Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iran's capabilities to make more USS Coles.

And what's up with that armada anyway? The US just began an "exercise" in the Gulf which the papers say is the largest since 2003 (and you know how that turned out). Supposedly, this doesn't have anything to do with the Iranians taking the Brits; this was all planned along ago. Maybe. But an article by Michael Gordon in the NYT in yesterday's edition has me puzzled. Gordon writes that "American officials said the deployment was planned before the capture of 15 British sailors and marines last week," but at the same time he writes: "A scheduled port call by the U.S.S Stennis aircraft carrier was canceled so the exercise could get under way."

So, which it is, is it just an odd coincidence or did they rush these ships into maneuvers to rattle some sabers -- and possibly goad the Iranian navy into doing something provocative? What troubles me about Gordon's article also is attributing a quote to a "senior American official, who declined to be identified because he does not customarily speak to the news media." What the hell does that mean? Is this Cheney dropping his targeted leaks again? I seem to remember Michael Gordon sharing a lot of bylines with Judith Miller before the Iraq invasion, is this deja vu all over again?

If you read the article, you'll see that there are plenty of quotes but they're all by un-named officials:

"'It's not a precursor to war, ' said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was no authorized to speak to the press."

"This whole thing is designed to send a message to the region, ' the official said, referring to the naval exercise.’ We are sending a message that we're here to stay.'"

"'We don't want them to determine what we do when we think we are within our rights to do it,' a senior Bush administration official said, referring to the Iranians."

Gordon writes that the military "made an effort to facilitate news coverage of its two-day carrier exercise," inviting Middle East news organizations to board the ships. "The goal, according to military officials [there are those "officials" again], was to reassure 'regional audiences' of the capability of American naval forces and Washington's determination to keep forces in the region."

Yes, I'm sure all the countries in the region are very reassured that we're crashing through their china shop threatening to start a war that could put them all in Iran's cross hairs.

But what about this capabililty question?

Bloomberg News reported last week:

"The U.S. after nearly six years of warnings from Pentagon testers, still lacks a plan for defending aircraft carriers against a supersonic Russian-built missile, according to current and former officials and Defense Department documents. The missile, known in the West as the 'Sizzler,' has been deployed by China and may be purchased by Iran.

Thomas Christie, the Defense Department's top weapons-testing official from mid-2001 to early 2005, said in an interview. "The Navy recognized this was a major issue, and over the years, I had continued promises they were going to fully fund development and production of missiles that could replicate the Sizzler to help develop a defense against it,' Christie said. 'They haven't.'"

No one knows if the Iranians have this missile, but the Chinese do. The main concern for the Navy right now is the People's Liberation Navy [PLAN] "sea denial" strategy in the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea, which is sort of like their Mare Nostrum. describes the "Sizzler" like this:

"These Russian-designed SS-N-27B 'Sizzler' missiles are armed with a 70-kilogram (kg) high explosive warhead and can reach a target 16 nautical miles away. The missile flies near the surface of the ocean at subsonic speed until it nears its target, when it becomes supersonic and flies in an evasive flight path specifically designed to defeat the Aegis weapons systems that the aircraft carrier’s escorting ships are equipped."

"PLAN strategists believe that aircraft carriers are both the strength and the weakness of the U.S. Navy, the 'mainstay of the military power by which the United States maintains its worldwide presence' They recognize the firepower that a carrier is capable of wielding, but also understand that with just 11 deployable carriers, the United States cannot afford to lose even one to hostile action. [My italics] Hence, in addition to its frequent anti-carrier exercises, China has focused on the development of submarines--the platform that it believes is the most effective measure to counter aircraft carriers."

From these submarines they'd fire the Sizzler. The Iranians have a few submarines, but nothing really to write home about, although, last August the Boston Globe reported that Iran fired a "Thaqeb" missile, "Iran's first missile that is fired from underwater and flies above the surface to hit its target, distinguishing it from a torpedo. A brief video showed the missile exiting the water and hitting a target less than a mile away."

Even if the Iranian navy is not quite the PLAN, they still have their little speed boats. Newsweek reported this week that Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chief of Naval Operations fears their ability,' as he put it, 'to swarm.'"

Either way you look at it, we could wind up with a glowing nuclear pile of junk sitting at the bottom of the Strait of Hormuz if we're not careful.


Post a Comment

<< Home

hit counter script Top Blog Lists Favourite Blogs Top List
My Zimbio
Top Stories