Working as a defense journalist usually means making it your business to read, study, research, and then opine. As a reader, your job is to try your best to understand not only what’s going on, but the motives that led to it, the complicated diplomatic relationships that informed it, and the potential ramifications of not only the actions in question but the perceptions of the world’s populace regarding said actions. To be frank, that’s why anyone who claims they never get anything wrong when covering national security issues is either a liar or too poorly informed to notice when the knees get cut out from under their argument a few months down the road.
As a result, a lot of people tend to find specialties: areas of expertise developed throughout one’s career that allow one to speak confidently and from a position of authority on important topics. These niche segments of a given field allow one to make a name for oneself as a well-informed pundit or analyst. Depending on how narrow your niche is, you may be one of hundreds of “industry experts,” or you may be the only person with renowned expertise to draw from. The narrower the field, the less likely your expertise will come up frequently, but the trade-off is that you occasionally run into stories that were seemingly purpose-built for you and your particular base of knowledge.
So imagine my excitement when I noticed a posting on the Twitter account “Aircraft Spots” that said a U.S. Air Force U-2 was cruising around northern California with an aviation code that’s about as familiar to me as my own social security number: NCC-1701A. Being a journalist with a borderline encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek trivia really only comes in handy once or twice in a lifetime, after all.
Doesn’t sound familiar to you? Well, (as you may have surmised from this article’s headline and feature photo) NCC-1701A was the serial number for the second Constitution-class USS Enterprise, built in a fictional 2286 San Fransisco shipyard after the destruction of the original USS Enterprise at the end of Star Trek III.
U-2 from Beale AFB disguised as the USS Enterprise! 🤣👍
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) January 30, 2019
The ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) signal being broadcast by the U-2 was too specific to be unintentional, though the U-2’s flight path kept it at around 60,000 feet—far short of space travel. It certainly made this nerd’s day, nonetheless.