Jeffrey LewisHunter Payload, F16 in Daytime/IR Mode

Further Update: Reader “Canuck” converts the eastings/northings (E 553870 N 3503649 Z12 N) into latitude and longitude (31.6668° N -110.43172° W) to confirm that UAV was … about 20 km from Fort Huachuca. Canuck, you have a cold one waiting for you in Cambridge, MA.

I figured I would offer my paltry thoughts on the whole Hunter UAV in Iran story that Steve Clemons blogged at The Washington Note.

For those who haven’t been following it, a reader pointed out some UAV footage on YouTube with a very curious set of coordinates: N35.077 by E57.99

That would be Iran.

Steve was then extremely careful in how he assessed the information:

I know my limits, and I don’t know the answer to this question, but I am asking some friends of mine in the “intelligence community” to check this out and give me a read on whether America is war-gaming in Iran already.

I suspect that this may somehow have telemetry for a war game with virtual rather than real coordinates, but let’s hear from the experts.

I think Steve was totally right to blog it, said all the right things by way of disclaimer and hit the nail on the head when he suggested that the coordinates are probably virtual (or that Steve and I are way out of our depth reading UAV coordinates).

One reason for skepticism—I can’t seem to make the coordinates square with the time.

The video is attributed to the “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion” (based at Fort Huachuca, AZ) and is labeled:

Hunter Payload
Daytime/IR mode.

Although the UAV is operating in Daytime/IR mode, the date/time (GMT 5-10 20:42) suggests the UAV is operating around midnight local time (assuming the locale is Iran) … so Daytime/IR seems a like a weird choice.

On the other hand, if the UAV is near Fort Huachuca, AZ, the time would be around 2 in the afternoon—give or take an hour to account for whatever weird thing Arizona does with Daylight Savings Time. That would make Daytime/IR perfectly sensible.

But, let’s see what the boys and girls at Fort Huachuca say.

Update: Yup, apparently eastings and northings are distinct from latitude/longitude. Told you Steve and I were way out of our depth reading reading UAV coordinates. Thanks to many helpful readers, we have a nice explanation:

Based on the Universal Transverse Mercator map projection, is a planar locational reference system which provides positional descriptions accurate to 1 meter in 2,500 across the entire Earth’s surface except the poles. At the poles, the Universal Polar Stereographic (UPS) projection is used. The UTM system divides the Earth’s surface into a grid in which each cell, excluding overlap with its neighbors, is 6 degrees east to west, and 8 degrees north to south (with the exception of the row from 72-84 degrees north latitude). For any position in the UTM grid, X-Y coordinates can be determined in eastings and northings. Eastings are in meters with respect to a central meridian drawn through the center of each grid zone (and given an arbitrary easting of 500,000 meters). In the Northern Hemisphere, northings are read in meters from the equator (0 meters). In the Southern Hemisphere, the equator is given the false northing of 10 million meters.


  1. Canuck (History)

    I am reposting what I posted in Steve’s comments – The video is being misinterpreted.

    Eastings and Northings are projected coordinates.

    Latitude and Longitude are unprojected coordinates. They are positional reference with respect to the longitudinal meridian and circles of latitude that grid the globe. It uses demarcations of degrees.

    Eastings and Northings are positional reference to a mathematical model to best fit a flat representation of the earth to a globe – a projection. Projections are used for a more systematic method of measuring distances on a globe from a flat representation, and are specifically used for surveying and GPS positioning. Predominantly the units used are in metres, although the US still uses survey feet in state projections.

    What you are seeing in the video is eastings and northings in metres, with z values in metres as well. This is textbook GPS positioning.

    Projections use a prime meridian and a baseline for centring the projection – i.e. each US state or world country will use a central meridian to centre the projection. with E0.0000 and N0.0000 being the centre. The projection becomes less accurate the further you deviate from the meridian and baseline due to distortion from the curviture of the earth.


    What you are seeing is a UAV flying somewhere; but without knowing which projection they are using, there is no way to say.


    Canuck ( I am a geographer by the way )

  2. Canuck (History)

    I could do the Easting and Northing mapping, but you need to know the UTM zone the flight is being mapped in. The zone determines which central meridian (longitude) is being used.

    Without that, we can only guess where it is.


  3. Canuck (History)

    Wait – it says on the video – Z12 N.

    That is UTM zone 12 North, which is in North America.

    I will map its position. Be right back.

  4. Pissed Off American (History)

    Hmmm, well, as I stated on Steve’s website, the coordinates are the least of the problem his posting seems to have. My research, and that of another poster, tells me that the “Hunter” UAV has not been fielded for quite some time. Therefore, the poster that initially brought this to Steve’s attention was apparently misrepresenting himself, for if he was “in the UAV business” as he claimed, it would be reasonable to expect that he would be aware the “Hunter” is not being flown.

  5. Jeffrey Lewis

    You’d be amazed how many e-mails I get from people representing themselves as being “in the know” when they clearly aren’t.

    Anyway, it struck me something was up when the time didn’t match up …

  6. Canuck (History)

    Found the location.

    E 553870 N 3503649 Z12 N


    31.6668° N -110.43172° W

    Which is here.

    Patroling the US/Mexican border, I presume.

    Cheers, and thanks for the fun.

  7. Jeffrey Lewis

    No … thank you

    This is totally why I started the blog.

  8. Rip (History)

    Believe the Hunter is still around. Think the total buy was 8-10 systems plus occasionally some additional aircraft. Since we paid for it and it still works, why not use it to patrol the border? Recall the Border Patrol pranged their only Predator A, so this is likely a bridge until they get their two Predator Bs. Let’s everybody study their GIS lessons! If your car nav system goes whacky and starts talking in Northings and Eastings we all don’t want to get lost!

  9. Andy (History)

    The hunter is still around. This was not a border patrol flight, but a training flight with a cooperative F-16 as the target. Fort Huachuca has a large UAV training center and the hunters are undoubtedly used as trainers. Judging from the typically plain style of the yellow-on-blue text of the title portion of the movie, this video was likely shot to show students what aircraft look like through an IR sensor in daytime desert conditions.

  10. Rip (History)

    Andy – Concur with training. I didn’t GE the location until after I commented. The border is the other direction.


  11. mfwic (History)

    This video was removed from utube by the user.
    Wonder why?