doesn’t have a right to know, which I do think is concerning,” Paladino said.
Of course, an issue is that many military planes are easily identified as military planes simply because of the model and type of aircraft that they are. So, in many cases it would not really even matter if there were no tail numbers.
But, as noted above, there is the issue of government transparency, too. The government already operates in too much secrecy for a democracy as it is.
“The good governance community has seen transparency from the Department of Defense shrink over the years,” said Jodi Vittori, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. “We’re getting less and less information, not more, lately, and that’s been a troubling and difficult issue for civil society organizations to be able to monitor their own military.”