The P-8 Poseidon pilots arrested in connection with the Nord Stream explosion have cried foul, telling JAG investigators on Friday that their plane, which took off from Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, was hundreds of miles from the undersea natural gas conduits when the explosions took place.
Public flight tracking data support their contention. Data taken from FlightRadar24 and FlightAware, both publicly accessible websites, showed the P-8 over the North Sea at 0003GMT when seismologists in Sweden detected what they first thought to be a quake. The P-8 then flew a racetrack loop over Poland before changing course for the Baltic pipeline area. The P-8 approached to within 15m of the blast site and circled it, then flew toward the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The P-8, pilots told JAG investigators, could not be at two locations at the same time, and thus, neither could they.
“The pilots’ story is they were ordered to break off from their normal patrol route to investigate the explosion, to search for submarines in the vicinity. The PIC said they’d been ordered to deploy sonar buoys and search for the acoustic signature of an Akula-class Russian sub. Finding nothing, they left. On the surface the story might seem logical, but if you dig down it don’t make sense. Why would Russia compromise their own pipeline? How would they know which submarine to search for? And there’s more,” our source said
The “more” he mentioned refers to missing flight data between 0339 GMT and 0620 GMT. Contemporary aircraft like the P-8 use a technology called ADS-B to broadcast in real-time their GPS location, altitude, ground speed and other data to ground stations and other aircraft, once per second. Air traffic controllers and properly equipped aircraft can immediately receive this information. Public tracking apps such as FlightAware and FlightRadar24 also pick up these data. The gap in coverage suggests two possibilities: mechanical malfunction, or the pilots disabled the ADS-B.
“The pilots deny any wrongdoing and say the ADS-B functioned properly the entire flight,” our source said. “But there’s more to this incident and that’s why they’re still in custody. There’s evidence I can’t yet disclose.”
Asked whether the relief pilots or crew supplied information that contradicts the pilots’ statements, he added, “We haven’t finished interviewing yet, but soon.”
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