Is The U.S. Navy Being Truthful With Its Report On Recent Crash Incidents?

By , in Current Events Military on .

Recently, Free Market Shooter (as well as the US Navy) questioned the cause of a string of crashes involving Navy destroyers and cruisers… all occurring this year:

Recently, the US military, unable to come up with a cause for the incidents, began investigating something else – “compromised computer systems”:

The military is examining whether compromised computer systems were responsible for one of two U.S. Navy destroyer collisions with merchant vessels that occurred in recent months, Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, said on Thursday.

Naval investigators are scrambling to determine the causes of the mishaps, including whether hackers infiltrated the computer systems of the USS John S. McCain ahead of the collision on Aug. 21, Tighe said during an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The presumption that has been made is that these vessels are being hacked, China is the responsible party, given the proximity of the vessel crashes to the nation, as well as recent incidents where the US and China have butted heads.  But it is worth asking; are these vessels being hacked?  More importantly, if they are being hacked, who is hacking the vessels, and why?

However, this author did not discount other possible causes for the incidents, including complacent Navy sailors…

It is also worth noting that US Navy vessels do not broadcast an AIS signal (which can be seen on with their respective position, like nearly all other vessels, due to obvious security/defense reasons. You almost never hear news of large commercial ships crashing into each other, which is due not just to AIS, but due to the fact that they actively try to broadcast their position by other means, such as running lights.

Which brings in the possibility of simple human error from US Navy operators as being the cause of these crashes.  Could it be that simple complacency and/or lack of proper training has resulted in these incidents? Given the professionalism of our military, that seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t be the first (and almost certainly won’t be the last) time it has happened.

…a theme which was commonly brought up in responses to this article after it was posted on The Burning Platform:

  • Here’s a more likely scenario – its driven and manned by a bunch of incompetent sailors, who very well may have gotten there through some kind of affirmative action nonsense, or social promotion, where pople get qualifications on things they aren’t competent enough to handle because no CO wants to get accused of racism or sexism for failing a black/women/whatever person on the oral board for underway watches. I’ve never been in the Navy, but I’ve seen it, many times. People given way more responsiblity that they are competent to handle, and you just sit back and wait for them to do something stupid, while hoping no one gets hurt. Also, they are probably spending more time doing mandated training on SJW type nonsense than learning how to sail their boat.
  • Never attribute something to highly complex malice when it can easily be contributed to stupidity and/or incompetence. Thats how Occam would slice it.
  • A complete breakdown in seafaring culture, from top to bottom. The lookouts either failed or had their reports ignored. The radarmen failed to kep track. The bridge lookouts failed, the officer of the deck failed, and the C/O failed by not ensuring that he had competent people at every position. His C/O failed because he knew that the ship captain was incapable of taut management, and likely knew that many of the junior officers and petty officers were untrained and incompetent.
  • A complete failure of culture. God help them if they become hard targets in a shooting engagement.
  • I’ve worked on vessels in the oil field my whole life and have seen the decline in discipline and accountability. With so many wireless devices it’s almost impossible to keep people focused on their task. If they would disconnect the internet from these vessels and keel hull a few of the captains most of the problem would go away.
  • Hacking, GPS spoofing, etc are all things that should be investigated. However IMO they are unlikely. What seems more likely to me is there is a breakdown of operational discipline.
  • However this was brought on is open for much debate. A large factor that I think contributes, is the shift away from the military from being an instrument of death to our enemies to a global force for good and social engineering experiments.

And in the case of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, the Navy has ruled that incompetence was indeed the cause of the incidents:

The collision between Fitzgerald and Crystal was avoidable and resulted from an accumulation of smaller errors over time, ultimately resulting in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices. Specifically, Fitzgerald’s watch teams disregarded established norms of basic contact management and, more importantly, leadership failed to adhere to well-established protocols put in place to prevent collisions. In addition, the ship’s triad was absent during an evolution where their experience, guidance and example would have greatly benefited the ship.

The collision between John S. McCain and Alnic MC was also avoidable and resulted primarily from complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance. A major contributing factor to the collision was sub-standard level of knowledge regarding the operation of the ship control console. In particular, McCain’s commanding officer disregarded recommendations from his executive officer, navigator and senior watch officer to set sea and anchor watch teams in a timely fashion to ensure the safe and effective operation of the ship. With regard to procedures, no one on the Bridge watch team, to include the commanding officer and executive officer, were properly trained on how to correctly operate the ship control console during a steering casualty.

Is the Navy being truthful in its assessment of these incidents?  More than likely, yes.  But it should be acknowledged that the Navy could be “covering up” another cause of the incident, which could be anything from the aforementioned hacking, to problems with the Navy’s Aegis system, as was previously stated on Free Market Shooter:

A far more likely scenario is that there is a problem with the Aegis system and/or other navigation systems on US naval vessels. The US Navy, known to cover up all sorts of problems in the past, would have every reason to mask the true reason behind these collisions if they are tied to a defective weapons system. Notably, the unreliable nature of the US ground-based interceptor program under questionable test conditions has led many to believe that the system is just another failed defense project sucking up billions of taxpayer dollars.  It is not far-fetched to believe that one of our deployed systems is operating with a serious defect that has been swept under the rug by the DoD.

It is also worth acknowledging that if hacking indeed was to blame, the Navy would not acknowledge it publicly.  If hacking was the culprit, the Navy would not want the enemy to know that it had isolated the issue and corrected it, allowing the enemy to go along in the belief that they could continue to compromise Navy vessels.

However, in the cases of all of these US Navy crashes, the simplest explanation is likely the correct one, and the simplest explanation is the one that the Navy provided – a complete breakdown in seafaring culture.  Still, it has to be acknowledged that the Navy could be covering for a far larger problem.  

  • LX5

    Affirmative action: Fitzgerald’s command was if I remember right all white. Mysteriously not commented on is how Cdr Benson was found hanging out of the hole in Fitzgerald’s hull. I believe Fitzgerald had two cabins for the Cdr, a sea cabin and and a more comfortable in port state room cabin. Facts imply Benson was sleeping in the in port cabin (desertion?), but I admit there might be other explanations. FWIW, Cdr Benson’s background seems to be liberal arts. McCain was indeed commanded by 2 persons from Puerto Rico. The Cdr had an Engineering degree.

    Affirmative action cannot explain why nobody knew what to do. There are not that many Blacks and I guess Hispanics to blame for everything. Maybe the ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal (mostly whites) is a better indication of what is wrong. The Navy has too many boats, bases, Admirals, retirees and corruption for even the massive defense budget to handle. The cuts the system requires occur in operations. Affirmative action in the broader sense might be at play as less capable whites are appointed to important positions for numerous reasons.