Monday, February 18, 2019

A Harsh Mistress

As regular followers of the blog are all too aware, the US Navy’s mine countermeasure assets are few and dwindling.  Compounding this problem is that fact that the US Navy bet ‘all in’ on the LCS as the MCM platform of the future and failed resoundingly.  As of now, there are only plans for 6 LCS-MCM, three on each coast.  Two additional training LCS-MCM might or might not be deployable.

The Navy’s helo-based MCM, in the form of 28 MH-53E Sea Dragons, is ancient, long overdue for retirement, and scheduled to be retired without replacement (see, “MH-53E and Mine Countermeasures”).

The Navy also operates 11 Avenger class MCM vessels which, like the MH-53E’s, are past due retirement and have barely been kept seaworthy.

With this background, you would think that the Navy would treasure every MCM asset it has and the loss of any would be devastating.  That makes the Jan 2013 grounding and loss of the Avenger class USS Guardian (MCM-5) on a reef in the Philippines all the more tragic.  The only saving grace is that no one was killed.

USS Guardian On Reef

Let’s take a look at the Navy’s grounding report, provided by the Navy’s Freedom of Information service. (2)

The first sentence in the Executive Summary of the original report says it all:

The grounding of USS GUARDIAN was entirely preventable.

And,

The CO, XO/NAV, and ANAV failed to ensure consistent application and compliance with prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles and standards during navigation planning and underway execution.

Does this sound at all familiar?  Isn’t this almost word for word the findings in the Burke collisions?  The Navy has had repeated opportunities to correct its cultural and institutional leadership failings and has declined to do so.

Before we go any further, it is necessary to address the general belief that the cause of the grounding was a chart error which implies that the crew was not at fault.  This is factually only partially correct and the conclusion that the crew was not to blame is totally incorrect. 

The crew had access to multiple charts and sources of navigational data, only one of which had an incorrect location for the reef.  The Captain and navigation team knew about the chart discrepancy, opted to ignore it, and chose to rely on the incorrect chart in a mistaken belief that it was the more reliable one.  The report covers the chart issue in great detail and makes clear that the inaccurate chart was not the cause of the grounding. 

Now, let’s look at some specifics. 

The Navigation Plan was badly flawed.  From the report,

The CO-approved Navigation Plan for the transit from Subic Bay, RP to Makassar, Indonesia was imprudent, unsafe, and unsound.

So, disaster was baked into the plan.

The CO-approved Voyage Plan for the restricted waters transits inbound and outbound Subic Bay, coupled with corresponding log entries and crew member statements, indicate exclusive reliance on a single source of electronic navigation (Global Positioning System (GPS) from the AN/WRN-6 or Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR)) by the Bridge during the Sea and Anchor Details despite the availability of visual aids to navigation and RADAR navigation.

How many times has ComNavOps pointed out the Navy’s dependence on GPS and subsequent loss of basic navigational skills?  Further, the dependence has created an air of arrogance fostering the belief that GPS is flawless.  This arrogance has led to the abandonment of basic precautions like lookouts, radar fixes, etc.

… the CO-approved Voyage Plan plotted the Plan of Intended Movement (PIM) over the northwest corner of the South Islet of Tubbataha Reefs, nearly the exact location where USS GUARDIAN ran aground.

Seriously???  You plotted your own grounding!  This is incompetence and negligence on a staggering scale.

Ignoring the fact that the navigation plan intended to run over a reef, there were various alarms that attempted to point out dangers.

Based on a simulation ran by the Investigating Officer and the_ Technical Assistant on the CO-approved Voyage Plan used by USS GUARDIAN on VMS-3 [ed, Voyage Management System], when the ship approached Jessie Beazley Reef and Tubbataha Reefs the VMS-3 issued 12 dangers with associated visual and audible alerts prior to the reaching the location of the grounding.

… visual VMS alarms and dangers were available to the OOD, QMOW, and CIC watchstanders at various portions of the transit. However, based on witness statements, it is my opinion that the audible alarms were not heard because the Bridge and CIC either disabled the audible alarm feature or turned the VMS volume down on their respective VMS consoles.

You plotted your own grounding and you turned off the alarms that tried to save you????

Wait, it gets better.

Had USS GUARDIAN not ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef, the imprudent, unsafe, and unsound CO-approved Navigation Plan would have placed the ship directly over another navigation hazard with unknown depth at latitude …

So, they had a second potential grounding as a backup in case the first didn’t get them?  You’ve got to admire that kind of determination to self-destruct.

Guardian On Reef

Equipment operability was also an issue.

All equipment related to safe navigation was operable at the time of grounding with the exception of the Digital Dead Reckoning Tracer (DDRT) and the starboard Bridge-to-Bridge radio in the Pilot House.

Prior to LCDR Rice assuming command, the Digital Dead Reckoning Tracer (DDRT) had not been used. When LCDR Rice assumed command, he directed use of the DDRT for contact management in ere. The CO released a Category Two Casualty Report (CASREP) for the DDRT, and technical representatives had come onboard to repair/replace a faulty circuit card. The repairs were not successful, and the DDRT remained degraded at the start of deployment up until the grounding on 17 January.

This demonstrates a long seen pattern of degraded equipment and failure to repair in a timely manner.  The Navy is focused on new ship construction to the catastrophic detriment of existing ships.


Guardian Being Cut Up During Salvage Operations

The report offers a conclusion,

There is nothing more fundamental to a professional mariner than the safe navigation of his or her vessel. As this investigation shows, the U.S. Navy is "re-learning" painful lessons taught by the grounding of USS PATRIOT (MCM 7) near Chinhae Bay, Korea on 19 March 2005, and the grounding of USS PORT ROYAL (CG 73) on 5 February 2009. Only this time the lessons cost our Navy the total loss of a commissioned warship, and nearly cost Sailors' lives.

We can and must do better. My recommendations address deficiencies and/or causal/contributing factors identified in the areas of shipboard leadership, crew readiness, navigation standards, manning, training, personal qualification standards, equipment and publications.

Did the Navy learn any lessons from any of these incidents?  The subsequent grounding of the Antietam and collisions of the McCain and Fitzgerald demonstrate that they did not.

On an interesting and possibly related note, the report shows that the USS Guardian had 59 at-sea days in all of 2012.  That is not much sea time and the lack of practical experience may have been a contributing factor to the grounding.  We are seeing the same phenomenon play out, today, in naval aviation with non-deployed squadrons getting barely enough flight hours to stay flight qualified let alone any advanced training.  Similarly, no LCS deployed in 2018.  How are Navy personnel supposed to get experience if they don’t operate?

As the old saying has it, the sea is a harsh mistress.  Arrogance toward the sea will kill you.  Refusal to learn lessons will ensure that disasters continue to happen.  Navy leadership is badly broken and incapable of fixing itself.  Congress and the Secretary of the Navy need to clean house and fire every Navy Admiral and start over.



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(1)Navy Matters blog, “MH-53E and Mine Countermeasures”, 17-Apr-2018,
https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2018/04/mh-53e-and-mine-countermeasures.html


31 comments:

  1. Any ideal if the USN has something the USCG has in what thay call 'full mission bridge simulator" to assign crews to when not at sea?

    https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/coast-guard-full-mission-bridge-simulator-trains-crews/?mc_cid=c0a1e804f5&mc_eid=81ef5cc2b4

    A simulator is just a simulator but you know you could probably program in broken equipment to match the current state of repair and see how a crew does. In any case it might help the USN get in and out of traffic and ports.

    59 days at sea is ridiculous. 2 months? What does the crew do for the other 10 months? This smacks of MBA thinking. we can cut costs if we don't sail and reduce crew. Just cross train sailors Jack and Jill to chase 3 different balls. What could go wrong when they can't be in three places at once? But The management consultant for that ideal is already paid and gone (or in this mustered out to a job with industry).

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    1. There's more of an issue here than just simulators or even time at sea. If you read the report, the navigation team recommended several times setting an enhanced navigation "awareness" (even logged the recommendation multiple times!) when approaching known danger conditions. Each time, the CO/XO said no. It's this arrogant, lazy, lackadaisical mindset that is the problem. If you put that CO & XO in a simulator, knowing they were being monitored, they'd probably do fine. The problem is that when they got out on their own their mindset was faulty. A faulty mindset isn't going to be fixed in a simulator. You fix a faulty mindset be making examples out of people until the message sinks in throughout the fleet. For example, had the COs of the McCain and Fitzgerald actually been charged with, and tried for, homicide, as was first proposed by the Navy, then subsequent COs would make damn sure their certifications were up to date, their watches were fully manned, and their crews fully trained. But … the Navy didn't and so nothing will change. The CNO of the Navy and every Admiral in the chain of command of 7th Fleet should have been courtmartialed for dereliction of duty but they weren't so nothing will change.

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    2. He was probably in the captains mess playing on their smartphones. What exactly are the senior officers doing during these incidents.

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    3. For comparison here are a couple reports from NTSB on two collisions two different cutters had in Panama Canal

      https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/MAB1737.pdf

      https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/MAB1722.pdf

      Couple int interesting points. In each case the ship seems to have to have submit a formal lessons learned report and submit a revised SOP to address any failing that were identified. I wonder however are these kinds of reports and the navy ones circulated around both fleets with the expectation the relevant crew members with read than examine their own procedures?

      So at least on cutters they do switch the AIP to an encrypted mode when doing enforcement duty but are suppose to switch to normal (?) mode when in congested traffic and just moving to a new station.

      The report on the Fitzgerald just said theirs was off. I wonder if the situation was the same or the USN just does on/off.

      " then subsequent COs would make damn sure their certifications were up to date, their watches were fully manned"

      Well for that to happen, some at top have to go to reverse the policy of under manning ships. I mean the Navy has been after that concept since the Smart Ship" decades ago. In fact it would probably take congress to disallow shorting the crews size outside of some extraordinary situation. I don't count the GWOT as such. Yes the navy deploying all about but outside of its pilots its not like high seas combat it eroding the ranks.

      Maybe the dream should not be a 300 ship fleet but a fully and appropriately crewed one of whatever size. It crew cost are so high that should save their budget slice. You would think being able to report to Congress in 2029 that there have been no collisions or grounding in the US navy for a decade. Thank to your support for recruiting to man our ships and retain qualified personal. Also for guaranteeing a budget level that supports rapid and robust maintenance and frequent training activities. We never did get that X sized fleet but I am content and confident that our fleet of Y size is the best trained one in the world.

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  2. I don't disagree. The complacency at the the higher echelons defiantly shows a persistent culture where no real penalty is ever expected. What I was just trying to highlight was the budget prioritization of new toys over actually spending to run the ones you have now properly. I would rather cut every LCS if I though that money would be spent on training ans maintenance and even sailor pay to make sure you retain experienced crews. I don't really understand the fixation on ship numbers over effective ships and say the best run navy.

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    1. " I don't really understand the fixation on ship numbers over effective ships "

      Spot on!

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  3. This is one damning post. USN had an accident in 2013 and the report could be taken today, change the names and location and it would be the same!!!!

    How can one believe anything coming out from USN leaders? How can one believe we are ready for war when USN can't conduct simple necessary seamanship? But they can operate AEGIS?!?

    We worry so much about Chinese DFs and Russian supersonic ASMs but really, can USN survive a GPS hack?!? Oops, we lost the war because we got lost getting there???

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    1. Hey, anybody seen a war around here?

      The Doolittle Raid, today, probably would have bombed New Jersey.

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  4. Not only does there seem to be a lack of accountability up and down the chain, but a general lack of proficiency in the basics(not running your boat into stuff)... While years of increased operational tempos will have a negative effect on training, maintenance, etc... What happened to the pride sailors had in being proficient... In excelling at their jobs?? I and my shipmates seemed to perform best when pushed. Long days at sea were tiring, and we grumbled, but secretly we loved it. I served under Captains that were phenomenal ship-drivers. We used to wave off tugs and pull up to a pier unaided(and in a single screw, huge sail area ship at that!!!) It was all about pride... Is that gone too??? I believe accountability for failure is important and relatively non-existent, but I recall the "carrot" of proficiency and pride in ourselves, our ship, and our Navy was always better than the "stick" of punishment for failure... How do we fix this??

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    1. Pride has been replaced by zero defects and careerism. Pride often requires a measure of discipline and toughness. Challenge and difficulties foster pride. Today, a demanding Captain faces a public email and Facebook campaign against him, often initiated by mothers of sailors who don't want challenges and hardships. Can you imagine the outcry if a Captain wanted to eliminate cell phones and laptops in order to better focus on readiness? He wouldn't last a month in command before the dreaded "Loss of Confidence" pronouncement from his superiors.

      "How do we fix this??"

      We start by giving Captains back their authority, stop second guessing them, and tell the crews to toughen up. We remove zero defect mentality and replace it with daring shiphandling and accept the accidents that will occur. Then, we identify, encourage, and promote Captains who have some fighting spirit (yeah, that means an occasional bar fight). Once we have Captains and crews who have pride, toughness, and can fight, we turn them loose against the Russians and Chinese and stop being doormats. We let them hit back in kind or a bit more. We ram Chinese vessels that are in the way. We hit Russian planes with every electronic warfare tool we have and see if we can crash one. We give medals and promotions to the Captains who can do that.

      If a Captain knows he'll be going toe to toe with the Chinese he'll make damn sure his equipment is functioning and his crew is trained.

      That's how you do fix this.

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  5. Somebody in Spookville is having fun crashing Iranian missiles, so some parts of Gummint have a clue.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/iran-missile-launch-failures.html

    Mossadegh

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  6. Agreed. Is the current state due to the "social experiment" being pushed on the services? Is it a symptom of new generation mentalities? Where did this all come from in your opinion?
    I certainly agree about careerism. Too much "playing it safe" for careers sake. Somehow the politically correct leaders with perfect records that are just ladder climbers need to be relieved, removed, or retired. The best sailors, officers included, were the stereotypical salty, cussing, drinking, work hard, play harder types... Unpolished, and probably had an NJP in their history(aforementioned bar fight??), but they were the ones who pushed training and skills. Their spaces were always clean and painted... These were the guys you wanted to be "when you grew up".
    Maybe more exercises and wargames would bring that back, with clearly defined losers and no participation trophies(?) I recall waterfront rivalries (that sometimes degenerated into bar fights) were great motivators...
    All our ship capability discussions are worthless if the crews are subpar. As relatively easy as it is to sketch out a new fleet composition and new ships, the competent manpower issue seems much more challenging...
    This blog has motivated me... And while im not naive enough to believe a letter writing campaign will change things, it cant hurt to try...

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    1. "Maybe more exercises and wargames would bring that back"

      You're touching on one of the cores of a great military and that is action and accomplishment. The type of people who are attracted to the military (or at least the type you want to attract!) are looking for adventure, challenge, and a fight. We have forbidden our sailors, pilots, and soldiers from engaging the enemy on any level whatsoever. Witness the Iranian seizure of our riverine boats. Who's going to want to join the Navy to be part of that? If we would go back to using the military to do adventurous and a little bit dangerous things we'd have the recruits (and the right type of recruits) we could want. This worked for the Marines until they started being just another humanitarian relief organization.

      We need to give sailors a mission that is worthy of their efforts - not sailing around in circles on endless deployments that accomplish nothing. If you announced that you were going to send a ship to "tweak" the nose of the Chinese, you'd have sailors lined up around the block trying to get aboard - and those who didn't line up would be the ones you'd want to get rid of.

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  7. " Witness the Iranian seizure of our riverine boats. Who's going to want to join the Navy to be part of that? "

    To be fair they failed in their navigation and were right next to a Iranian Base. We would seize foreign ships for the same. Its not like the Navy when in with its gun blazing when Israel shot up the USS Liberty.

    It seems to me either the Navy was playing games and got caught, or they really did have a navigation error which is worse since its another sign the navy can't sail effectively.

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    1. If you read my posts and the reports, there's no doubt that it was navigational incompetence, pure and simple.

      We would absolutely not seize a foreign ship. Before you excuse the Iranians, they acted illegally. Foreign naval vessels CAN pass through another country's territorial waters. It's a procedure documented in UNCLOS and it's called Innocent Passage. The Russians do it all the time up around Alaska. You are not allowed to seize a foreign ship just because it's in your waters. There are circumstances under which you could seize them but merely passing through is not one of them. Read the UNCLOS requirements for Innocent Passage. The riverine crews complied, even if unknowingly.

      Compounding the fiasco, the riverine crews didn't know where they were. They believed they were in international waters which made the Iranian seizure and act of war on the high seas, as far as the crews knew. By surrendering, the crews violated Article 2 of the military Code of Conduct which states,

      "I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. "

      The crews violated their oath. Every one of them should have been court-martialed and one, in particular, should have been tried for mutiny. Go back and read the posts.

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    2. I agree... This is totally court martial material, and nothing to be swept under the rug. These are the kind of people we discussed earlier that need to be purged from the service...

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  8. "I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. "

    Yet nobody was found guilty on the USS Pueblo. The USS Chesapeake surrendered. I would agree that poor navigation should have been an offense since it created an indecent that should not have happened.

    Four were so far as I can tell punished. It does not seem fair to toss about mutiny charges after all the crew followed the orders of the officers who gave them (who did face and suffer punishment). Again re the Chesapeake the senior officers faced trial but not the entire crew. If article 2 was followed fanatically you are essentially asking the US military to be Imperial Japan.

    "We would absolutely not seize a foreign ship"

    Really you think a Russian fishing boat that just happened to drift right near Bremerton would not be asked to leave or be boarded by the USCG. Recall they have to right to board any ship in US waters (and in terms of legality anywhere for US courts via the 1790 law and reaffirmed sometime after 9/11 in the move to homeland security).
    Also there was the recent yahoo move by boarder patrol boats to actually seize a Canadian fishing boat in Canadian waters because they thought it was transporting illegals. The USN is not the only part of the US gov that has people who cannot navigate.

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    1. You need to come up to speed on several items.

      "Yet nobody was found guilty on the USS Pueblo. The USS Chesapeake surrendered."

      In fact, the Navy did want to court-martial the Captain. From Wiki,

      "Bucher and all the officers and crew subsequently appeared before a Navy Court of Inquiry. A court-martial was recommended for Bucher and the Officer in Charge of the Research Department, Lieutenant Steve Harris for surrendering without a fight and for failing to destroy classified material, but the Secretary of the Navy, John Chafee, rejected the recommendation, stating, "They have suffered enough."

      As far as Chesapeake, I assume you're referring to the Chesapeake-Leopard affair? If so, that took place in the 1800's! The US military Code of Conduct was issued in 1955.

      " It does not seem fair to toss about mutiny charges after all the crew followed the orders of the officers who gave them"

      This is completely incorrect. Read the post and report. The helmsman disobeyed a direct order from the officer in command to sail away at high speed. This led, directly, to their capture. This was mutiny, plain and simple. Read the post and report.

      "Really you think a Russian fishing boat that just happened to drift right near Bremerton would not be asked to leave or be boarded by the USCG. "

      Read the procedure of Innocent Passage. We CANNOT seize a foreign vessel that is passing through our waters. They are legally entitled to do so. That passage has strict requirements, however. The vessel making passage cannot stop (unless disabled), cannot engage radars other than navigation, cannot launch helos, cannot exercise weapons, etc. Also, Innocent Passage applies to warships, not a fishing boat. A fishing boat is a simple Coast Guard matter. Finally, asking a vessel to leave or boarding one is NOT the same as seizing one. Read the Innocent Passage procedure.

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    2. CNO - I will get back to you on that post it did not really work the way I wanted. I will try to refine the point I wanted to make but was just sort of missing.

      But here is question about MCM warfare ability. How did the USN justify scrapping and not just retiring and saving the Osprey class? The Italian navy upgraded their (template version) of the same ship. The Ospreys were only 14 years old? The USCG has cutters that are 60 years old in service and half the Ospreys were handed over to other navies. I am not buying navy ships spend more time at sea or work harder (not on navigation they don't) either. Since apparently the Avenger only spends about 1/3 of the time at sea as a cutter per year.

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    3. "How did the USN justify scrapping and not just retiring and saving the Osprey class?"

      The LCS began in the early 2000's with contracts and construction beginning around 2004. The Ospreys were retired in 2006. The Ospreys were retired to make way for the LCS and they were not retained as reserves for the same reason the Spruance class was sunk as a group so as to avoid potential competition with the then new Aegis ships. The Ospreys represented potential competition for the LCS and had to be eliminated, in the convoluted thinking of the US Navy.

      The Navy bet heavily on the LCS MCM and it failed totally. We're not left with almost no MCM assets.

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    4. Its sort of amazing that they got away with it I mean the bet on the LCS. In general both mine warfare and optimal anti sub warfare ships are highly specialized in order to do their jobs effectively. The LCS was by definition (like the F-35) was always going to be sub optimal at everything it was supposed to do. I mean in in its new coast patrol role is over priced.

      A Swiss army knife is a nice compact tool. Sans anything else it can be useful because it fits in a pocket or glove box. But aside from the toothpick I can't think of time where it was not better to have a dedicated tool to serious work.

      Don't the members of congress have staffs for a reason to point the ludicrousness of the LCS.

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  9. The BUPERS motto of 'Mission first Sailors always' was routinely mocked as two lies for the price of one. It's unfortunate that it has proven to be true. Everyone wearing a star knows they are at fault, but clearly have no intention of taking the responsibility appropriate with their position.

    What CO/XO thinks running electronic fixes only outside of open ocean transits is prudent seamanship? Even when I transited the Red Sea I stood up a modified Nav Detail. What happened to the pride associated with keeping the sides wet?

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  10. While looking for info on ship collisions I found this little PDF:
    -- Neptune Papers --Neptune Paper No. 3:Naval Accidents 1945 - 1988 by William M. ArkinandJoshua Handler

    https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NavalAccidents1945-1988.pdf

    and this website:https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/?category=incidents

    WOW, I never knew that civilian ship had so many accidents!!! The most recent military ship was a Chilean ship grounding on Feb 13th 2019.

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  11. Okay, this may be a stupid question, but: If we have an unmanned ship (whether robotic or remote-controlled) and it runs aground (or communications crap out because electronics are delicate and high-maintenance), who would get blamed?

    I've heard stories of people driving off piers and things from blindly following their Mapquest instructions. I mean it might even be funny if we ran an oil tanker into one of those Chinese "artificial islands" and blamed it on Google...

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    1. I suspect you're being half funny and half serious but you raise a really good question. Where is the liability with unmanned systems (especially autonomous ones)? The first time an autodriving car crashes and someone gets hurt there's going to be massive lawsuits - I'm just not sure who against. I have faith, though, that the lawyers will find someone to sue!

      In the realm of military unmanned, who's liable when a UAV collides with a commercial airliner? Who's liable when an autonomous LRASM hits a civilian fishing boat (that kind of already happened in the Hannit incident when one of the C-80x missiles missed the Israeli vessel and hit a fishing vessel some 40 miles further beyond)? And so on.

      There's definitely a whole body of new law waiting to be formulated around unmanned liability. It's just a matter of when, not if.

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    2. Already happened here in AZ: Uber settled, driver was watching TV on her smartphone....interesting tidbit, everybody is saying how we are just around corner with autonomous cars and such BUT none of this stuff really works, lots of the SAFETY FEATURES have to be disabled to somewhat provide a decent drive: the computers and AI are still just to stupid to figure out that running over a rock or person is not the same thing so the cars keeps stopping for everything on the road.....some of the report read just like military reports: people not paying attention, not understanding the tech, safety features disabled, lots of boring hours not doing anything meaningful, warnings not obeyed....I live in AZ so we see a bunch of these cars all over town and been getting some info about them.

      https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/uber-settles-with-family-of-woman-killed-by-self-driving-car-avoids-lawsuit/

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  12. Comnavops .. Can I ask, what exactly all does a " Loss of Confidence " pronouncement mean ? I live in Bremerton, Washington. Frequently in the news is Capt. So and So of the SSN or SSBN is removed from command for Loss of Confidence.

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    1. It's a catch-all phrase used when the Navy thinks a Captain has done something that might cause embarrassment to his superior but isn't actually an offense or failure.

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  13. Thank you for the explanation.

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  14. A lawsuit may seem obvious (and obviously, it would be filed against the owner of the robotic vehicle).

    But consider scenario: We have an unmanned oil tanker which suffers a "navigational error". The result is basically a targeted oil spill against one of China's artificial islands, with the benefit of plausible deniability. And it wouldn't cost anything. A commercial vessel, using experimental technology, would obviously be insured.

    If you hate someone, but lack the courage to fight them, passive aggression is an attractive option. China's response would be less than the war we're trying to avoid. A lawsuit, for example, would raise the question of the island's legality, and suggest a counter-suit against China for constructing a hazard to navigation.

    And the whole thing leaves the US government with their hands clean, the tanker would be privately owned, and that dummy corporation would be blaming the guidance system. Meanwhile, an Admiralty Court would have to address the fundamental issue of the island's legality, before any damages could be discussed.

    It may seem silly, but it would allow America to upset China, without ANY bloodshed.

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    1. Setting aside the specifics, I really like your concept of alternate means of confronting the Chinese. There are endless ways to stand up to them across the spectrum of financial, trade, military, international law, etc. We should be engaging at every opportunity but we are not. We seem to be holding our hope that China will suddenly reverse itself and become a responsible, law abiding world neighbor and fair trading partner.

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