Many people are wondering why the United States Navy can’t seem to drive their ships lately. In less than eight months, at least four major wrecks have plagued this branch of the Armed Forces, two of which happened in the last two months and occurred between the Seventh Fleet and commercial vessels traveling in the Pacific. The most recent incident happened on Monday morning when the U.S.S. John McCain collided with an oil tanker, causing “significant damage.” Now, Pentagon officials say they are not ruling out the possibility that the destruction was intentional, either through sabotage or possible guidance system hacking.
Evidence of an internal infiltrator would be horridly disgusting. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson announced yesterday that the suspicious collision would be investigated thoroughly. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was en route to Singapore when the oil tanker broadsided it. After carrying out freedom navigation operations in the South China Sea, the destroyer was situated in the Strait of Malacca when the merchant vessel ruptured a hole in the side. A defense industry publication estimates the damage at approximately 1o feet wide.
A former information warfare specialist in the Navy, Jeff Stutzman finds it extremely hard to believe that the incident was accidental. As chief intelligence officer at Wapack Labs, a cyber intelligence service in New Hampshire, Stutzman said, “There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances.”
Apparently, Pentagon officials agree. During the Monday briefing, Admiral Richardson did not rule out cyber intrusion or internal sabotage. He also tweeted “No indications right now … but review will consider all possibilities.”
The latest “in a series of incidents on the Pacific theater” left 10 American sailors missing from the U.S.S. John McCain. The previous loss of life and frequency has officials looking for answers.
On January 31, the U.S.S. Antietam was relieved from service after running aground near the Yokosuka base. The guided-missile cruiser was returning to the 7th Fleet base in Japan. The damage was blamed on a series of incorrect judgments and other errors, and its captain was removed from command.
On May 9, the U.S.S. Lake Champlain, another guided-missile cruiser collided with a fishing boat near the Korean Peninsula. Although the damage to that ship was not severe and no one was harmed, the crash was suspicious.
The U.S.S. Fitzgerald lost the lives of seven crewman when it was struck off the coast of Japan in June. A merchant vessel carrying electronics (ACX Crystal) collided with the guided-missile cruiser 56 nautical miles southwest of the Yokosuka base. Questions remain about why it took so long to report the incident, and global shipping was disrupted by the event.
Now, yet another guided-missile ship, this time a destroyer has suffered the same fate. Too many coincidences usually add up to deliberate actions. Defense Secretary Mattis has ordered a “broader inquiry” that includes both incidents.
Richardson has appointed Admiral Phil Davidson to lead the investigation. An official close to the staff says that Richardson wants to rule out any bigger problems with naval performance first.
Stutzman said, “I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues.” In another incident on June 22, GPS signals in the Black Sea were manipulated. The spoofing went undetected because all remained normal. Plus, that type of hacking is relatively easy for anyone to accomplish.
Naval vessels and most ships use an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and GPS. However, AIS is easy to infiltrate. “Passenger shipping organizations and cruise lines … can be easily impacted,” said Eduardo E. Cabrera, the chief cyber security officer at Trend Micro, a Tokyo-based firm.
2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
— Adm. John Richardson (@CNORichardson) August 21, 2017
Other factors can contribute to a security breach too. Officers rotate regularly and procedures are shared. Moreover, crewman can download from the Internet using onboard networks. Both of these practices are big no-no’s with cyber experts.
At this point, the investigation has started, but officials aren’t saying much. A joint search effort is being carried out by U.S., Indonesian, Singaporean and Malayan navies to find the missing crew. Richardson has also called for a 48-hour “operational pause” in order to perform an immediate overall review of operational “fundamentals.”
Hopefully, the inquiry will shed light on any outdated navigation equipment that needs replaced, or a despicable criminal will be stopped.