U.S. Navy Spy Plane Appears Over Libya

ARIES II can scoop up radio signals

U.S. embassy personnel in Tripoli, Libya, evacuated to Tunisia on July 26 amid militia fighting.

The Pentagon said F-16 fighters, V-22 tiltrotors and unspecified surveillance aircraft supported the evacuation. Now we know at least one of the surveillance types was the Navy’s secretive EP-3E ARIES II signals-intelligence platform.

The Ejjaw Kollah Facebook group published a photo of the heavily-modified P-3 patrol plane flying over Tripoli.

The ARIES II—the Navy has 11 of them—became famous on April 1, 2001, when one of the spy planes collided with a Chinese J-8IIM fighter off the Chinese coast, killing the J-8 pilot and forcing the P-3 to land on China’s Hainan Island. Chinese authorities held the American crew for 11 days.

“With sensitive receivers and high-gain dish antennas, the EP-3E exploits a wide range of electronic emissions from deep within targeted territory,” according to the Navy.

In other words, the ARIES II detects and records radio and other electronic signals in order to know what enemy forces are up to.

The Navy spy plane probably flew from Sigonella, Italy, in order to reach Libya. The same model of aircraft also appeared over Libya in 2012. At that time there were rumors the aircraft was detecting and tracking weapons smugglers traveling toward Egypt en route to Gaza.

Ejjaw Kollah also spotted an American F-16 over Tripoli. A whole wing of the nimble fighters flies from Aviano in Italy, putting the F-16s within easy range of North Africa.

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