Friday, January 29, 2016

Fight or Flight - Part 3

The Iranian seizure of the US boats story grows more bizarre with every new Navy informational release.  USNI News website now reports that the Iranian seizure of the two US boats and crews was the result of navigational error rather than a failure of equipment (1). 

“Several sources confirmed to USNI News that the crews of the two boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, had misjudged their location when they mistakenly strayed into Iranian waters off of Farsi Island in the middle of the Persian Gulf on Jan. 12 while trying to meet a ship for refueling. The sources said the mistake was a result of human error, not a failure in navigation systems.

The crews of the boats were determining their position and repairing a mechanical problem with one of the boats when forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) – the units responsible for costal defense in Iran – interdicted the U.S. RCBs and took both the boats and their crews to Farsi Island.”


This is damning in multiple ways.

If there was no failure of navigational systems then how could the crews have possibly not known their position?  All they had to do was to look at the GPS nav system.  To ask us to believe that highly trained boat crews with fully functioning nav systems were lost and none of them thought to merely glance at their GPS display is beyond belief.

This also asks us to believe that high trained, professional boat crews had no knowledge of navigational methods other than GPS?  No knowledge of the myriad navigational methods that have been known to sailors for thousands of years?  This also asks us to believe that none of the crew thought to simply call and ask for a position fix from some other unit?

Alternatively, if the crews were unsure about their position but, presumably, believed they were in international waters since they were not allowed to enter Iranian waters and did not, to the best of their knowledge at the moment of seizure, do so, then they allowed their boats and themselves to be seized in what they believed to be international waters, to the best of their belief.  In their minds, they allowed an act of war to be committed against the US without resisting.

The crews and their entire chain of command need to be court-martialed and discharged.



28 comments:

  1. I have to ask: What other navigation methods did the boats have? They were too small to have any celestial nav equipment and ONLY RECENTLY has the U.S. Navy begun teaching celestial again. Loran? Probably not. The boats did have radar, but did it have the range to pick up the nearest points of land?

    We have heard that the two boats were scheduled to rendezvous with another vessel (USCG?) to re-fuel enroute. I have to chalk this foobar situation up to (a) not planning a route far enough west to stay in radar contact with the Kuwait/Saudi coastline, and (b) having no Plan B.

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    1. Inertial navigation systems, dead reckoning, radio beacons, navigational radar fixes, third party tracking/guidance, A COMPASS AND A COURSE, etc.

      I don't know, specifically, what they had access to but there are multiple methods of navigating.

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  2. I was at a Coast Guard presentation some years ago, and they said their biggest headache was boaters whose GPS batteries ran out and could not navigate back to land. Is is possible that our softer, gentler Navy is filled with crew who simply don't know how to use a compass?

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    1. This is certainly possible.

      Over reliance on technology, along with inadequate training is a recipe for problems when said technology fails.

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    2. Haven't I been preaching that we should be conducting training in GPS deprived environments?

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    3. GPS deprived environment ? you sure today's sailor can navigate without GPS ?

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  3. Their radars were no doubt able to measure the distance to the island. It's unreasonable to believe that two radars and all GPS sensors onboard were out of service.

    Based on decades of experience with a USN reliably lying at first to cover up when it messed up, there's little reason to pay attention to their press releases during the first weeks after an incident. The historical odds were in favour of the other side's version of the story for decades!

    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2016/01/us-radically-changes-its-story-of-boats.html

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    1. None of which justifies the Iranian reaction to the incident, particularly considering:

      1. The Iranian indiscriminant use of sea mines in the Persian Gulf (Iran Ajar as well as small boat attacks against peaceful third party (non-Iraqi) oil tankers transiting the Persian Gulf in the 1980s.
      2. Iranian 2011 threats to “close” the waterway to peaceful international traffic.
      3. The flagrant disregard of Iranians for IAEA treaty provisions.
      4. Iranian threats to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth” …
      5. Iranian role in the deaths of 264 American soldiers serving in Iraq.

      The Guardian and other “publications” known for their anti-U.S. rheotoric does not convince or make up for the lack of credible reporting.

      The “Tanker War: America's First Conflict with Iran, 1987-88” by Lee Allen Zatarainis is far better background and excellent primer on the history of Iranian predation.

      Also: http://csis.org/publication/iran-and-threat-close-gulf

      GAB

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    2. You act like the Iranians are the only ones with their hands dirty. Keep in mind that, from their perspective, the US supported Iraq in the Iran/Iraq War, shot down a civilian airliner for no reason (Vincennes), and deposed a legitimate government in an oil grab (Mosaddegh), among other things like, oh, later invading Iraq for no reason. So if we are right to be suspicious, I don't see why that same suspicion on the Iranian side is wrong. Not in any way defending the Iranian government, but I can't say their response to finding some heavily armed patrol boats "invading" their waters is a shocker.

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    3. Anon, you're quite right that, from their perspective, the Iranians have reason to be suspicious of the US. That doesn't make their suspicions right or justified - only understandable.

      So, suspicion was understandable but their actions were not. The situation was two small, non-threatening boats in distress. The reaction of a reasonable country would have been to remain vigilant, offer assistance, make no attempt to board or arrest, and escort the boats out of Iranian waters once repairs were made. Short of executing the crews, the Iranian's response was as provocative, aggressive, and irresponsible as possible. Just another reason Iran is a Pariah in the international community.

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    4. Anon,
      The Mohammad Mosaddegh regime was far from a legitimate democratic government - the man suspended parliamentary elections as soon as he "packed" parliament with his supporters, he suspended parliament on at least two occasions, and twice was granted emergency powers akin to dictatorship.

      In fact, the much maligned CIA coup followed the dissolution of the Iranian Parliament in 1953.

      A popular dictator is still a dictator.

      GAB

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    5. I didn't say Mosaddegh was "democratic." And whether or not you think the U.S. has some divine mandate to depose anyone it concludes is a "dictator" (paging Saudi Arabia...), I'm pretty sure the CIA is still waiting for its "thank you" note from the people of Iran.

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    6. No one is talking a "divine mandate” – the Tehran regime has a long history of indiscriminate acts of violence in the world’s busiest waterway that transports the greatest wealth in history – their insanity materially affects the livelihood of every human on the planet.

      I am all for limiting US intervention to direct protection of our citizens and *specific interest*; the Iranian people are welcome to whatever insanity they collectively want inside their borders, but the genocidal, racist, religious bigotry spewing from Tehran (soon to be plutonium fueled) is officially directed outside its boundaries.

      By comparison, the Saudi Government has traditionally used money and oil to advance its interests and otherwise kept its internal affairs – internal; the export of terrorism has tended to be an individual issue.

      GAB

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    7. tehran regime have long history of violence ?

      they are nothing compared to the bloody american history , only that american wrapped their violent history in nice prose..

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  4. "...sources said the mistake was a result of human error, not a failure in navigation systems."
    Marine navigation systems both locate your position AND that of nearby vessels along with their course and speed. ( Each vessel has a transponder)
    Its essential in confined waters like the Gulf or anywhere these small vessels go.
    You can go online and get a version of the system which shows all vessels in most coastal areas.
    I dont know if its a primary system which they use to navigate with or its used as an information display. But it doesnt really require human input as the transponders and shore based systems all work automatically.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Identification_System

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  6. My best guess is that this whole thing was staged. There is just too much that makes no sense otherwise.

    And both sides stand to gain. Obama can say, "See, the Iranians returned our sailors within 24 hours. They are reasonable people who can be trusted to live up to our nuclear treaty. Iran gets to kick sand in the face of the great western devil, which enhances their credibility in the region.

    I'm sorry, but that makes more sense than the stories we are getting.

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  7. have you guys notice this coincided (or "coincided") with the Iranian drone flyover over the CVGB? officially "U.S. Navy Confirms ‘Abnormal and Unprofessional’ Iranian UAV Recon Flight Over Carriers Truman, Charles de Gaulle"
    http://news.usni.org/2016/01/29/u-s-navy-confirms-abnormal-and-unprofessional-iranian-uav-recon-flight-over-carriers-truman-charles-de-gaulle

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    1. Ouch, I had missed this. Now that IS bad.

      I'm quite surprised this was "allowed", althought there was a pair of Russian bear got within 1nm a few months back as well.

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  8. As for the crew allowing their boats and themselves to be captured, I'm not so sure they had any other alternative short of fighting their way out and probably dying in the process.

    Forget where they were for a moment. We don't know how well they were armed and how much ammunition they carried. Between them they may have had only a few weapons and small amount of ammunition. Besides, the crew of one boat were trying to fix a mechanical problem. It's not like they could have left the scene in a hurry. For all we know, the crew was overwhelmed by the Iranians and forced to surrender.

    If they fought it out, we would probably have 10 dead sailors and even less of a clue as to what happened.

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    1. The boats are quite heavily armed for their size. They have at least four mounts for a mix of 0.50 cal MG, GAU-19 0.50 cal mini-gun, dual 0.50 cal MG, and Mk19 grenade launchers. They can also mount a Mk49 Mini-Typhoon remote weapon station. The boats are armored against 7.62 mm. All of which is times two for the two boats.

      Of course, we don't know the exact weapons fit of those particular boats. If the boats were unarmed or lightly armed when transiting near an avowed unfriendly country it would only make the situation even more baffling. There is no reason to believe the boats were not armed as typical for the class and every reason to believe they were.

      It's highly unlikely that Iran just happened to have more powerful boats than that. The crews would have had every expectation of successful defense with minimal casualties.

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    2. I suspect our crew was simply outnumbered. Hopefully, the truth will come out, however unpleasant it may be.

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    3. I suspect that's highly unlikely. Those boats are so heavily armed that it would take a large number of enemy craft to offer the Iranians a reasonable chance at seizure in the face of resistance. Far more likely, the Iranians had a couple of boats handy, approached the US boats, and were surprised to find that we would surrender.

      Since when does being outnumbered mean we don't fight??!!! Taffy 3 among many other examples??

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    4. Since the US boats entered iranian waters illegally , then it would create an even bigger international incident if the Us boats shot its way out and killing iranian naval personel..

      or is USN operates above international law ?

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  9. Speculation will just generate a sense of frustration over the incident. What is needed is an explanation from the USN once the internal investigations are completed. There is simply no traction to get to the truth over this issue from the Republicans, the Presidential candidates or from any credible news outlet. It would just slowly fade away.

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    1. While you're correct about speculation, lessons can still be learned without all the facts. Simply reviewing the possible and likely scenarios reveals lessons such as navigation, training, mission planning, backup forces, ROEs, etc. Failing to address these issues just because we don't have every last fact will simply put the next boat and crew in danger.

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    2. Meaningful corrective actions have to be fact based and not speculation. The source and solution has to come from the USN. Until and unless the USN can come clean over this incident, I am afraid that nothing much will come off it.

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    3. "Meaningful corrective actions have to be fact based and not speculation."

      No. You're missing the point. This incident allows us to learn lessons from the general scenario. How can we construct better ROEs to prevent seizure in the future? How can we better train our crews in navigation? How can we better equip our crews to navigate if GPS fails? How can we better plan missions? How can we better ensure immediate backup in the event of an attempted seizure? I can come up with dozens more questions, each an opportunity to learn a lesson without needing the exact particulars of this incident.

      In a general sense, this learning of lessons from inexact details can be termed wargaming. You game out possibilities and see whether your existing procedures can cope with them. If not, you learn a lesson and improve your procedures.

      This is how one learns lessons without all the facts of a specific incident.

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