Sunday, June 05, 2005

American Sub Spying on... Israel?

Posted over at my Bubblehead from Idaho site:

Back in November, I blogged about a report that Israeli naval forces had "chased off" an intruding submarine. Here's part of what I said at the time:

"If it was a submarine, it was almost certainly a NATO boat, since the Arab countries with submarines (Egypt, Algeria, Libya -- the best source for Third World naval Order of Battle is probably found here) wouldn't dare go near Israel, even it their boats could submerge, especially while Israel was on alert due to Arafat's death. Who, then, might it have been? Germany wouldn't dare go near Israel, and the other northern European diesel boat operators rarely will go into the Med. Turkey, Italy, and Greece probably wouldn't risk their diesel boats on a mission like this; so maybe it was one of the countries operating nuclear boats. That would be France, Great Britain, and the US. France would be unlikely to send a boat in immediately following Arafat's death in Paris. Would the Brits or Americans do such a thing? I have no idea (see my first post for more on why I have no idea). Probably they were tracking a horny whale..."

This weekend, a new report comes out from an Israeli TV station (reported in the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz) that claims the sub in question was American. Excerpt from the JPost article:

"The incident occurred on the night of November 9 off the northern coast of Israel. The Navy had detected the submarine after it had penetrated two nautical miles into Israel's territorial waters, about 18 kilometers from shore.
"The Navy followed the submarine for a few hours, but the moment it took active measures to close in on the submarine, it quickly turn and headed back to international waters.
"MK (Likud) Yuval Steinitz, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hinted at the time of American involvement when he warned if Israel had attacked the sub "dozens of American or French sailors would have died unnecessarily."
"Following the incident, reports surfaced late last year that the United States had increased its intelligence operations against Israel as part of an effort to prevent escalation of the conflict with the Palestinians with an invasion of the Gaza Strip following incessant Kassam rocket strikes, or offensive action against Hizbullah in Lebanon or even Syria."

Now, I like most of the Israelis I've worked with (they're technically proficient and somewhat overconfident, the two most important attrbutes that make a good submarine officer, IMHO), and I'm glad to note the quote highlighted above was made by a civilian, and not a submariner. If it really were an American submarine there, had Israel attacked it, all they would have done was wasted ordnance... no Israeli, or really any non-American, ASW weapon would be able to hit an alerted U.S. sub unless they got really lucky.

I'm still very dubious that the Israelis were tracking a submarine at all. I've taken part in plenty of exercises where air and surface ASW units will report "positive" contact on a submarine where no submarine exists... we know, because we know where the submarine is (or I've been on the only submarine in the area). Floating barrels that fell off a passing ship are most often mistaken for submarine periscopes on radar; you're tracking a small, moving cylindrical object, like a periscope, and suddenly, it's gone! (Barrels tend to sink after a while.) In the most "realistic" ASW exercises I've been a part of, where the submarine is supposed to let itself be found, I'd estimate that upwards of 90% of the reported "submarines" are false contacts; I have no reason to suspect the Israelis would do any better.

My take... the Israeli's were tracking nothing, and someone figured that since they couldn't find any evidence of anything, it must be the Americans.


At 4:13 AM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

"dozens of American or French sailors would have died unnecessarily"?

Seriously, if it were a US sub, ok, so? It is not like the Israeli's haven't spied on us in much more, ah, invasive ways. All part of the game.


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