Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fight or Flight - Part 4

I’ve seen comments about the boats and crews that were seized by the Iranians to the effect that if they had resisted they would have been killed.  This is an improbable statement.  Let’s take a look at the boats and their weaponry.

The boats are the 52 foot long Riverine Command Boats, as they are called by the Navy.  They are actually CB90’s, capable of 40 kts, and they are quite heavily armed for their size. They have at least four weapon mounts for a mix of 0.50 cal machine gun, GAU-19 0.50 cal mini-gun, dual 0.50 cal machine guns, and Mk19 grenade launchers. They also mount a Mk49 Mini-Typhoon remote weapon station. The boats are armored against 7.62 mm.

Of course, we don't know the exact weapons fit of those particular boats. However, if the boats were unarmed or lightly armed when transiting near an avowed unfriendly country it would only make a bizarre 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.

Here's a few photos to illustrate the firepower these craft have.

A Typical Boat

Dual .50 cals

GAU-19 0.50 cal Mini-gun

Mk19 Grenade Launcher

Mk49 Remote Weapon Station

Another General View

These boats were built for exactly this kind of fight and they failed to engage.  Heads must roll !


  1. Nice GAU.

    Not seen that one before. Looks very like the one on the cobra helo.

    I seriously suspect these boats were dropping off or picking up.

    Whats on that island ?

    1. I don't believe they were on a mission. If they were, it's very hard to believe that their mission orders included surrendering if caught.

      I don't believe they were running a mission in broad daylight.

  2. The expectation that soldiers ( or sailors) will fight to avoid capture always reminds me to the Desert war in North Africa, because of the often fast moving battle front and featureless terrain, generals of both sides were often captured. Both sides would have had light weapons in these encounters but of course it was a full blown war not a wary peace like we have in the Gulf waters. I think its an attitude encouraged by movies or TV that you would fight rather than be captured especailly when there is not active fighting going on around you or you are surprised by the presence of hostile forces. And of course we dont know the exact numbers and fire power that Iran had for their side.
    I was recently reading the story from a British general about his time in Afghanistan during the most difficult times. He said the difference in numbers between the front line forces he had and the numbers needed to act decisively in his area meant he had to call on support troops such as engineers and signalers to increase the numbers. And when they werent needed as much it was difficult to get them back to their support role !
    Its not only the local unit leadership but these 'fill ins' would have been surrounded by experienced combat troops used to actual operations and who had relevant combat skills. Im presuming these non combat soldiers had personal firearms skills.

    1. Ztev, do you know and understand the history of Iran's seizures of both military and civilian personnel? Look up the history of such incidents. They have not generally turned out well for the prisoners. These boat crews had no reason to expect that they would be treated well or released immediately. Quite the contrary, there was every reason to believe that if they surrendered they would be held for an extended period and subjected to physical and psychological torture. Read about what happened to the RN boat crews, for example.

      The boat crews should have had every motivation to avoid surrender and they certainly had the weapons to prevent that. If we aren't going to use our weapons when needed then why are we spending money on them. If our patrol boats won't fight we can save a lot of money by no equipping them with weapons.

    2. What was the torture you mention ?
      In 2007 a RN patrol was intercepted in an 'undefined border area' between the two countries, the 15 personnel were held for about two weeks- note no fire fight before capture either.
      2004 there was a capture of a RN boat, released after 3 days but not their equipment or boat. Again no resistance.
      The only incident of mistreatment came from 2004 incident when one person claims a mock execution, but I doubt this.
      We can compare the US seizure of Iranian officials at a consulate in Erbil Iraq in 2007, they were released after 2 1/2 years. Again some mention of mistreatment but I doubt this.

      The history of boat captured by Iran indicates a short term hold 3-15 days, not what you claim.
      Again no one is using all firepower to resist.

      Indeed my reference back to the most senior levels is that when you are surprised the hands go up, especially if you arent a battle tested combat unit.

      Interesting bit of useless information the largest by number occupational specialty for the USN is medical related.

    3. If you don't believe the reports and facts mean nothing to you then there is no discussion to be had. I'll bear that in mind when deciding whether to respond to future comments.

    4. You asked to look back and I did. As I said the long detention only seems to happen to captured Iranian diplomats and the torture was more mistreatment level ( mock execution) but i could not find any verification, thats all.
      If the British Defence secretary came out and said they were 'tortured' then I find that credible.
      Do you have a credible source ?
      Credibility is important as you have worried that the US navy itself may not be giving the full story. Thats is the crux of these issues, who is telling the full truth

    5. Just to finish off,this shows that people do see the same circumstances through different eyes, we have different sources and some are seen as more credible than others and naturally we can draw different conclusions.

  3. Before heads must roll, the USN needs to issue a report pertaining to the internal investigation. Will it ever see daylight?

    1. A report will see daylight. Whether the report will be the real story is the question.

  4. Whatever really happened here, i will wager a fair bit that U.S. sailors in that part of the world, are under explicit orders to under no circumstances fire first, particularly in light of then current negotiations.
    Given those insanely strict ROE, local chain of command likely determined the only way out would've been to engage in a firefight, and so long as the IRNG didn't open fire first, he couldn't 'pull the trigger'.
    So, they meekly surrendered to Iranian forces.
    In the damned for doing something vs damned for doing nothing, local commander definitely falls into the second category. In other words, he likely erred.
    I do feel for those sailors. They got caught in what is certainly a case of some very bizarre geo-politics their political masters are engaging in, and had 2 shitty options. We'll never know if they chose the shittier of the 2.

    As to the Geo-politics aspect. Can be summed up very succinctly. U.S. is allied with a despotic regime that likes to publicly behead criminals/dissidents. Concurrently, U.S. policy is now to appease that allies enemies, whose despotic regime likes to call for the annihilation of the U.S. and its allies, funds international terrorism, publicly proclaims its backing for such terrorist acts, yet is accorded cordial diplomatic relations.
    You all keeping up? Cause, I've got NFI what the U.S. is playing at. Your enemies are plenty, but luckily they're stupid. Yet, you're still playing into their hands. Shame.

  5. While I agree that this was a case of flawed ROE, I would like to suggest the possibility that the boats were sent in with the intention of being capture, then with the crews and vessels beong relased quickley for the purposes of political subterfuge between us and the Iranians to ensure negotiations continued in the face of stiff political opposition. If there is any flaws please comment

    1. Do you have any shred of evidence to support your story?

    2. Andrew, that's a nice conspiracy theory but I doubt it. Someone always, eventually, talks (from the crews, I mean) about the mission and when they do, whatever commander came up with this would be finished, career wise. I don't see any Navy commander being willing to sacrifice their career for political gains. It's a nice conspiracy theory but just not logical.

  6. Question.
    Why was a riverine vessel doing in the gulf?. I bet the answer is obvious to most but not all

    What was their operation pertaining to. Recon?

    How did Iran catch these boats. Again they are fast when they want to move.

    Were they carrying actual ammunition?. I saw guns no ammo in the photos

    Again the story, position and timing don't add up. Why were they in the gulf during daylight?

    1. I don't quite know what to make of your comment. I'll treat it as actual questions although I think you're trying to put together a conspiracy theory of some sort which is okay - I don't believe the Navy's cover story, either, although simple incompetence may well be the real story. So, some answers:

      A riverine vessel, especially one this size and this well armed, is perfect for the large areas of shallow water, monitoring the heavy small craft presence (both civilian and Iranian military), general patrolling, oil well defense, boarding ops, etc. In short, it's far better suited for most of the day to day ops than a larger vessel like a Burke.

      Iran didn't catch these boats. One 40 kt boat can't catch another 40 kt boat. I assume that the US boats did, indeed, stop, for whatever reason, and the Iranians simply stopped by to see what was going on, issued a surrender order that they never dreamed would be followed, and that's how they "caught" them. Why they were stopped and why they wouldn't leave at high speed when they saw the Iranians approaching, I have no idea. It's not like you can sneak up on a boat on the water!

      Ammo? I have no idea and, frankly, hadn't considered the possibility that they might not have had ammo. I would say that's absurd and yet we have repeatedly put our troops in harm's way without ammo so I'm forced to consider the possibility. It would actually explain the lack of resistance. Hmmmm .....

      Daylight? That's when most civilian traffic is active and when patrols and boardings are easiest to carry out. If you're trying to suggest some kind of special op, those are invariably carried out at night.

      This incident smacks of total incompetence rather than some sinister plot.

      That said, the cover story is unbelievable and we have to other facts so you're welcome to come up theories - just make them believable!

    2. I didn't postulate a conspiracy only I was trying to maybe suggest that either they had insanely bad orders, timing or mission objectives.

      I would assume the rank and file did what they were told to do and this at the very incident is some sort of failure in leadership

      Please excuse the brevity. It's a phone typing exercise

  7. From what's been published, the Navy lost contact with the boats near the time they would have been refueled. I haven't ready anything to suggest the boats were captured after refueling. It may be that the boats were low on fuel and couldn't make an escape.

    As well armed as these boats are, the maximum effective range of an M2 is 1,800 meters. And, given their size, if they weren't using radar, the visual distance to the horizon is about 8-10 kilometers.

    I think our boats were picked off before they could refuel by a larger number of Iranian boats and either ran out of fuel trying to escape or were boxed in.

    Maybe one day we'll learn the truth, but that's probably wishful thinking.

    1. For your theory to be true, the Iranians ("a large number") would have had to know about the US boats route, timing, and deviation (if, indeed, they deviated) in order to have time to assemble a large number of boats.

      You'll recall from the earlier posts that the Iranian boats are optimized for attack against large ships not other small boats. They have rockets and such but not much in the way of close in weapons whereas the CB90s are designed for exactly that kind of fight.

      To the best of our knowledge, the Iranians just don't have that kind of intel or surveillance capability.

      If the Iranians did have the necessary intel and if the US boat route was, indeed a mistake, then that would mean the Iranians had "a large number" of boats ready to attempt a seizure in international waters. I don't think that's credible given that they just signed a highly beneficial treaty.

      I don't think your scenario adds up but keep trying!

  8. I remember that Iran returned the weapons,etc back pretty much everything except for 2 SIM cards.

    Did they return ammo? I was trying to look at the pictures and see if they actually had ammo or were they without ammo? I am not a weapons expert but I don't see ammo, locked and loaded weapons or in the magazines.... maybe someone better qualified can see from the pictures published that crew was armed?!?

    I always wondered if this was just a couple of guys that were told to take boats from point A to point B on a detail, they weren't armed and weren't expecting to face anyone...would explain why they just surrendered?

    1. Presumably, the first thing the Iranians would have done upon seizing the boats would be to disarm them and remove the ammo to a place where the crew couldn't reach it.

      If your unarmed transit theory is correct then it means that someone planned to conduct a transit just a few miles from an avowed unfriendly country. If true, this is even more reason for heads to roll.

    2. They showed everything except ammo. Leads credence to an unarmed voyage by Popeye and crew.

    3. No sane person takes a boat into open water in that part of the world sans ammo. Smugglers, pirates, your typical arab that loses his shit any time he sees US forces.
      I simply dont buy the unarmed angle.

      Conversely, if i captured foreign soldiers (platoon leader level thinking, not geo-political level!) first thing i'd do would be to either dump their ammo overboard, or simply seize it, whatever my orders may have been, damned a hundred times over if i give them even the smallest opportunity to manage a daring escape or some other nonsense.. Likely the reason you see none in the pr releases. my 2 cents.

    4. No sane person would have Marines guarding barracks in Beirut without ammo in their guns and yet it happened.

      No sane person would forbid soldiers in Fort Hood from being armed on base to prevent a terrorist attack and yet it happened.

      No sane person would plan the ill-fated Mogadishu (Blackhawk Down) operation with woefully inadequate force and backup and yet it happened.

      No sane person would allow a high value target like an EP-3 to fly unescorted and unsupported near China so that it could be forced down and seized and yet it happened.

      I could go on with a nearly endless list but you get the point. I agree with you. No sane person ... - and yet we see examples of military insanity all the time.

      The unarmed theory may or may not be correct but it certainly can't be ruled out simply because it would be "insane". History makes that clear.

  9. This has been the only picture I could find with ammo near weapons....lots of guns but doesn't seem to be lots of ammo....

    1. It would be totally absurd to bring that many guns near enemy territory without sufficient ammo to fire them in a sustained engagement.

    2. Let me correct myself. A view of the video shows 1 belt of what looks like 200 rounds of belt ammo

      The lock box magazines had no ammo in them at all

      When you make weapons safe that are loaded a loose round or two will hit the deck

      The decks are clean. So they go to see with one magazine belt of ammo which should last about 15-20 second in a firefight with one small machine gun. Not promising on the properly equipped trip theory

    3. I really don't know much about ground weapons. I served in the Army but as a aviation mechanic, expect for the M16 and little work some crewed weapons, we really never saw or used anything. When we trained, we never took ammo with us. I wonder if these guys are really SF/Rangers,etc or just some guys that were told to move the boats.

    4. So far, I'm liking this theory the best. Minimally armed transit crews.

    5. So they were minimally armed, had a navigational error, and sailed into enemy territory when fuel was low?

      Then they got captured?

      Either this is serious incompetence or this is the most botched operation I have ever heard of.

    6. Whatever the real story, the evidence thus far suggests gross incompetence at all levels.

  10. BTW, did the names and more importantly, ranks come out? I think that would be pretty significant. If you have some years of experience , then they should have known better but if it's just a SGT with some specialists, then they really weren't expecting anything to happen. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.....

  11. A comment has been removed for personal attacks. I will not tolerate personal attacks against anyone.

  12. "There is no reason to believe the boats were not armed as typical for the class and every reason to believe they were."

    I would strongly disagree with that.
    Given the "de-escalation" and "unprovocative" mindset of the current USN, its very likely that the boats were unarmed or had only a token armament.

    Imagine, low rank officer or high rank NCO receives order to transit two CB90s, goes to the armoury and tries to check out 12,000 rounds of .50cal and 20 boxes of 40mm grenades, and gets asked, "what for?", by the Major who has to account for them all, and so points out, at most, you'll have to fire a warning shot at a smuggler.

    It shouldnt be the case, but I'd place a small wager that happens.

    1. Take a look at the photo linked in NICO's 18-Feb comment. It shows lots of weapons and some ammo belts. How much more there was is unknown but the vessels were clearly armed.

      I very much hope you're wrong that they were not fully armed but, if true, it's all the more reason for heads to roll.

    2. Full load of guns, yes, but not ammo.

      It wouldnt surprise me if they had only a single loaded gun with a single belt of ammo on each boat, possibly personal arms for the sailors each with a half load.

      It would track with the general mindset.

      I remember a few years ago during the Libya rebellion, a British Frigate was off the coast, with 4 short range missiles. The MoDs defence was that it wouldnt need more and missiles had a limited "on ship hours" life span. Bullets have a life span, bullets out of storage and in the hands of sailors have a shorter one, some even get fired at passing birds.

      An easy way to stretch the budget is to to keep your consunambles under lock and key


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