The Poseidon Attack on Nord Stream: Part I
A US P-8A Poseidon over Maryland 2010
This article is an appendix to my main article, “After Seymour Hersh’s article: Nord Stream, Norway and Prime Minister Støre”, and I will here discuss the possible use of a US Navy aircraft P-8A Poseidon to trigger the bombs for the Nord Stream explosions at the Danish Island of Bornholm. Leading Americans, including the US President, have all promised to eliminate the Nord Stream pipelines. There is no lack of evidence. In Europe, the Poseidon aircraft is used by the US, by the UK Royal Air Force and now recently also by Norway. Seymour Hersh argued in February that Norway was deeply involved in the planning of the operation, and that one had used a Norwegian Poseidon to trigger the explosions on the 26 September 2022.
My conclusion in this article is that despite the fact that these Poseidon aircraft often turns off their transponders and thereby become “invisible” to us, they seem to have the transponder turned on while flying over land and close to their bases. The Norwegian training with its new Poseidon was delayed and the training tours were limited and not visibly outside Norwegian territory, while a US Poseidon aircraft was flying back and forth over the Bornholm Island on the three nights preceding the explosions. This aircraft came up from the US Naval Air Station at Sigonella in Italy. If the US wanted to use a Norwegian Poseidon for “plausible deniability”, they should not have exposed their own activity in this way. There is no logic in this. The Americans also sent another US Poseidon from Keflavik over Bornholm on 26 September. It arrived an hour after the first explosion to patrol the area for hours, as if it was probing the fallout from this explosion. The plans for this second Poseidon had been made long before the first explosion took place. This was nothing but a US show of responsibility. If the Americans original plan, as Hersh’s sources told him, was to use a Norwegian Poseidon, apparently to avoid exposing the United States, the US must, for some reason, have turned to a less well-prepared Plan B, because the US activity over Bornholm these days were more than visible. All physical evidence points to the US. Necessary equipment for the Norwegian Poseidon had been delayed and the first Norwegian crew was not supposed to be available until the first months of 2023. Perhaps some people on the Norwegian side used this fact to back down from an agreement at lower level. Anyway, we have to explain a number of inconsistencies that are given by the available evidence. This operation did not turn out as it was originally planned.
My main article was published on March 21, 2023, and a revised version was published in late August 2023. That article concluded that the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines was a professional operation. It had been conducted by a state agency, which was also the conclusion made by Swedish and Danish authorities first investigating the case. The operation presupposed advanced deep-diving equipment including decompression chambers that one couldn’t bring onboard a small sailing yacht, something that strangely enough had been proposed by Der Spiegel and other newspapers. The operation also presupposed professional divers able to bring down a large quantity of explosives to the depth of 80 meters and to adapt them to the pipelines professionally. Furthermore, you needed to separate this operation from the actual triggering of the explosives in an attempt to conceal the perpetrators, and an obvious possibility would be to use an airplane that months later could drop a sonar buoy that sent a signal to trigger the bombs. This is also what happened, Hersh sources claimed. The US Navy airplane P-8A Poseidon has such a capability, and if we accept the use of a Poseidon, this limits the number of suspects.
My main article does in many ways supports Seymour Hersh’s analysis written a month earlier. In addition, a non-state actor would definitely choose a spot in the rather shallow waters of the Baltic Sea, not in the relatively deep sea of the Bornholm Basin. Before reaching the Bornholm Basin, where the bombs were deployed, the pipelines pass large areas with a depth of 30-40 meters and the same is the case after the pipelines have passed the Bornholm Basin. Individuals on a sailing yacht would definitely deploy explosives in areas accessible to them, while a state agency would most likely deploy explosives in areas not easily accessible for such individuals.
Left: The waters of the Bornholm Basin. Right the Nord Stream Pipelines and the time of the explosions.
The pipelines of Nord Stream 1 & 2 were destroyed on 26 September 2022. Explosives were detonated, firstly against Nord Stream 2 southeast of the Danish Island of Bornholm at 00:03:24 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) or 02:03 CEST (Central European Summer Time or local time), secondly against Nord Stream 1 northeast of the island at 17:03:50 UTC (19:04 CEST). The “earthquake” triggered by the latter explosion(s) was, according to the official Swedish estimate, measured to 2.3 on the Richter scale (early seismological reports from four countries claimed 2.7 and 3.1). The Norwegian NORSAR seismological institute with an experience of underwater explosions, said that an “earthquake” of 2.3 corresponds to a bomb of up to 900 kg TNT. Figures above 3.0 would correspond to several tons of TNT. Sections of the pipeline with a weight of 24 tons were reportedly blown away and were not visible in the vicinity of the pipeline. The destruction was enormous. The bombs were certainly deployed earlier (see main article). They were very likely triggered by a coded signal starting the timers of the bombs.
Shortly before 26 September, the Americans had, according to Hersh, used a Norwegian P-8A Poseidon to fly over the target area to drop the sonar buoy that emitted a signal that triggered the explosions. The buoy, Hersh writes, “would emit a sequence of unique low frequency tonal sounds—much like those emitted by a flute or a piano—that would be recognized by the timing device and, after a pre-set hours of delay, trigger the explosives”. It should not be possible to trigger the bomb by mistake. For the Americans, it obviously was better to let the Norwegians “pull the trigger” to give the US “plausible deniability”. The US would then formally speaking not be responsible. One can easily imagine that such a Poseidon going to the Baltic Sea to drop a sonar buoy would have turned off its transponder, because you wouldn’t want anyone to be able to track the plane’s trajectory during such a sensitive operation.
Norway had just bought five P-8A Poseidon from the US Navy. The first plane was delivered in November 2021 and arrived at Evenes Air Station (Northern Norway) in February 2022. A second plane arrived at Evenes in March, a third arrived in May. The last two were delivered in 2023. Flight training was supposed to start in March 2022, but Norway had not yet received all necessary equipment, which forced one to postpone the training. Not until 2 June did the first aircraft leave Evenes with a US-Norwegian crew. The first Norwegian crew was supposed to be able to fly the aircraft from early 2023. The five Poseidon was to replace Norway’s six P-3 Orion (anti-submarine and surveillance aircraft) and the two Falcon DA-20 ECM (used for intelligence and electronic warfare) in July 2023. On 30 September 2022, the two Falcon, Hugin and Munin, were retired. All the Norwegian Poseidon will be operative in 2025. They will also be able to operate from the Royal Air Force Base Lossiemouth in Scotland. To use a Norwegian aircraft not yet integrated in the Defence Forces, gives you an opportunity to utilize it for other purposes.
In the 1970s, Swedish SAAB had used a J-35 Draken, not yet handed over to the Swedish Air Force, to approach the Soviet Baltic coast during the very week when the responsible Soviet air defense aircraft were on an exercise close to the Urals. This, I was told by the Deputy Chief of Swedish Defense Staff Intelligence, Björn Eklind. The Swedish J-35 triggered the Soviet air defense radars that could then be surveyed by the Swedish and others’ signal intelligence. But for whom? Sweden was not supposed to attack the Soviet Baltic coast. Most likely Swedish SAAB did this on behalf of the US to receive some advanced technology or some other favors in return. The same could be the case with the use of a Norwegian Poseidon in a US special operation. It is an obvious advantage to use a formally not yet operative aircraft for such a purpose, because you do not have the same requirements for reporting. The Norwegians in the crew would not even have to know when or whether a sonar buoy was dropped. The P-8A Poseidon often turns off its transponder in connection with sensitive operations. However, the program for the Norwegian Poseidon was delayed. We have to ask: Were these aircraft even ready for such an operation?
I will present some empirical evidence below that some readers may think is boring, and these readers may go directly to my concluding remarks. However, evidence still matters, so we have to look into this problem more in detail. In the European theatre, the US operated almost on a daily basis a couple of P-8A Poseidon over the North Atlantic (incl. the Norwegian Sea) from Keflavik Air Station in Iceland and at least two more over the Mediterranean from US Naval Air Station, Sigonella, on Sicily. Sometimes two P-8A went from Keflavik to Sigonella to replace the existing aircraft. The UK operated, regularly, a couple of Poseidon (in UK called MRA1 or Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft 1) from the Royal Air Force Base in Lossiemouth, northern Scotland, also to cover the northern waters, while Norway from June 2022 had started training with two P-8A from Evenes Air Station, northern Norway. If we look at the training missions for the Norwegian Poseidon in late August and in September, these aircraft usually went northwards, towards Finnmark or to the waters north or west of Evenes. In the month before the Nord Stream explosions, they went, according to “FlightRadar24”, south only twice. On 31 August, one P-8A went to mid-Norway and back, while on 22 September the same aircraft went down to Stavanger in south of Norway and back. The Norwegian P-8A had at the time never gone far out at sea.
These images from “FlightRadar24” show 1 September 08.26 UTC. They show only military and state aircraft. Civilian aircraft are filtered away. When you click on one aircraft, it becomes red, and it shows which aircraft it is. “N/A” stands for “Not Available”. The identity of the specific aircraft is “masked”, but you can see that these are P-8A Poseidon. In the first image, a P-8A Poseidon (in red) is leaving Keflavik (Iceland) at this very moment. In the second image, a P-8A (in red) is leaving Sigonella (Sicily, Italy). In the third image, a P-8A (in red) is leaving Evenes (Norway) at the same moment. One can see the same aircraft in all images. The three aircraft passing over Scotland and going towards the United States are US tanker aircraft, KC-135R coming from Turkey and Germany.
If we look at website “FlightRadar24”, we find that the Poseidon aircraft of US and UK often turned off their transponders for a couple of hours after having left their bases, while turning on these transponders when returning to the base again. They came back as “visible” aircraft. The Norwegian aircraft almost never turned off their transponders. Of course, we do not know if any of these flights ever left and returned with the transponder turned off all the time, because we have no way to find out if that happens. Such aircraft would be “invisible” to us. Sometimes, one can see how US tanker aircraft are refueling an “invisible aircraft” over Central Europe, and sometimes or quite often one will see the aircraft, but its exact identity is “masked”. One will for example see that there is a P-8A Poseidon passing a particular area, but one may not be able to reveal its exact identity. Sometimes, one may not even be able to reveal the aircraft’s nationality.
Two “FlightRadar24” images from the same time: 13:10 UTC (15:10 CEST), 22 September 2022. Left: British MRA1 Poseidon leaves the Royal Air Force Base in Lossiemouth in northern Scotland towards Iceland. It turns off its transponder. Three hours later, it turns on the transponder again, and returns to Lossiemouth five hours after it left the base. Right: At exactly the same moment, a Norwegian Poseidon P-8A had been on a tour from Evenes Air Base (northern Norway) for more than four hours and is about to land almost five hours after its departure. The turquoise color of the trail indicates a low altitude, while the light blue indicates a little bit higher altitude. Dark blue shows that the plane has reached a high altitude and violet is even higher. There is an exercise in central Sweden with seven fighter aircraft. In these maps, the civilian traffic is filtered away. These Poseidon were registered in the UK and Norway.
The days before the explosions: 22-25 September
Let us look at “FlightRadar24” for the 22 September. This is the day when a Norwegian P-8A Poseidon made its longest trip so far. One P-8A left Evenes Air Station at 07:15 UTC (09:15 CEST) and went northwards to Tromsø (I will use Local or Central European Summer Time or CEST below and not UTC that corresponds to English time, because the events took place in the Baltic Sea). Another P-8A left Evenes at 10:45 CEST and went south. The first Poseidon returned to Evenes after three hours, while the other, 9586 Munin, went down to southern Norway (flew over Stavanger) and was back at Evenes five hours later (see map above). The same two P-8A had made shorter trips two days earlier and also a week earlier and three weeks earlier. There was no other Norwegian Poseidon visible on “FlightRadar24” this month.
On the same day, a British Poseidon, MRA1, left its Royal Air Force Base Lossiemouth in northern Scotland at 12:15 CEST. It went westwards to the Atlantic. It turned off its transponder after an hour (see map above) and returned to the base in Lossiemouth at 16:40 after having turned on its transponder again. Another Poseidon MRA1 left Lossiemouth towards Iceland at 14:30 CEST. At open sea, it turned off its transponder and turned it on again an hour before it arrived at Lossiemouth at 19:30 CEST. This seems to be a pattern. The aircraft usually turns off its transponder but not until it has reached the open sea A third British Poseidon went south to patrol the waters south of Cornwall and it returned and arrived in Lossiemouth at 16:35 CEST. Overland, it had its transponder on all the time. On almost every second day, there was British Poseidon activity. One could imagine that one of these Norwegian or British flights had turned off its transponder from start and gone down to the Baltic Sea, but we have nothing to support that. The pattern seems to be that the British Poseidon turned off their transponders at open sea, but always had them turned on during departure and arrival, while the Norwegian Poseidon only turned off their transponders for very short time, and none of these Poseidon seems to have been even close to the Baltic. But before we go to the Baltic Sea, we may look at P-8A’s predecessors.
A P-8A Poseidon followed by its predecessor P-3 Orion over Maryland 2010.
In September 2022, the Norwegian DA-20 Falcon, 053 Munin and its twin flight 041 Hugin, had operated for Norwegian intelligence for 50 years and was soon going to be replaced by the P-8A Poseidon. On 22 September 2022, Munin left Oslo for Cambridge Airport at about 09:15 UTC and arrived at 10:50, while it went back at 15:36 and arrived in Oslo at about 17:00 UTC.
Seymour Hersh had supposedly “gathered information” from the US team that went to Norway from March 2022, but at the time it was not clear that the Norwegian Poseidon project would be delayed with training not starting until June. If we look at the pattern of the early flights, they were relatively cautious. One might argue that the Norwegians could have used its predecessor, not the P-3 Orion, but the DA-20 Falcon. The 053 Munin was on some tours in northern Norway in mid- September and actually also to Cambridge Airport and back on 22 September, and to France and Italy on 26-28 September before retiring two days later, but never over the Baltic Sea. I have less information on 041 Hugin, but the plane made a tour to Warsaw over Northern Baltic Sea and the Baltic States on 26 September (see below). It went down to Greece and back before retiring.
Left: Military flights over the southern Baltic Sea on 22 September at 20:54:26 UTC (22:54:26 CEST) with a P-8A in red (exact identity is N/A or “not available”) with its long blue trail showing its route from Cuxhaven/Nordholz over Bornholm to the area east of Gotland, where it turns off its transponder. Right: showing a Seahawk helicopter patrolling the area north of Gdansk at the same moment and with the P-8A (in yellow) visible at the same position east of Gotland.
On 22 September, in the Baltic Sea, there was a P-8A registered in the US but with a “masked identity”. It left Cuxhaven/Nordholz Naval Air Base in northern Germany at 21:45 CEST. On “FlightRadar24”, one can see all the aircraft on the map at any time and one can follow the P-8A going towards northeast, towards the Baltic Sea. It passes Bornholm Island at 22:20 CEST. It turns off its transponder east of the Swedish island of Gotland at 22:55 CEST while going down to an altitude of 1900 meters (see map above). Four hours later, at 03:03 CEST on 23 September, it turns on its transponder again east of Gotland. The P-8A is now going back the same route, passing over Bornholm at 03:30 CEST and then close to the German city of Kiel. After that, the P-8A arrives at Nordholz Naval Air Base at 04:10 CEST (see map below). During the time when the P-8A went up over the southern Baltic from the west to the east, there was a US helicopter, Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, that went out from Gdansk in northern Poland before 20:00 CEST (see below). The helicopter was hovering for hours over the southeastern Baltic Sea. It would have been able to pick up any signal from a sonar buoy dropped by the P-8A Poseidon.
Left: The same P-8A as above returning over Bornholm to Nordholz Naval Air Base at Cuxhaven, where the flight seems to be landing at 02:10 UCT (04:10 CEST) on 23 September. Right: Detail of the trail for the Seahawk helicopter before the P-8A is leaving the Baltic Sea.
Left: The P-8A passing Bornholm at 20.25 UTC (22:25 CEST) on 24 September. Right: The trail of the Seahawk helicopter at the same moment. This image also shows the P-8A (in yellow) over Bornholm at 22:25 CEST.
The night after, on 23 September, a similar tour was made by the same P-8A leaving Nordholz at 21:39 CEST, passing over Bornholm, turning and off its transponder east of Gotland at 22:48 CEST. It turns the transponder on again four hours later at 03:05 CEST, at almost the same position as it turned it off. On the way back, the P-8A passes over Bornholm again and arrives at Nordholz Naval Air Base around 04:15 CEST. The Sikorski helicopter is hovering in the same area as above during the hours of the P-8A operation in the Baltic Sea. Also, the following night, on 24 September, a similar tour was made with the P-8A leaving Nordholz at 21:50 CEST, passing Bornholm at 22.25 CEST, while the Seahawk helicopter is still patrolling the area (see image above), and the P-8A is returning over Bornholm to Nordholz on 25 September at 04:20 CEST. The P-8A Poseidon had arrived in Nordholz on 21 September at 10:00 CEST (see map below) from the US-Italian Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy (departure 07:10 CEST). This P-8A was certainly a US aircraft. It was also registered as a US aircraft. It left Nordholz for Sigonella at 18:30 CEST on 26 September and arrived at Sigonella three hours later.
A US P-8A Poseidon is leaving Sigonella in Sicily (Italy) at 05.10 UTC (07:10 CEST) for Nordholz Naval Air Base in Germany. The map on the P-8A’s arrival at Nordholz at 10:00 CEST (or 08:00 UTC) shows hundreds of aircraft, because the civilian aircraft are not filtered away. You can follow the blue trail from Italy over Switzerland and Germany to the North Sea coast. The P-8A does not depart from Nordholz the following night or day, but it leaves Nordholz for the Baltic on the night after at 21.45 CEST.
Left: The US P-8A leaving Cambridge on 8 September for the Baltic Sea, passing over Bornholm and circling in the two areas that were of some significance for the P-8A operations on 22-26 September. This tour on 8 September was apparently preparation for the operation two weeks later. The “red” P-8A is passing over Bornholm at 16:05 UTC (18.05 CEST). Right: The tour on 10 September is almost identical but the coverage of the two areas is more systematic
This US three-nights’ operation in the Baltic Sea using a P-8A run from the Nordholz Naval Air Base was certainly well prepared, and if we go back two weeks, to 7 September, we will find a US P-8A Poseidon coming in from Keflavik to Mildenhall at Cambridge at 18:15 CEST. Another US Poseidon arrives from Keflavik to Cambridge airport at 20.25 CEST. A couple of US P-8A Poseidon went back and forth between Keflavik and the UK on 7 September. The next day, a US Poseidon leaves Mildenhall at 12:45 CEST, goes up over Denmark and the Baltic Sea, over Bornholm to the area between Gotland and the Latvian and Estonian coast, where it circles around for an hour. It then goes down to the area north of Gdansk, where it also circles around for more than an hour. This P-8A Poseidon circles around, firstly in the area where the Poseidon is going to turn off its transponder during the Nordholz operations 22-25 September, and secondly in the area where the Seahawk helicopter was hovering all these nights. After that, at 18:00 CEST, this P-8A Poseidon returns the same way over Bornholm and the over Denmark down to the UK and Mildenhall, Cambridge, where it is landing at 19:45 CEST. It is landing minutes before the large US signal intelligence aircraft RC-135W River Joint (with callsign JAKE11) is landing at the same air base. The latter aircraft had been patrolling the area outside Murmansk for several hours. It left Mildenhall at 08:00 CEST and returned at 20:00 CEST, 12 hours later, while a British RC-135W River Joint (with the callsign RRR7279) is returning after having been patrolling the Black Sea area outside the Crimean Peninsula. On 10 September, the P-8A leaves Mildenhall, Cambridge at 12:10 CEST and makes an almost identical tour, as two days earlier, but the P-8A now seems to cover these areas more systematically (see images above). At about 12:00 CEST on 12 September, two US P-8A Poseidon leave Mildenhall, Cambridge. One went northwest towards Keflavik and arrived at 14:35 CEST, while the other went westwards to the US. This was definitely an act of preparation for the upcoming operations.
Some other flights may also be interpreted as an act of preparation for this operation. On 14 September at 09:00 UTC (11:00 CEST), a US P-8A left Keflavik and landed two hours later at Andøya Air Station, Andenes, Norway, where Norway based its P-3 Orion 90 km north of Evenes. Andenes is almost the end of the world, a small town with a handful of parallel streets. At 14:14 CEST, the Norwegian P-8A Viking (callsign S21) passed over Andenes at an altitude of 200 meters and landed at Evenes at 15:30. An hour later, a US Hercules aircraft was coming up to Andøya from Sigonella (Italy), and less than an hour after that the US P-8A Poseidon returned to Keflavik, where it landed two hours later. The Hercules with the callsign CNV6712 then returned to Sigonella over Keflavik and with an hour’s stop at Prestwick Scotland as if the US Hercules wasn’t supposed to go directly back to Sigonella. It landed at Sigonella at 20:30 CEST on 16 September. It seems that the US Hercules had to go all across Europe for seven hours from Sigonella to Andenes to fetch something very important that the Norwegians handed over under supervision of a US P-8A officer before the Hercules returned to Sigonella. This would be something that had been kept in Norway but now would be transferred to Sigonella, something important enough for an upcoming operation to make a flight from Sigonella go from one end of Europe to the other: perhaps the sonar buoy that would emit the coded signal that would trigger the explosives for the Nord Stream pipelines. A buoy that would be dropped not by a Norwegian P-8A, but by a US P-8A from Sigonella.
Left: A US P-8A Poseidon (N/A) leaves Keflavik at 09.00 UTC, it turns off its transponder over open sea and arrives at Andenes, North Norway, at 11.15 UTC (S21 is a Norwegian Poseidon patrolling the waters at Andenes). Right: A US Hercules-flight (CNV6712) leaves Sigonella, Sicily, at 07.30 UTC and arrives at Andenes at 14.30 UTC. After less than an hour’s meeting between a Norwegian officer, a US Poseidon officer and someone from the Hercules, the P-8A Poseidon leaves Andenes and returns to Keflavik, while the Hercules returns to Sigonella via Keflavik leaving Andenes the following day.