A few days ago, I wrote about how peaceful life can be in the office. Well, it can be if you’re not bothered about the repercussions of your work. Not to mention the fact that the boss thinks you’re working when in fact you’re enjoying your morning coffee and the local rag.
As usual, I was on my way home on a Sunday evening having visited a museum in Leiden; and unusually, it was with my friend Hendrik. We were chatting about this and that, and just before we parted our ways to travel to our respective homes, I spoke about the overflying of US naval vessels in the Black Sea and off the coast of Kaliningrad.
To the US military officials, this is a technicality; indeed, it is presented as such in the mainstream media.
This evening, the reality dawned on me.
I mean, it is one thing to play such things down, tell those who don’t know anything about what is happening that it is a detail and you don’t have to worry because you know that the US is the best and always has been.
It’s not as if the military high-ups have to worry about the personnel on the ships because, well, they are there to do as they’re told. This is the navy, after all.
Only in doing this, the military high-ups are doing their personnel a disservice: the reality of those overflights was that the US vessel was blinded. At least, in electronic terms and thankfully only temporarily. All the crew could do was stand and watch as an enemy jet practiced a missile run – albeit without any missiles. The warning was very clear: if the Russians wanted to do this for real, they could.
What’s more, there is nothing the Americans can do about it.
The issue here isn’t that the crew of the US vessel were intimidated, or that they were cowed by the actions of one or two jets. It was the fact that it happened. Furthermore, there was – and is – nothing the media or anybody else can do about this by telling everybody else that it doesn’t matter.
The people who matter are the people manning the vessels at sea.
Camaraderie, Gossip And Morale.
Add to this that in any professional group, the camaraderie is pretty close. News of the effects of the overflights would spread like wildfire – and even if the servicemen didn’t believe what happened, there are those who would. For those who didn’t believe their comrades in arms, the effect on them would be the more devastating if it did actually happen. Unpreparedness is something I spoke of in my post ‘Toddler Taming’.
In the last few years there has been enough time for every serviceman in the US navy to know the power of the Russian aircraft. Or, for that matter, a Russian submarine.
Morale, that indefinable ‘esprit du corps’ that keeps an experienced regiment in the field agains the odds, is not something that can be pushed about by an admiral. The serviceman’s bosses in the Pentagon may tell them that it’s nothing to worry about. The American public may be totally unaware of what their servicemen have witnessed, and tell them it’s nothing to worry about because it’s not in the news… it only makes the serviceman feel the more isolated in his knowledge of the realities. Without the support of his fellows, his imagination can run riot.
It does nothing to help the serviceman when they realize that they have the beeping of a Russian aircraft on their radar screens and they know that in five seconds the only things they will hear are the cooling fans. Because the entire system has been shut down by the enemy aircraft as it nears. That is when the full horror of what the Russians are doing to US personnel will dawn on the disbelievers.
It has to be stated that the Russians did have to get very close to the ships in order to close them down, as it were. Even with an aircraft travelling at 800 kilometres an hour, they’d be on the radar screens and engaged by the American missile systems minutes before the Russians got close. The fact remains that the Russians are engaging in psychological warfare.
The real problem for the US navy is the undetectability of the Russian submarines. Even the aged ‘Kilo’ class from the late 70s are stealth technology to the Americans. There really is nothing the Americans can do about them. The Russian torpedoes might be out-dated seventies equipment that is noisy and thus easy to detect. Only a super-cavitation torpedo has an underwater speed of 400 km/h, which doesn’t give the Americans much time to react. Leave alone engage or out-manoeuvre the threat. By the time they know it’s there, the submarine has vanished again. If they ever detected it in the first place.
Not a nice position to be in.