Monday, October 17, 2016

Maddox / Mason Attacked Again?

The networked, unmanned vehicle Third Offset Strategy is absolute garbage.  It’s a concept put forth by a US military that’s floundering and has no clue about the future of warfare.  Want proof?

I covered this in a recent post (see, "Respond or Leave") and we’ve now seen it demonstrated again.  The USS Mason may have been attacked again, for a third time (1), after the retaliatory Tomahawk strikes on some radar sites.  Wait, what now?  “May” have been attacked?  Were they or weren’t they? 

Burke destroyers are fitted with the miraculous, all-seeing, all-knowing Aegis radar system, EO/IR/laser sensors, electronic warfare systems, signals analysis software, and helos for aerial surveillance.  All this is backed up by a network of other sensors in the region from surveillance aircraft, other UAVs, other ships, satellites, etc., all contributing to a digitally fused composite picture of the battlespace capable of counting the buttons on an enemy’s shirt.  We have layers of Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) software, regional analysis monitoring and software, various intel group’s analysis, unit and regional command staffs that monitor and analyze activities, and so forth.  Despite all this, we’re not sure whether the Mason was attacked?  It may have been?  We’ve spent a gazillion dollars on all this equipment, software, sensors, and analysis and our best assessment is that there may have been an attack?

Note that our befuddlement takes place in an environment unhindered by any electronic countermeasures.  In other words, we had “clear skies”, electronically, and still don’t know if an attack occurred. 

Despite this continued confusion, we’re going to base our entire future military superiority on this exact system of networks, sensors, and unmanned vehicles?  Recall the recent seizure of the two US riverine boats and crews in the middle of the most heavily surveilled region in the world and yet no one had any idea where they were. 

Let’s face it – our dreams of a Third Offset Strategy consisting of perfect battlespace awareness is just a fantasy conjured by people who have no idea of what war is or how to win one.  We’re seeing the proof of the fundamental failings of networked sensor systems on a daily basis but refuse to acknowledge it.

Having shredded the fantasy of the Third Offset Strategy, let’s now turn to the other disturbing aspect of the recent Mason incidents.  Does this sound at all familiar?  You all study military history or you wouldn’t be on this blog, right?  Recall the Gulf of Tonkin incident where the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy spent several hours on 4-Aug-1964 fending off attacks from North Vietnamese torpedo boats.  The attacks were indicated by radar, sonar, and radio signals – except that it later turned out that the purported attacks never happened.  That incident led, in part, to the US involvement in Vietnam.

Yeah, but that was a long time ago, you say.  Now we have sophisticated sensors.  That couldn’t happen today.  Cause now we have sensors that apparently can’t say if earlier missile attacks were shot down or just, mysteriously, dropped into the water short of the US ships.  Sensors that can’t say whether the Mason was again attacked or not.  Were any of the purported attacks on the Mason real or was it a case of a nervous crew seeing what they expected to see (recall the Vincennes airliner shootdown)?  Fifty some years apart, generations of electronics improvements, and we still can’t distinguish reality in a small, localized battlespace.  Fifty years ago, that confusion dragged us into Vietnam and now this incident(s) is dragging us into Yemen.  We should remember our history and tread very, very cautiously before jumping into yet another ill-considered venture.



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(1)USNI News wesite, “CNO Richardson: USS Mason ‘Appears to Have Come Under Attack’, Sam LaGrone, 15-Oct-2016,


32 comments:

  1. Its a bit weird this one isn't it ?

    They seem very unsure as to what happened to their launched SM's and ESSM too.

    I would like a few more details, although I suspect we are not going to see them.

    I think the Vincennes parellels are quite possible, particually with this third "attack".

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  2. I think a flaw in the Tonkin Gulf analogy is the idea that we might be "dragged in to Yemen," as if U.S. forces are not currently at war there. In fact, U.S. forces have been at war in Yemen for a long time, albeit through a quasi-covert bombing campaign (google Al Majalah and go from there). And the U.S. has been directly supporting the overt Saudi blockade and bombing campaign for well over a year, including through arms transfers and re-fueling and intelligence support. So nobody can plausibly say the Mason is a random victim of unprovoked aggression -- rather, a country we are already at war in had the nerve to fight back (probably). A good question would be what the heck are we doing helping the Saudis indiscriminately bomb and starve one of the poorest countries in the world...

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    1. A good point. I should amend my statement to say, "dragged deeper into".

      Who said Mason was a random victim?

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  3. What we need is discussed in the last post. If our Marines had AT-6Cs they could fly our of our base at Djibouti and provide continuous slow recon along the coast to see what is going on, and attack threats. We have jets there, but their operating costs are ten times higher and fighter pilots are less interested in coast watching with eyeballs.

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  4. CNO,

    Insurgents just don't magically acquire some numbers of 750 kg (1,500 lb) anti-ship cruise missiles in a struggle to overcome the government.

    Those weapons are too expensive, too heavy, too complicated for a simple group committed to the overthrow of the government: this smacks of Iran and something bigger.

    All of the "confusion" is likely quite clear; we just are not at that level....

    GAB

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    1. I've read that many Yemeni Navy personnel have joined the rebels. They could be using stolen weapons and operating on their own. But, I wouldn't rule out some help from Iran.

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    2. beat me to it.
      This isn't the work of destitute rebels seeking emancipation. This is Iran trying to apply strategic pressure. Sinking or damaging a US major multi billion dollar asset would greatly appeal to the IRGC, especially with plausible deniability thrown in for good measure.
      Also, releases for civilian consumption rarely has much in it by way of detail, or truth. For all we know they could be talking about a random dude who fired an RPG at 45 degree inclination, or, they tracked a C803 launch, followed the missile, and enticed it into the sea, while getting a hair count on the bak of the hand of the dude that hit the launch button, but we'll never know as they'd never release the operational happenings of the day. Not on CNN...

      One things clear, Iranian forces are attacking US assets. 3 attacks in the course of a calendar week. That's some serious work. I think i posted last time. We're in for a wild ride and i've a feeling we're only just begging. While the white house may call on their field commanders for restraints, i bet my boots there're admirals out there getting mighty peeved about having their sailor being attacked by a regional power...

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    3. "All of the "confusion" is likely quite clear; we just are not at that level...."

      I apologize if I was not clear. There is no confusion about the source of the weapons. That has been widely reported.

      The confusion is the tactical/electronic level, as described. Were any missiles actually fired? Did we shoot any down or did they miss on their own (or decoyed)? Was Mason attacked or not? And so on.

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    4. Im just saying that the officers on the ship likely do know that, as well as the various officers they report to. I just think they dont like publishing that information.
      You may be right and they had no clue, or they may know it all. We simply wont be privy to that information for a long time.

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    5. "officers on the ship likely do know that"

      Unlikely. The Navy desperately wants to trumpet good news so they would shout to the world if they shot down an anti-ship missile. If they wanted to keep information quiet, they would have said nothing rather than make vague announcements. Given the confusion we saw from the riverine boat incident, the confusion we see here is completely consistent.

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  5. The ambiguity may be framed to provide political cover so that the USN is not pressured to respond to the attack.

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    1. And yet we already have. We launched Tomahawk missiles at purported radar sites.

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    2. Why did we use tomahawk missiles instead of HARM missiles to attack the radar sites?. It would seem to me that a harm missile was more appropriate missile for the tasks

      Our choice of revenge weapons leads me to believe that maybe this entire situation is missing the facts that would make everything clear. Three attacks is not the work of a group of illiterate shepherds trying to push buttons

      Something else is going on and maybe just maybe it's tied to Syria some how. In the next few weeks i would expect more of the same. Attacks in U.S. Interest in the region

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    3. A Tomahawk is a great way to deliver a 1,000 lb warhead without exposing an aircrew to danger.

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  6. Does blindly firing missiles at American ships benefit Iran? Or does it benefit Saudi Arabia and Israel, who have been demanding an American war on Iran? Are Israeli or Saudi special forces capable of this type of false flag operation? We don't know who fired the missiles, except we know who benefits from this tension.

    The motto of the Israeli Mossad "by way of deception".

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    1. cute,
      Conspiracy theories by someone who's patently Russian dumping propaganda...
      Stop watch on....

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    2. No more politics. This is a Navy blog.

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  7. Regarding the Tonkin gulf incident, do you have a definitive source that states that the attacks never happened?

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    1. How about Secretary of Defense McNamara on video saying it never happened, along with audio clips from fleet Admirals saying nothing happened.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HODxnUrFX6k

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    2. There's video of SecDef McNamara admitting it didn't happen, a report from the NSA, and an interview after the war with former Vietnamese general Giap who acknowledged the earlier incident but noted that no NV boats were in the area of the second incident (no reason to lie at that point, after the war). Those will do for starters. You can research further, yourself. This is pretty well established.

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    3. The attacks took place on Aug 2 and Aug 4. Everyone agrees that the Aug 2 attack happened. That is pretty well established.

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  8. Well your analysis 'of destitute rebels seeking emancipation' doesnt match the reality of a corrupt government which had its armed forces rebel against it

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    1. No more politics. This is a Navy blog.

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  9. There is a rather significant difference between how systems / equipment and people function in a real-world situation versus that implied from / by the information content issued by the Pentagon. Between actual possible performance / fact and public consumption is a wide gap into which the truth falls. No serving Officer or Senior Petty Officer believes Pentagon propaganda. There is also a rather significant difference between what once happened and what (the often non-serving and inexperienced) alleged historical experts, occasionally ignorant officers, and politicians opine about a given situation.

    Whether it is people or systems interpreting facts about a potential target picked up on Search Radar or by other systems, the determination whether it is real or false and whether it poses a presumed threat or not – the latter being the most important consideration, is similarly analyzed. It is not, and never will be, a precise science.

    There is an often a period of time during which the received information provides doubt Those of us (current or former Officers or Senior Petty Officers) who either in training or in actual situations have had the opportunity to assess the presence of / and or the degree of the level of threat posed by (what turns out to be) actual incoming grasp that reality.

    For example, You pick up a contact on Surface Search Radar at night, but the return is lousy and not a clear result -- a real or a ghost contact? You're tracking it, but it is not heading directly toward you -- a threat or not and real or not? It is an open Sea Lane. The contact changes direction towards your ship, maybe on a "collision course," or maybe not -- real or not, threat or not? It's emitting a radar signal -- on a search frequency -- threat or not?

    You pick up a contact on Air Search radar, but it's not emitting on a fire control frequency, and not heading directly toward your ship -- threat or not, real or not? It suddenly disappears from radar -- was it a ghost or real contact. All the Third Offset systems cannot answer that question.

    Simply put, there are numerous situations that arise and / or time frames within many situations when it is impossible to determine whether a threat actually exists or not – especially when the information is being developed and the observed possible threat disappears electronically or otherwise. There is nothing abnormal about that – to those with experience, despite the understandable confusion it produces among others.

    Welcome to the imperfect world of electronics. If you guess wrong – you’ll know it. And, you can't shoot at everything -- especially in Sea Lanes or otherwise transited areas.

    There was nothing out of the ordinary reported by the Mason and …, their reaction, and the results reported, in the previous incident.

    Also, the view of the Tonkin Gulf Incident believed and spread / repeated by most comes from the alleged wisdom and brilliance of never served historians, politicians – like that dirt bag McNamara (and I am being polite), and a few imbecilic comments such as that by the typical arrogant Airdale Stockdale who was chastised at the time for the stupidity of his comments by CincLant himself (a former F-8) pilot. The quite detailed commentary / reports from the “experienced on the scene” OOD’s, CIC Officers, Officers in the Fire Control Directors and the CIC ... Senior Petty Officers responsible for ECM, Sonar, and Radar, etc. are now available on the Web in written and video form as is the information from those still living who were on the review board set up by Com7thFleet. The only confusion concerning that night's operational matters, other than the normal in that type of situation, comes from the commentary, exaggeration, and writings of those not there at the time. It sells books and provides cover for politicians who want to believe they were fooled to vote for war. Sound familiar?

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    1. You understand (I think you do) that the premise of the post was that all the electronics and sensors in the world won't give you perfect understanding, as you point out. Further, the premise is that basing the future of the military on the Third Offset is foolhardy given the consistent demonstration that our best electronics/sensors are still remarkably lacking.

      As far as the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, with respect, the first incident happened but the second pretty clearly did not. Setting aside McNamara's statement that never happened, an NSA report confirms that there were no NV boats in the area, and NV general Giap stated after the war that there were none. Giap's statement is quite compelling given that it was long after the war and he acknowledged the initial incident - there is just no reason for him to lie about the second, utterly inconclusive incident.

      I have no doubt that the people present, manning the sensors that night, fully believe what they think they saw. It's no different than the Vincennes crew that with far more advanced sensors and electronics still believe that they saw an attacking aircraft. That's just human nature. So, all the "eyewitness" reports from the people "on the scene" mean nothing other than they saw what they expected to see - and it wasn't real. They aren't to be faulted but they aren't to be believed either. They saw something that wasn't there. Not the first time in history, won't be the last!

      Again, that's the premise of the post. That kind of confusion is unavoidable and no amount of sensors and electronics can change the fog of war. Basing our military future on total confusion is insane.

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    2. You are wrong, I don't care what McNamara or Giap wrote, and certainly don't care what inexperienced civilians who never spent a day of their life as a Navy Officer or Petty Officer falsely believe. You are not smarter or more knowledgeable in these matters than those who were there. A little less attitude would be more fitting or professional. You can learn from those who were there -- if you brush aside the attitude; or apply to Navy OCS and give it a go -- for real

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    3. Cliff, you've made some very good comments across several posts. Please don't ruin that with anger over this issue. You can disagree and still remain polite and respectful, as is required of all comments.

      Setting aside the specific incident, military history is full of examples of the people who were there getting it wrong. Aerial observers identifying cargo ships or destroyers as battleships, for example. Two F-15s shot down two Blackhawks by mistake in 1994. They pilots visually identified the Blackhawks as Mi-24 Hinds. They saw what they expected to see. The Vincennes crew "saw" an attack when there wasn't one. And so on.

      I'm not attacking the veracity or reputations of the people who were on scene, just noting that the fog of war combined with high tension invariably leads to incorrect observations. It's just an aspect of being human. All the evidence (and it's overwhelming) points to the second incident having not occurred. You can believe it or not but do so politely.

      On a related note, I have a brother who was a police officer and he has repeatedly stated that the only thing worse than having no witness to an incident is to have a witness - they invariably "saw" the incident incorrectly and resulted in having to pursue non-existent leads.

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  10. One thing is for certain, they Navy is still uncertain if ther ships were attacked.

    https://news.usni.org/2016/10/18/pentagon-still-unsure-uss-mason-attacked-saturday

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  11. Is there an official news release on the "attacks".
    I'm trying to figure out if the San Antonio was attacked, or it's similar to this in that they're not sure.
    Right now the best thing I can find is stories saying that the captain posted about it on Facebook. Which is not where the public should be finding out about an attack on their navy, or really a place where a captain should be communicating with people.

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    1. My understanding is that San Antonio was in the vicinity of Mason when Mason was (or was not) attacked. Thus, the San Antonio claims to have been also attacked. There is no claim that the San Antonio was attacked in a separate, individual attack.

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  12. http://origin-nyi.thehill.com/policy/defense/301801-us-general-suspects-iran-playing-a-role-in-missile-launches-against-us-ships

    Well, this paints a very interesting picture.
    Takes the discussion out of the realms of speculation somewhat.
    Iran is very close to or already is committing acts of war.
    And if the US is destroying radar stations it knows are being run by Iranian forces, then it seems that the USN is reciprocating in kind.
    Anyone thinks this will be the end of it?

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