Secrecy News links today to a newly-available U.S. military manual (PDF) on “visual aircraft identification”. Not terribly exciting, unless you’re an aviation buff, but it’s notable that the book – which contains little you couldn’t find on Wikipedia, or in a Janes’ publication, is “For Official Use Only”.
More interesting is that you have to wonder just how accurate and up-to-date the information it contains really is. Revised (presumably) in late 2005, and published in early 2006, the page on the MQ-1 “Predator” UAV lists the dimensions as a length of 26 feet, 6 inches, and a wingspan of 41 feet, 7 inches, and says “Armament – None.” Now compare the public factsheet published on the web by the Air Force. Length is pretty much identical at 27 feet, but the wingspan is given as 48.7 feet, and the page correctly notes that Predators can and do carry up to two “Hellfire” anti-tank missiles. It’s not like this is breaking news, either – Predators have been armed since at least 2001.
The point being, this restricted document, on at least one common, current, aerial vehicle very likely to be encountered by U.S. forces, is less accurate than public information available on the internet. “For Official Use Only”? “Distribution authorized to US Government agencies and their contractors only to protect technical or operational information for official government use“? (emphasis mine) Please. If they can’t get the details of one of their own systems correct, how much faith can you have that they got the details of anyone else’s systems right?
Edit: The entry on the B-52 “Stratofortress” is similarly inaccurate and outdated. The Field Manual states a length of 157 feet, 7 inches, a wingspan of 185 feet, a crew of six, and “Armaments – Bombs, ALCMs, SRAMs, cannon. The public factsheet lists the length as 159 feet, 4 inches, the wingspan as 185 feet, and the crew as five, correctly reflecting the fact that the tail turret has been removed from all operating B-52 airframes, and with it, the gunner (between 1991 and 1994). Incidentally, the SRAM was retired in 1993.
Yeah, yeah, nobody’s going to mistake a BUFF for anything other than a B-52. That’s not the point. The point is that this new publication, whose distribution is supposed to be restricted to “protect technical or operational information”, contains information on our own systems that’s more than a decade out-of-date. Confidence-inspiring, isn’t it?
(there’s more in this post.)