We have received several messages asking why the USAF (callsign FORTE) or NATO Global Hawks are no longer operating in the Black Sea, now that the war in Crimea is in full swing and the fighting is intensifying.
What we can answer is that we have not been tracking any drone missions out of Sigonella since Saturday.
In the days before the outbreak of the conflict and during the first days of the Russian invasion we tracked Northrop Grumman RQ-4B/Ds from NATO and the USAF, and some missions were also carried out by USAF General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers. As of Saturday these flights were no longer tracked.
In addition, we can say that reconnaissance flights on NATO’s eastern border have also decreased in number. The only ones that remain constantly present are those of NATO AWACS.
However, it must be remembered that the fact that it has not been possible to track drone flights from Sigonella does not mean that these flights have not taken place, but the assets may have operated with the ADS-B transponder switched off and therefore have not been tracked.
This is a possibility although, to be honest, it seems strange to us that this could actually be the case.