U.S. Navy collisions: More than a coincidence?
Latest U.S. Navy collision isfourth involving a Seventh Fleet warship this year
HaveUS Navy vessels become victims of hacking asks Rickards
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, has not ruledout cyber intrusion
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action Ian Fleming
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The tragic U.S.Navy incident of theUSS John McCain earlier in the week has raised several questions about the cause. Many are wondering if it was more than human error given this is not an isolated incident.
In the last year there have been four collisions in the area, including the latest one. So far in 2017, 17 US sailors have died in the Pacific southeast in events which have been attributed to accidental collisions with civilian vessels.
- In January the USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan.
- In May the USS Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel.
- On June 17th seven US sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald – operating near Yokuska – collided with a container ship from the Philippines. It was determined that the bridge team lost situational awareness.
Pentagon and intelligence insider Jim Rickards points outwhen the same basic incident happens twice, you have to raise your eyebrows. When you have a low-probability event that happens twice, in other words, the likelihood of coincidence becomes infinitesimal.
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” Ian Fleming
Four 7th Fleet collisions in one year. pic.twitter.com/vKbFWPAAsr
– Jim Rickards (@JamesGRickards) August 22, 2017
Rickards and others are wondering if the Navy’s decades-old reliance on old electronic guidance systems has become the victim ofmultiple cyberattacks.
There are two main ways a hacker can interfere with a warship: by attacking its GPS or a malware attack on its computer network.
Rickards isn’t the only one asking questions. Experts at cybersecurity firms have also been voicing their concerns, as reported by Tim JohnsoninMcClatchyDC:
When you are going through the Strait of Malacca, you can’t tell me that a Navy destroyer doesn’t have a full navigation team going with full lookouts on every wing and extra people on radar, said Jeff Stutzman, chief intelligence officer at Wapack Labs, a New Boston, New Hampshire, cyber intelligence service.
There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances, said Stutzman, a former information warfare specialist in the Navy.
Todd E. Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas and expert in satellite navigation systems, echoed a similar concern: Statistically, it looks very suspicious, doesn’t it?
Understandably the U.S. Navy are trying to keep a lid on any theories of cyber attack. However, in a tweet on MondayChief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, did not rule out a cyber attackas a potential cause of the fatal collision:
No indications right now but review will consider all possibilities
Rickards:Is Someone Attacking the U.S. Navy?
Rickards is always worth reading and he wrote this in theDaily Reckoning:
Some recent tragic incidents involving the US Navy have captured my attention.
There have been two deadly incidents within the past two months, in which Navy warships have collided with merchant vessels.
In the first incident, seven sailors were killed in June when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship near Yokosuka, Japan.
Then this month the USS John McCain, a ship just like the Fitzgerald, collided with an oil tanker near the Strait of Malacca, close to Singapore. Sadly, 10 sailors are lost.
What’s going on here?
Is the Navy losing situational awareness? Are the crews not properly trained? Are they not keeping watch?
We don’t know at this point. It’s all under investigation.
But there’s one possibility I want to raise, and I want to be very clear about this:
I’m raising the possibility for public debate. It’s speculation on my part; I do not have any hard evidence. So I want to be clear that this is not something based on any actual intelligence I have.
But if there were just one incident, if one civilian vessel had collided with one destroyer, the assumption would be that it was just an accident. Maybe there was some equipment failure or the crew on watch failed to detect the ship for whatever reason.
But when the same basic incident happens twice, you have to raise your eyebrows. When you have a low-probability event that happens twice, in other words, the likelihood of coincidence becomes infinitesimal.
You have to basically multiply one low probability by another low probability, and what you end up with is an extremely remote chance that both events are purely accidental.
Is it possible that our adversaries, whether North Korea or Russia or perhaps even China – who are extremely good at hacking – have hacked into the navigation systems of these civilian vessels?
– Jim Rickards (@JamesGRickards) August 22, 2017
Could they be using them as, in effect, battering rams or propeller torpedoes to crash into US naval vessels?
I started a discussion about this topic on Twitter. Here’s what I posted:
Second tragic collision of U.S. warship with merchant vessel raises suspicion of nav system hacking on merchantmen. Are we already at war?
It received a lot of comments. One was a very interesting comment from former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean.
Dean said, It’s a possibility. I’m not sure if maybe experts talked about this. How about putting some knowledgeable intelligence folks on it?
I agree completely.
Again, I don’t want to jump to conclusions. But we should at least consider the possibility that someone’s combining cyberwarfare with kinetic techniques to attack American ships.