Category Archives: Sailing

Secret Missle Launch in California

The Orange County Register posted a story called “Mystery deepens with video of ‘launch’ off O.C.

For two days, readers have been debating the content of a series of images that appear to show a rocket launch — or a jet contrail, or something else — that appeared in the skies off Orange County…

The debate covered many possibilities from jets to submarines, but none was conclusive. Perhaps, most important of all, this debate started…December 31, 2009.

A similar incident this week has re-ignited the same debate.

Tuesday morning, the Pentagon and the North American Aerospace Defense Command were investigating video shot by a news helicopter operated by CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL showing an ascending orange-colored contrail high into the atmosphere, officials said. A contrail is the visible vapor trail behind airplanes or rockets traveling at high altitudes.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, and California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Jane Harman — whose coastal districts are closest to the offshore contrails — were at a loss to explain the images.

This time around even a Russian news site is weighing in with their opinions:

An unauthorized ICBM Trident-2 launch is likely to have occurred off California’s coast in the United States. The opinion has been ventured by the vice-president of the Russian Council of Military Experts Alexander Vladimirov.

According to him, this might have been also attest [sic] launch by a private military company.

Blackwater is still in the area, and just received a giant government grant, so they can not be ruled out yet.

My first guess, based on personal experience sailing in those waters, would be that it was a submarine missile launch. I have not looked into it any more than those in the 2009 debate mentioned above, however. That went on for months yet still is unresolved.

Hi-tech Attack Sub Exposed

All the latest technology and training in the world was apparently no match for the shallow waters near Skye. The BBC says the Royal Navy’s newest, biggest and most powerful attack submarine — the HMS Astute — has run aground and exposed itself.

Aside from attack capabilities, it is able to sit in waters off the coast undetected, delivering the UK’s special forces where needed or even listening to mobile phone conversations.

Unless, of course, it runs aground. Well, at least out of those three capabilities they can still listen to phone conversations.

There is some chance the mistake is related to a new “platform management system”.

Speaking to the BBC last month, HMS Astute’s commanding officer, Commander Andy Coles, said: “We have a brand new method of controlling the submarine, which is by platform management system, rather than the old conventional way of doing everything of using your hands.

“This is all fly-by-wire technology including only an auto pilot rather than a steering column.”

Auto pilot? Every auto pilot I ever have used at sea has failed. The phrase also brings to mind the Exxon Valdez disaster, which was related to late night maneuvers outside the shipping lane while on autopilot.

Some interesting trivia about the HMS Astute can be found on Marine Buzz:

  1. Longer than 10 London buses
  2. Wider than 4 London buses
  3. Consumes 18,000 sausages every 10 weeks*, yet only has five toilets for 98 crew
  4. Produces oxygen from sea water and can purify the on-board atmosphere (see #3)

*approximately 2.623 sausages per crew member every day

Just when you thought stone and feet were confusing, now they have a London bus metric — 1/10 the size of the new class of attack submarine, and 1/4 the width. The next time a bus is late it will be hard not to say “maybe it ran aground”.

The Royal Navy boasts about their sub technology in the following video:

“We are something different. Something for the 21st Century.”

US Marines Defeat Pirate Ship

The story in the BBC called “US Marines capture ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia” started to get me all excited about new methods of anti-piracy from the US military. Several things stood out as different from past anti-pirate exercises.

  1. Marines, not Special Forces or Commandos
  2. No shots fired
  3. Rapid response and conclusion

Then I read through to the real details and noticed that the pirates essentially gave up after the shipping company used a clever set of defenses to render their own ship useless.

The hijack began on Wednesday when pirates boarded the 8,000-tonne container ship, which flies the flag of Antigua.

But after searching the vessel for three hours, they were unable to locate the crew, according to the ship’s German owners, Quadrant.

The pirates then phoned the shipping company in Hamburg to ask where the crew were hidden.

“They were told the crew was on holiday,” said spokesman Juergen Salamon.

“They then asked how to switch the engines back on, but were told they were broken.”

The 11-man crew, comprising two Russians, two Poles, and seven Filipinos, spent the time hidden away in a small, cramped safe room whose entrance was not immediately obvious, Mr Salamon said.

I detect a tone of humor from the spokesman. This is very different from the tone I heard last year from shipping company security experts who were rattling on about the need for allowing weapons on merchant vessels.

Could this hiding technique, coupled with basic naval support and response, be a good interim solution? Disabling the ship and protecting the crew are smart priorities versus trying to calculate the risks of firefight. This instance certainly makes it look promising. I also noticed the BBC did not pick up on the success of new piracy courts setup by the UN in the Seychelles and Kenya.

Somali Pirates Convicted in Seychelles

The JURIST reports a Seychelles court has sentenced a group of Somalis to 10 years in prison for piracy.

The 11 men were apprehended in the Indian Ocean following the attempted hijacking of a Seychelles coastguard ship in December. The trial began in March, after Seychelles amended its criminal code to allow universal jurisdiction in piracy cases. Eight of the men were convicted of piracy, and three others of aiding and abetting piracy.

This is the first conviction for the UN-supported court for prosecution of pirates captured by the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR).