Monday, March 9, 2009

USNS Impeccable & USNS Victorious vs. the Chinese Navy

AP and Reuters both had reports about five Chinese ships that harassed a U.S. surveillance ship in the South China Sea this past Sunday. At the time of the incident, the USNS Impeccable was about 75 miles of Hainan, China - in international waters.

Said Chinese vessels "...shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the U.S. ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters," the Pentagon said in a written statement.

Two of the Chinese vessels came by the Impeccable within 50 feet, waving Chinese flags and told the U.S. ship to leave the area.

USNS Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the vessels in order to protect itself which cause the Chinese crewmembers to disrobe down to their underwear and continued to close to within 25 feet of the Impeccable.

And when the Impeccable alerted the Chinese that it was seeking a safe path to depart the area, two of the Chinese ships stopped "dirctly ahead of USNS Impeccable, forcing the Impeccable to conduct an emergency 'all stop' in order to avoid collision. The Chinese dropped pieces of wood in the water directly in front of Impeccable's path.

Turns out that THIS is the third such incident over the past week. The first one was last Wednesday when a Chinese Bureau of Fisheries Patrol vessel used a spotlight to illuminate the ocean surveillance ship USNS Victorious (T-AGOS-19). This incident took place 125 miles from China's coastline in the Yellow Sea. The Chinese ship crossed the bows of USNS Victorious at a range of 1,400 yards in darkness without notice or warning.

The next day, a Chinese frigate crossed the USNS Impeccable bow's at a range of about 100 yeards. This was followed two hours later by Chinese Y-12 Aircraft whivh conducted Eleven (11) fly-bys of Impeccable at an altitude of 600 feet and ranges from 100 to 300 feet away from the Navy vessel. Then the Chinese frigate showed up again to cross Impeccable's bows yet again - this time out to aobut 400-500 yards away. Again no "rendering of courtesy or ntoice of intentions."

And then on Saturday, a Chinese inelligence collection ship challended USNS Impeccable over the bridge-to-bridge radio, "calling (Impeccable) operations illegal and directing Impeccable to leave the area or 'suffer the consequences."

USNS Impeccable is an twin hull Ocean Surveillance Ship, a part of the Military Sealift Command's (MSC) Special Mission Ships Program. Now, these ships are operated by civilian mariners who work for private companies under contract to MSC. The USNS Impeccable was launched in 1998, and commissioned into the US Navy in 2001. While underway, it deploys a LF passive sonar that requires a combined crew of merchant marines, surveillance towed array sensor system operators (SOC) techs, and regualr U.S. Navy sonar technicians.


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