October 11, 2005:
The case of the Russian Su-27 that got lost and crashed in Lithuania last September 15th gets curiouser and curiouser. The pilot, who ejected and was arrested by the police, was recently released after four weeks of confinement. The Russians say the aircraft, flying over the Baltic towards the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (the former German, pre-1945, city of Konigsberg), suffered from pilot error and equipment failure. Now the Russians are worried that their IFF (Identify, Friend of Foe) system survived the crash. That’s what the Lithuanians say, although the Russians insist that the IFF gear is built to self-destruct during a crash. Apparently not this one, and if the IFF unit makes its way to NATO electronic experts, the Russians will have to design and build a new one. The IFF units contain secret codes that enable friendly aircraft to keep track of each other. Their construction, and the types of codes they use, are top secret stuff. If an enemy gets possession of one of your IFF units, they can figure out how to deceive it. This is not a good thing. Then again, maybe the Russian IFF gear is due for an update anyway, and this incident will provide the incentive to spend the money to do it.