Middle East attacks against international shipping - Iran at work

Yokel

LE
My apologies to @HectortheInspector for not posting on this thread, and to @merchantman as he has posted news elsewhere, but the latest attack seems different.

Attack On MT MERCER STREET (IMO9539585) - Dryad Global 30 July 21

Reporting indicates that the Liberian flagged MT MERCER STREET (IMO 9539585) has been attacked approximately 152nm NE Al Duqm, Oman.

Reports by UKMTO indicated an initial attack against an unnamed vessel occurring on 29 July 21 at 0700UTC, 86nm SE Al Duqm Port. An additional report was later circulated indicating a second attack at 2340UTC. Vessels were advised to avoid the area.

Whilst precise details remain unclear, it is assessed that both incidents are highly likely to have involved the same vessel.

Wider reporting indicates that the initial report related to the sighting of an unmanned aerial vehicle(UAV) that is understood to have “deployed flares”, which were reportedly seen falling into the water. The nature of the second attack remains unclear. However it is understood to have resulted in an explosion onboard the vessel. At the time of publishing it is understood that two personnel were killed in the attack [UPDATE: now confirmed one UK national and one Romanian National] understood to have been a senior member of the ships crew and the other was a member of an embarked security team.


For a UAV to be used to attack that far from land would mean them being launched from a ship....
 

Crazy_Chester

Old-Salt
The British lad was an MSO working for Ambrey. The second person killed was the Master of the vessel - a romanian. Hearing on the grapevine that the use of UAV was involved.
 
My apologies to @HectortheInspector for not posting on this thread, and to @merchantman as he has posted news elsewhere, but the latest attack seems different.

Attack On MT MERCER STREET (IMO9539585) - Dryad Global 30 July 21

Reporting indicates that the Liberian flagged MT MERCER STREET (IMO 9539585) has been attacked approximately 152nm NE Al Duqm, Oman.

Reports by UKMTO indicated an initial attack against an unnamed vessel occurring on 29 July 21 at 0700UTC, 86nm SE Al Duqm Port. An additional report was later circulated indicating a second attack at 2340UTC. Vessels were advised to avoid the area.

Whilst precise details remain unclear, it is assessed that both incidents are highly likely to have involved the same vessel.

Wider reporting indicates that the initial report related to the sighting of an unmanned aerial vehicle(UAV) that is understood to have “deployed flares”, which were reportedly seen falling into the water. The nature of the second attack remains unclear. However it is understood to have resulted in an explosion onboard the vessel. At the time of publishing it is understood that two personnel were killed in the attack [UPDATE: now confirmed one UK national and one Romanian National] understood to have been a senior member of the ships crew and the other was a member of an embarked security team.


For a UAV to be used to attack that far from land would mean them being launched from a ship....

How so? As you're posting this in CA, enlighten us all with your razor-sharp analysis?

 

Yokel

LE
The ship that was hit was far away from land, so a short range UAV launched from land would have been impossible. How does the operator communicate with it - the laws of Physics come into play. But a dhow launching it would not have this problem.
A position 151 nm NE of Duqm is not far from land. It's off Ras al Hadd
 

Yokel

LE
A position 151 nm NE of Duqm is not far from land. It's off Ras al Hadd

How far from land? VHF/UHF communications are line of sight, which is approximately to twelve nautical miles at sea level. Of course antenna heights are a feature, but still..

@jrwlynch has explained this in more detail - here.

I'll give it a go... the problem with "swarms of drones" is that (a) you need lots of them, (b) they need to communicate and share information to actually be a "swarm" rather than a "salvo".

"Lots" gets you the problem of individual cost and capability. Looking at some commercial UAV designs, $1500 buys you a well-recommended camcorder drone quadcopter with "up to 31 minutes flight time, 44 mph max speed, 907g takeoff weight".

So, a maximum speed of 38 knots, a flight time of 31 minutes, and less than a kilogram total weight. An aircraft carrier operating 25nm off the enemy coast is... completely safe from this drone - the battery dies before it's got halfway there (assuming that the Kind ISTAR Fairy has told the operators exactly where the carrier even was)

Indeed, when you put "long range drones" into a search engine, the categories are how many hundreds of metres you'd like your drone to roam from home base - very few can fly far enough that you'd need both hands to count the nautical miles. So, for anything based on retail COTS solutions, your "drone swarm" is a very short-range method.

I mentioned speed, didn't I? There's also the minor problem that the carrier may be zipping about at over 20 knots, and you won't need to add a lot of wind before... your drones simply can't make headway to catch it! A swarm of these will also have a definite signature, with all those rotor blades whirling away, that risk your target spotting the swarm and simply running away faster than they can pursue.

Now, assuming you've found the carrier, reached the carrier, caught up to it... you have to hurt it. With less than a kilogram of airframe, whose payload capacity is going to be greatly strained by carrying a hand grenade. Yes, it's sort of theoretically possible that you could fly your grenade-armed drone in through the bridge wing door and detonate... but it's just a hand grenade. The ship will still float, move and fight.


Of course, folk will then claim "we meant bigger drones", which takes us to capabilities like this being advanced for the notion of getting Amazon or Just Eat deliveries by UAV. An example capability is "The Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift delivery drone has a maximum speed of 93 mph (150 km/h) in fixed wing mode. It can fly for a distance of 53 miles (100 km) with a payload of 4.4 lbs (2 kg). It has a maximum payload of 13.2 lbs (6 kg)." That's getting a bit more like it - it's got the speed and range to at least reach an aircraft carrier. Unfortunately we're still only talking a 2kg payload at operational ranges, but enough of those blowing FOD over the deck, taking out radars, and so on will add up to real damage. On the other hand, this is now a rather larger beast (about 2m wingspan) with a price tag to match: if you want a significant "swarm" of them, it's going to start getting expensive - these are not cheap, even individually.

What if you want something with enough payload to actually inflict serious damage, rather than relying on "navigate to bump into a vulnerable spot"? There are UAVs that can carry hundreds of kilograms of payload... but by that point you're into unmanned helicopters, which have the size, signature and ease of being shot down of helicopters.

We've still not actually got the communications and algorithms to actually do "swarming", which will cost extra. And since I mentioned comms, there's the minor problem of all the electronic chit-chat a "swarm" will need to do to share information on who's where, who sees the target, what order to attack in, who's just been shot down... which is both detectable and jammable. Yes, you can encrypt, frequency-hop, use smart waveforms and other means to reduce your vulnerability... at a cost, which you have to pay for every drone.

Similarly, all these systems rely on satellite-based precision navigation and timing (PNT) which in civilian form is exquisitely vulnerable to trivially low-powered jamming (a quarter-watt jammer with a simple omnidirectional aerial can disable C/A code GPS at a range of twenty miles) - using military GPS, an anti-jam aerial, and coupling the satnav to a decent inertial navigation system like the Litton LN200 makes you much less vulnerable, but again that all comes at a (very significant) cost and every drone needs this treatment.

Using "swarms of tiny cheap drones" as standoff antiship weapons tends to lead into "actually, most of the time you just can't do that" on examination, and where there is a threat, there are countermeasures that make them less dangerous and more expensive and risky to try. By the time you start making the drones long-ranged and fast enough to do overwater operations, and big enough to carry ship-hurting warheads, with comms and nav systems able to resist jamming... they're getting too expensive to send "swarms" of, and they're worth expending ammunition (CIWS, Sea Ceptor, MR gunfire - UAVs make good targets for 5" gunfire according to the US Black Dart trials) to shoot down - and now, with "laser CIWS" like Dragonfire and the US AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System going from "fantasy death ray" to "possible Phalanx replacement" they're very useful counter-UAV defences.

It's not something to ignore, but it's certainly not the magical "this concept makes all surface ships instantly obsolete" that some of the more excitable writers seem to believe: there's usually a confused set of assumptions about a huge swarm of tiny undetectable nano-UAVs with hundred-mile range, high speed, incredible sensors, lethal payloads, perfect yet secure comms, and trivial cost... all of which are individually feasible but many of the combinations are diametrically incompatible, while the realistic possibilities are actually rather less alarming..
 

Yokel

LE
It does appear that there are multiple events taking place in that part of the World. I imagine that USNAVCENT and UKMCC are rather busy right now.



Hat tip to @British_And_Proud for the upfate.

UAV attack the other day, today limpet mine attack and boarding.
 
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Sky News.
"Oil tankers - Queen Ematha, Golden Brilliant, Jag Pooja and Abyss - all reported through their Automatic Identification System trackers they were "not under command", according to MarineTraffic.com."

I could have sworn @Yokel, I seen on another intel based twitter handle, that a second ship was possibly boarded as well.

Iran maybe saying here lads... hit back for the drone attack the other day and we can create mayhem with your oil supplies via tanker?
 

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