Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Aegis Cruiser Gets Lucky

You’ve probably already read that a South Korean fishing boat collided with the Aegis cruiser Lake Champlain.  Apparently, damage was minimal to both vessels. 

“Guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and a South Korean fishing vessel collided in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula, the Navy said in a statement this morning. That fishing vessel lacked functioning radio or GPS and did not heed audio warnings, a defense official told USNI News.” (1)


How can a Navy Captain allow an unidentified and non-responsive boat to get close enough to collide?  Did we learn nothing from the Cole attack?  Do we not recall that North Korean forces have torpedoed a South Korean ship?  Have we forgotten that North Korean small boats and mini-subs have been found in South Korean waters?  While there may have been no overt reason to believe this was a suicide/attack attempt, there was also no reason to believe that it wasn’t given North Korea’s history and erratic and unpredictable behavior.  In fact, blowing up a US cruiser would have been something quite appealing to North Korea.

I repeat, how did a Navy Captain allow an unidentified and non-responsive boat to get close enough to collide?  That’s a huge risk of a multi-billion dollar ship.  That’s gross incompetence.  The Captain should be relieved and court-martialed. 



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(1)USNI News website, “UPDATED: Cruiser Lake Champlain Collides With South Korean Fishing Vessel That Lacked Radio, GPS”, Megan Eckstein, 9-May-2017,


17 comments:

  1. The Navy could not get Congress to early retire half of the cruisers so they decide to go about it another way, tear them up. A few months ago one did its best impression of a beached whale and now one is out in the Pacific playing bumper cars. At first if you don't succeed try try again. (sarcasm, but then again maybe not)

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  2. Agree with CNO, same first thought, how the heck did CO know this wasn't a NK attack camouflaged as a fishing boat?!?

    I don't like to call for somebody head but yeah, he needs to be fired.....

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  3. Not many good choices there for the captain. Sink or shoot at a South Korean fishing boat just before their presidential elections, let it ram the USS Carl Vinson, or just get in front of it and let it ram your ship. Wouldn't be surprised if the fishing boat captain was looking to cause an incident for either North Korea or the anti-US people in South Korea. Unless there was a South Korean Navy or Coast Guard ship exercising with the carrier battle group and in position to intercept the fishing boat, the US captain's actions are probably the best we can hope for under the circumstances. Nobody hurt, not much damage to either ship, it didn't get near the carrier and minimum bad publicity. That said, I'd expect a known North Korean warship to be quietly "disappeared" with no survivors or witnesses, but I would have used a 20 megaton ground burst on that NK massed artillery demonstration just to kill Kim, not just some wussy cruise missile or A-10 strike.

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  4. When I first read this I assumed it was in a harbor maybe with a pilot in control. But I too am stunned this happened in the open seas with a fishing boat cruising 16 knots at best. This cruiser can turn quickly and make 35 knots! No ship ship should come within 1000 meters.

    A disguised enemy ship could pull alongside our modern ships and suddenly uncover and fire a dozen heavy machine guns at a cruiser's waterline. With a hundred holes flooding all compartments on one side of a ship, damage control would be nearly impossible.

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  5. For the Careerists in the Navy - look at the bright side! A new Command billet just opened up and it probably will not go to the XO (unfortunately tainted by association).

    But tactically speaking what does a battlegroup do when a fishing boat or greenpeace ship doesn't give way and just wants to steam down the center of the force in international waters when flying a friendly flag? Do you split the formation to keep 1000 meters separation and then reform? If they steer towards you I have no problem with taking defensive action but if they just feeling entitled and want to get some nice pictures - what are the ROE?

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    1. I think you may be missing the parameters of the scenario. This was not a boat innocently intersecting with warships. This was a boat that did not respond to a variety of hails, warnings, horns, etc. In other words, it gave every impression of being on a suicide mission. An innocent boat that just happened to stumble into a group of warships would steer away, heed warnings, and respond to calls. When a boat comes straight at you and ignores multiple forms of warnings, it's time to assume the worst and destroy it. If it turns out that it was an innocent vessel then the operator of the boat is demonstrably so dumb that they have no right to life!

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  6. Honestly, the TAO, OOD and Surface Radar operator are really the ones to blame. The CAPT is at fault for approving whoever those individuals are to stand that watch and them not being competent enough know that protecting the ship is more important than making the other vessel adhere to the rules of the road.

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  7. "what are the ROE?"
    That is an interesting question. If a Battlegroup is steaming and you're over a hot fishing spot, are they expected to steam around you? Are you expected to move?

    Legally, can the US declare an 'exclusion zone' around the BG and fire over the bow of any ship not recognizing it?

    Former Navy guys, do you have any input?

    I know a few 'bump and scrape' incidents happened in the cold war with the Soviets, but I think there were formalized rules around them.

    If we can't move them, and can't legally shoot across their bow, It would be interesting to get some stout commercial vessel that could keep up with the fleet to act as a 'block ship'. But tires around the thing like a tug and if the ship in question won't get out of the way then push it out of the way.

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    1. 9/11 was the situation I've been in where the Navy implemented an ROE that was essentially it would put someone at the bottom of the drink if they didn't comply. Otherwise, it's either hope all parties follow the rules of the road or it devolves into a game of chicken

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    2. The Navy has a highly formalized procedure for exactly this scenario. It's a layered system that applies increasingly more "strident" warnings as the approaching vessel closes the distance. At a given distance, after all warning attempts have failed, the final step is to destroy the approaching boat.

      This ship/Captain failed to execute the procedure and hazarded a multi-billion dollar warship and hundreds of crew.

      This was a seagoing version of Russian Roulette. That boat may or may not have been loaded with explosives as far as the Aegis Captain knew. The Captain played a very dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible game of Russian Roulette and won this time.

      After the Cole incident, this is just utterly irresponsible and, frankly, baffling that the Navy would allow an unresponsive, unknown boat IN KOREAN WATERS where a known insane dictator as demonstrated a willingness to attack naval ships, to approach close enough to collide.

      The Captain should be keelhauled.

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    3. 'At a given distance, after all warning attempts have failed, the final step is to destroy the approaching boat'

      That final step is predicated upon if the target is CBDR and a lack of maneuverability on your part. It does not appear as if this incident occurred in restricted waters, thus the onus was on CG-57 to not closewith a nonresponsive fishing vessel.

      Yes, this was another game of chicken, but I think that the USN lost as it once again proved the forward deployed assets ROE remain reactive and have a weak threat assessment. We presume that our opponents are not as interested in conflict as we are. It will lead to another Cole as you surmise with a response that is just as tepid.

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    4. "Legally, can the US declare an 'exclusion zone' around the BG and fire over the bow of any ship not recognizing it?"

      A few years ago (2012?), a Navy ship, the USS Rappahannock, fired on an approaching vessel off Dubai, killing and wounding some crew, as I recall. It was found to have been harmless but, as with this situation, ignored warnings and the Navy had no way of knowing whether it was harmless or not. The Navy Captain was not faulted. I forget the details but you can look it up on line without too much trouble.

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  8. There's a post on SNAFU about F35 and OODA loop right now. The entire premise it seems of the F35 is to be so LO and collect information to get the first long range shot in before the enemy even knows you are there. This scenario of a very sophisticated CG "engaging" a fishing boat is completely contrary BUT REAL WORLD compared to these fake, highly scripted scenarios US DoD never envisions or tries to conveniently forget.....I would bet somebody at some point said the same thing about a AEGIS ship ever having to worry about small targets or a fishing boat never getting close because it will always be in a Carrier Task Force and surrounded with destroyers and other ships to deal with a fishing boat...Forget that maybe one day our OWN ROE wouldn't permit long range shots (Vietnam anyone?... It's not because it's invisible or costs a billion dollars like a AEGIS that the enemy wouldn't figure out a way to get close.....

    The mind set that because it's super expensive or super sophisticated and enemy will never get close or even engage! has really permeated US military and one day, it will lead to our defeat!

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    1. You might want to reread the post on BVR, BVR - Is It Useful?

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    2. Good read on BVR!

      To go a little further and closer to topic, as you have mentioned and wrote about numerous times, these scripted scenarios, these long range weapons, everything US DOD buys is super expensive and always flaunted as the BEST, this all creates a false sense of security, when you add all the social issues you also bring up regularly, we have troops and sailors that aren't mentally, emotionally and physically ready for war. That an AEGIS near SK/NK waters was not ready to engage just confirms our worst fears....

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  9. Sorry to bust the thread, but Trump just quietly and awkwardly announced that EMALS has failed and will be replaced with steam on the Ford! This in Time magazine, noted in this blog whose author didn't understand why.

    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/trump-may-have-derailed-a-crucial-part-of-americas-futu-1795121555

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    1. I'm aware of this but it's a non-story, at this point. Trump has a history of making grand, sweeping statements and then greatly ratchets down the actual actions. I believe it's part of his negotiation philosophy. I think it's highly unlikely that the Navy will alter the Ford and only a bit less unlikely that the follow-on Fords will revert to steam.

      What Trump's bellicose pronouncement really does is put pressure on the Navy and the manufacturer to get the EMALS fixed, fixed quickly, and reduce costs. Whether they can do it, remains to be seen.

      Note, I'm not defending the EMALS. It was a poorly executed project that should never have seen the light of day until it was thoroughly debugged and ready. The Navy completely mismanaged the entire Ford/EMALS program.

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