Navy Pilot Recounts The Secret Stalking Of North Korea's Missile Laden Cargo Ship So San

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In 2001, I used to be assigned to Provider Air Wing 14 (CVW-14), at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California. I wore two “hats” for CVW-14. First, I used to be the Pressure Safety (FP) and Anti-Terrorism (AT) Officer. The seven squadrons of CVW-14 had been geographically dispersed at Naval Air Stations Lemoore, Level Mugu, and North Island, all in California, at Whidbey Island in Washington, and Norfolk in Virginia. I used to be liable for FP/AT for all of them. Second, I used to be the Seahawk Weapons and Techniques Teacher (SWTI) on employees, so I skilled the helicopter squadron assigned to CVW-14, the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4 (HS-Four) Black Knights, at NAS North Island in Coronado, California.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I used to be in my condo in San Diego, burning off some “use or lose” depart. My solely drawback for the week was deciding which seashore to hit every day of my “staycation.” At 0700, I used to be woke up by a name from my “little boss,” the Operations Officer for CVW-14 who merely stated “Get up. The large boss needs a name at zero800 with a standing replace.” Click on.  

My “massive boss,” the Commander, CVW-14, needed a cellphone name from me at zero800 with a standing replace… On what? I used to be used to being interrupted on depart. It occurs, However why? I referred to as again to Lemoore—no reply. I referred to as the helicopter squadron at North Island—no reply. I turned on the TV, noticed the information, and thought—effectively, that is what he needs.

I ultimately acquired by to all seven squadrons within the air wing, confirmed they had been set at Pressure Safety Situation (FPCON) Alpha (as in the event that they wanted me to inform them that) and referred to as again to Lemoore at zero800.

I advised the massive boss that his air wing was at FPCON Alpha and he requested if I had some other inputs. I replied, “Sir, it might have been rather a lot worse. To this point, there’s no indication they used Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).” To be clear, the assaults of 9/11 had been horrific. Equally clear—they might have been far worse.

Shortly after 9/11, Bush administration officers started sensitizing the American public to the truth that having endured the traditional assaults of 9/11, America wanted to organize for and forestall what the enemy was clearly making an attempt to do subsequent, acquire WMD to conduct an even bigger, deadlier assault, both within the U.S. or abroad.

Nearly precisely a yr later, on Sunday, September eight, 2002, then Nationwide Safety Adviser Condoleezza Rice, whereas making the case for the U.S. to invade Iraq and finish Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, a method or one other, stated “we do not need the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” By that time, I used to be now not in San Diego. I used to be in Japan, on the point of stop that mushroom cloud from taking place, by taking down a ship that was (or so we thought) transporting WMD.  

Ahead Deployed Naval Forces Are All the time Prepared

In June of 2002, I reported to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 (HS-14), the Chargers, a part of Provider Air Wing 5 (CVW-5), stationed at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan. Collectively, HS-14 and CVW-5 had been assigned to the plane provider USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) stationed simply down the highway in Yokosuka.

At the moment, CVW-5 was comprised of three squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets and one squadron every of F-14 Tomcats, S-Three Vikings, E-2 Hawkeyes, EA-6B Prowlers, and SH-60 Seahawks. In different phrases, we had been the one helicopter squadron within the air wing, which meant at instances we wound up getting pulled in many various instructions. It is higher to have an excessive amount of to do than not sufficient, however as the one helicopter squadron, we had been by no means plagued with insufficient tasking. We at all times had extra prospects and tasking than operational bandwidth.


For many of its historical past, the Navy’s provider fleet has adopted a cycle of deployment, adopted by a post-deployment stand down and upkeep interval, adopted by a coaching and train cycle in preparation for deployment, adopted by one other deployment. Through the post-deployment and stand down upkeep interval, the provider and provider air wing are in a enormously diminished readiness standing. The provider and its plane are in heavy upkeep, personnel are in classroom coaching, and a comparatively restricted quantity of coaching flights are being executed. For a provider/air wing group on this standing, it could take at the least 45 days to organize to deploy—put plane again collectively, end or cancel floor coaching, get all of the pilots requalified on provider landings, and so forth.

In distinction, FDNF are manned, skilled, and geared up to be at all times prepared for deployment. Our tether was measured in hours, not days. At any given time the ship and air wing needed to have a sure share of personnel on station, able to deploy, in addition to a sure variety of plane in a Full Mission Succesful (FMC) standing. Utilizing the nomenclature of the time, we had been continually at T-1 ranges of coaching and readiness, at M-1 ranges of materiel help, and at C-1 ranges of fight functionality general. To be clear, the FDNF provider and air wing stationed in Japan do execute deployments, they’re simply of shorter length and higher frequency than the usual six- to eight-month deployments of the remainder of the provider fleet, which is stationed within the Continental United States.

Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14’s Construction And Mission

In 2002, HS-14 was geared up with 5 SH-60F and three HH-60H Seahawk helicopters. Like all carrier-based HS squadrons on the time, we had a really difficult and various set of missions. Because the identify signifies, the first mission of the squadron was Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). 

With a robust and correct dipping sonar, the SH-60F Seahawk airframes had been optimized for ASW within the plane provider inside protection zone. From a hover, the sonar could possibly be lowered on a cable into the water, then begin actively pinging. If a submarine was inside detection vary, the sonar waves would bounce off the hull and be picked up and displayed by our onboard processor. In distinction, the HH-60H was optimized for Naval Particular Warfare (NSW) help. It had a Ahead Wanting Infrared (FLIR) turret on the nostril, an ordinary suite of Plane Survivability Gear (ASE) resembling Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Infra-Pink Guided Missile Counter Measure (IRCM) units, chaff and flare dispensers, and a wire strike safety system. 

HH-60H dropping off some SEALs through fast-rope throughout a boarding train. 

Moreover, the HH-60H might carry a rail on the port facet of the plane holding as much as 4 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, in addition to crew-served machine weapons. With all of the seats stripped out within the again, it had simply sufficient room to hold as much as ten or eleven whole personnel, between aircrew and SEALS.

For an optimum/totally supported NSW mission, we’d have two of the HH-60Hs geared up with M-60/M-240 7.62 mm machine weapons, one out the port window, and one on the starboard facet within the cabin door, with two to 3 aircrewmen and eight SEALS onboard. The third HH-60H would serve in a command position and as a weapons truck, loaded with Hellfire missiles, a .50 cal machine gun within the cabin door on the starboard facet, a SEAL sniper or two, and the senior rating officer for the SEAL detachment to supply command and management. 

Relying on the dimensions/risk/nature of the NSW mission, we might roll in some help from the SH-60B Seahawks flown by Helicopter Antisubmarine Mild Fifty One (HSL-51), the Warlords, additionally stationed at NAF Atsugi. Just like the HH-60H, the SH-60B had a FLIR and Hellfire functionality; it additionally had a floor search radar and sturdy knowledge hyperlink. Each these capabilities had been very helpful within the maritime NSW setting, particularly within the extraordinarily congested waters of the Pacific Rim.

HS-14 helos over a SSGN.

On the time, HS squadrons flew SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawks primarily off of the plane carriers, and HSL squadrons flew SH-60B Seahawks primarily off of floor combatants, resembling frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. Though, relying on the mission, we’d “cross deck” to one another’s ships as required. In any case, for a maritime NSW mission, relying on what the goal and operation regarded like, we’d have a mixture of HH-60Hs and tricked-out SH-60Fs carrying SEALS, an HH-60H serving as a fireplace help and/or command platform, and an SH-60B offering situational consciousness and comms through radar and knowledge hyperlink.

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Who Desires Some Scud Missiles?

Many veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq refer to those conflicts as “unending wars,” and with good cause. However lengthy earlier than the U.S. ever contemplated getting concerned in armed battle in both of these nations, we entered into a special land conflict on the opposite facet of Asia, on the Korean peninsula. Whereas the Korean Armistice Settlement of 1953 put a cease to lively fight as a part of the Korean Battle, it didn’t formally finish the conflict. Consequently, U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula continually practice to varied “renewal of hostilities” situations. The FDNF provider/air wing group, though stationed in Japan, are integral to those contingency plans. For sure, lots of our consideration was centered on the Korean peninsula, and no matter shenanigans the North Koreans had been as much as.

Since 1953, North Korea has engaged in loads of malfeasance on or close to the Korean peninsula, together with initiating a number of armed skirmishes on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), infiltrating North Korean troopers carrying South Korean army uniforms into South Korea, printing extraordinarily correct counterfeit U.S. forex and distributing it in South Korea, kidnapping Japanese residents, and the record goes on.

Past their destabilizing exercise on the Korean peninsula itself, North Korea has been a chosen state sponsor of terror for over twenty years. One of many causes it has been listed as a state sponsor of terror is that it gives help to different designated state sponsors of terror, together with Iran and Syria. 

Scud SRBM being raised for launch on its TEL.

North Korea is the first technical enabler of the Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear weapons packages. We knew all this on the time, after all. There has by no means been any doubt as to the character of the North Korean regime. What modified after 9/11 was that North Korea had been recognized by President Bush as a part of the “axis of evil” together with Iran and Iraq. We knew that the North Koreans had been exporting ballistic missiles to the Center East and we had been about to expertise what the U.S. and its allies had been ready to do to cease it first hand.

Quick Discover Maritime Interdiction Operation

Regardless that it was 17 years in the past, out of an abundance of warning, I’m going to go away out among the particulars of the mission. Suffice to say within the fall of 2012, we acquired message site visitors that Commander, Seventh Fleet (C7F) was placing collectively a job pressure and we had been to provide three helicopters and ample pilots, aircrew, and maintainers to that job pressure to conduct a Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) that might final at the least 30 days. 

C7F is the numbered Navy fleet that workout routines command and management over all Navy belongings within the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. C7F has a large footprint—consider it as working from simply west of Hawaii during the Western Pacific, and throughout the Indian Ocean to the Pakistani shoreline, the place Commander, Fifth Fleet (C5F) takes over.

We had been ordered to report back to Okinawa. Readers can be accustomed to lots of the bigger U.S. army installations on Okinawa, together with Kadena Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Much less well-known is the U.S. Navy facility at White Seaside. It’s little greater than a large pier extending 2,500 toes out into Nakagusuku Bay and a few shore help amenities, however that’s all we would have liked to rally up. 

Three floor ships, embarking a complete of 5 helicopters, three HH-60Hs and two SH-60Bs, and a platoon of SEALS (roughly 16 personnel), in addition to a few EOD techs gathered on the pier. We had been underneath strict orders to not talk about the mission and had been advised we’d not get any additional intelligence on it till we acquired underway.

The cockpit of an HH-60H.

We had by no means labored with this specific SEAL platoon earlier than, so we took the chance to speak issues over with them, go over the plane, stroll by our Helicopter Go to Board Search and Seizure (HVBSS) and fast-rope terminology. We weren’t speaking about our specific mission per se—none of us knew for certain what it was—however we thought it could be a good suggestion to verify we had been all on the identical web page usually earlier than we acquired underway. 

We had been toes dry in Okinawa for not more than 48 hours. This was simply sufficient time to assemble everybody collectively, get provides loaded, work out how we had been going to separate the helicopters, pilots, aircrew, and SEALs among the many three floor ships, and get a superficial inbrief with the duty pressure commander. This consisted primarily of a “who’s who within the zoo” knowledge dump on what ships, plane, and personnel had been within the job pressure.

Why We Bought The Mission As an alternative of 160th SOAR

In a earlier article, I mentioned why Navy SEALs fly most of their “toes dry” missions on Military and Air Pressure helicopters, however this operation is a good instance of the alternative state of affairs.

As we had been loading up in Okinawa, we heard rumors that the 160th Particular Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) detachment in South Korea was making a bid to take the lead for flight help. Whereas the 160th does nice work, we by no means thought we’d lose this mission to them. This was a purely maritime NSW mission and there are too many issues that land-based helicopters simply cannot do effectively on ships. Military helicopters have operated efficiently from massive deck Navy ships like plane carriers, amphibious assault ships, and provide ships, however working from small-deck floor combatants is one other difficulty totally.

The primary video beneath exhibits your entire idea of the Restoration Help Safe Traverse (RAST) course of that helicopters use on small floor combatant and the second video exhibits an SH-60B utilizing the system:

In an effort to conduct RAST landings, helicopters must have the entire related tools constructed into the airframe—it is not one thing you possibly can add on in a number of hours or days earlier than the mission. The truth is that small ships pitch, roll, and yaw far more than the massive ships the 160th SOAR was used to working off of. As such, there was no risk that they had been going to have the ability to take this mission.

Positive sufficient, inside 36 hours of getting the preliminary put together to deploy order, we additionally acquired affirmation that this could be an all-Navy mission. Navy ships, Navy SEALS, Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), and Navy helicopters. Typically it appears our trendy strategy to warfighting takes the joint strategy too far and it felt good to have an all Navy mission.

Underway And Mission Transient

An hour or two after we acquired underway, the pilots, aircrew, SEALS, and EOD techs acquired the total inbrief on the mission. Positive sufficient, as suspected, it was a North Korean ship we’d be going after, the So San. On the inbriefing, we acquired among the intel that recognized the So San in port in North Korea being loaded with Scud missiles. Whereas there was no definitive proof of WMD being loaded, the potential was clearly there. WMD are rather a lot smaller than Scud missiles. We knew the Scud missiles had been there, we needed to assume that WMD may also be current, too.

The mission was clear—we had been going to conduct a multi-helicopter assault in opposition to the So San, ideally at night time, with 4 helicopters—two HH-60Hs loaded with eight SEALS and EOD techs every, one other HH-60H functioning as a weapons truck with missiles, machine weapons, and SEAL snipers, and an SH-60B for comms relay and radar cueing. This was a mission we had practiced endlessly and we had executed quite a lot of unopposed precise HVBSS operations prior to now. 

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Right here is an effective video of a observe HVBSS performed out of an MH-60S, which is similar to an HH-60H. An unopposed HVBSS in permissive circumstances would look similar to this:

We had been excited to know the goal, get the mission, and begin getting ready. However as we regarded just a little nearer on the pictures we had of the So San, it shortly turned obvious this could be a really troublesome ship to take down through HVBSS, as a result of variety of cables and wires strung across the ship.

In an effort to execute the HVBSS, a helicopter has to hover over a transparent house on the deck of the ship, a fast-rope must be tossed out of the helicopter to the deck, then the SEALS and EOD personnel must quickly descend the rope. The So San had little or no clear deck house. It is cargo loading cranes and stanchions had been all stayed with a number of cables and wires. That may make the insertion through fast-rope extraordinarily troublesome, and gradual.


We mentioned taking pictures out the wires with the Navy SEAL snipers and the Officer in Cost (OIC) of the platoon. Finally, we determined the benefit gained by taking pictures out the wires was lower than the danger incurred by firing the primary shot. If this was going to devolve from a shock HVBSS in the midst of the night time right into a firefight, we needed the North Korean sailors to take the primary shot. 

Keep in mind, we had three HH-60H helicopters, two of which had two M-60/M-240 machine weapons, considered one of which had a .50 cal machine gun and 4 Hellfires, plus a SEAL sniper at our disposal. If it went scorching, we had been assured we had sufficient firepower to shortly suppress any resistance. One of the best consequence right here was to take down the ship with none photographs fired and with none of the North Korean sailors getting killed. Relying on what the cargo turned out to be, their worth as intelligence belongings could be vital, and naturally, if we killed them on the way in which in, they could not inform us something.

An HH-60H door gunner.

It is Simply Scud Missiles, Who Cares?

The army efficacy of the Scud missile is comparatively restricted. It’s a short-range ballistic missile with extraordinarily poor accuracy. As a primary strike or counter strike weapon geared toward army targets, it’s of just about no worth. With that stated, it’s a very efficient weapon to be used in terror assaults in opposition to civilian populations. Through the Gulf Battle, Saddam Hussein’s forces launched roughly 42 Scud missiles at Israel. This motion, greater than anything, threatened to shatter the delicate U.S.-led coalition.

In any case, the U.S. was very on this cargo of Scud missiles—the place was it going? Who was the supposed recipient? What was their goal in buying the missiles? 

As an added complicating issue, on the time North Korea was reportedly increasing its WMD program. It was potential that together with the Scud missiles, North Korea was proliferating Nuclear, Organic, or Chemical (NBC) weapons, their parts, or their related applied sciences. Whereas we weren’t at conflict with North Korea, we actually had been at a state of heightened pressure and any trace of WMD ratcheted up the depth much more.

Coaching, Monitoring, And Coaching Some Extra

It was slightly below 1,000 nautical miles from Okinawa to the port the place the So San was positioned. Once more, out of an abundance of warning, I’m not going to inform you which port the So San was getting underway from. Suffice to say North Korea has quite a lot of ports on the east coast of the Korean peninsula, with direct entry to the Sea of Japan, and on the west coast of the Korean peninsula, with direct entry to the Yellow Sea. Each of those seas are extraordinarily crowded with business transport and fishing vessels. Our plan was to put off the coast far sufficient that North Korean intelligence wouldn’t detect us, wait to get “cued” onto the So San, then comply with it through primarily visible monitoring, utilizing the 5 helicopters in our job pressure plus different land and sea-based plane. 


After all, all three ships and each SH-60B helicopters had highly effective radars that would have tracked the So San pretty simply, however U.S. army radars have a really particular emissions signature. Had we used lively radar to trace the So San, it may need keyed them in as to our presence.

As soon as we had been on station off the Korean Peninsula, we started coaching for the mission. We had all performed dozens of observe HVBSS operations and a few of us had fairly a number of unopposed HVBSS missions underneath our belt, however this could be a reasonably large operation—as much as 5 helicopters airborne directly, with the potential that it might flip right into a firefight at any time. 

Most Navy floor combatant vessels have a helicopter hangar with room for 2 birds, however just one can launch at a time. From the time one helicopter launches, it may well take as much as 30 minutes to get the second helicopter out of the hangar, unfold its rotor head, and get it spun up and launched. Launching 5 plane from three separate vessels was going to take some timing and coordination, so we started practising the mission, day and night time.

It appeared like endlessly, however it was solely a few days that we needed to look forward to the So San to get underway. As soon as it was, we started a sport of cat and mouse. We needed to keep shut sufficient to the So San to maintain visible contact through helicopters and FLIR, however not so shut that it could see us. We had different nationwide reconnaissance belongings exterior to the duty pressure to assist cue us in, as effectively. 


Precisely how we tracked the So San past utilizing our Mark 1 Mod zero eyeballs, I’ll depart as much as the reader’s creativeness. Suffice to say, from shortly after it acquired underway till the So San was boarded, 6,500 miles away from North Korea, the U.S. Navy knew precisely the place the ship was.

Is Tonight The Night time?

We had been advised the execute order on this mission was going to be made on the nationwide stage, so our native commanders wouldn’t have any extra of a heads-up then we’d. We knew the execute order might come down at any minute, however we additionally knew that our window to execute the order was night time time and most likely late at night time or early within the morning. 

We shortly developed a rhythm. If we didn’t get the execute order by about zero500, we knew we had been off for the following twelve hours and went to sleep. We would rise up round 1200, verify the message site visitors, see what was on the boards, and plan our coaching flight for the day/night. 

We did the primary two or three coaching flights in the course of the day, to maximise security and familiarity with one another. As soon as we had our battle rhythm down, we began doing most of our coaching flights at night time. So, relying on sundown, we’d usually plan a late afternoon/early night launch, look forward to whole darkness, do a observe HVBSS, land, stow the plane, and wait within the wardroom on the ship, questioning if tonight was the night time we’d get the go order. 


We had been usually performed with our coaching flight by round 2130 and within the wardroom by 2200 every night time. The wardroom is mainly a small eating room for officers, which doubles as a planning house between meals. We sat across the desk, consuming Eating regimen Coke, ready for the go order till zero500, then we would hit the rack. 

The go order by no means got here.

What The Films Depart Out: Good Work, Now Go Dwelling

Within the motion pictures, there may be at all times a mission, and at all times a go order. In actual life, an entire heck of lots of army operations include getting ready to do one thing, then not doing it. 

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That is what occurred on this case. 

It is 6,500 miles from Korea to the place the So San was ultimately taken into custody. Our job pressure of three ships, 5 helicopters, about 20 pilots and aircrew, a SEAL platoon, and some EOD techs tracked the So San for lots of that distance, however not all of it. 

An HH-60H crewman waits at nighttime.

The additional away we acquired from our residence base of Japan with out getting the go order, the extra skeptical we’d ever get it. The mission began to look much more like a babysitting operation than a takedown. We began to take a position that now that nationwide reconnaissance belongings had been dialed in on the So San, the chance was we’d be referred to as off. 

The logic was clear—if the So San was headed to the Center East, the sensible play was to let it get as near the supposed vacation spot as potential, collect intelligence, see what they had been as much as and the place they had been going, earlier than taking the ship. 

Positive sufficient, after a number of weeks on mission, we acquired the decision. We had been canceled. The duty pressure was heading again to Japan.

Do not Fear, This Battle Ain’t Ending Anytime Quickly

I bear in mind the precise second the mission was canceled. It was nearly sundown and we had a no-fly day scheduled to permit the maintainers to make amends for working off gripes on the birds. I used to be standing on the fantail with a number of of the opposite pilots when the ship slowed down, turned 180 levels and picked up pace. All of us knew even earlier than studying the message site visitors that our job pressure had been ordered again to Japan. 

No person had a lot to say, besides considered one of my aircrewman, who checked out me and stated “Don’t fret, sir. This conflict ain’t ending anytime quickly.” I laughed and let the bitterness slip away. 

The mission wasn’t a failure—another person would take down the So San. It simply would not be us.


Spanish Navy Will get The Prize

On Monday, Dec. 9, 2002, the Spanish Navy frigate Navarra (F85), accompanied by its oiler and help vessel Patino, hailed the So San on bridge-to-bridge radio frequency. Navarra challenged it to cease and put together to be boarded and inspected. On the time of the problem, the So San was positioned a number of hundred miles southeast of Yemen, roughly the place the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden meet.

The So San ignored the verbal problem and continued on its method. Accordingly, the Navarra fired warning photographs throughout the bow of the So San, which prompted it to cease and settle for the boarding. 

The Navarra.

As the next image exhibits, when the Spanish Navy lastly did execute the HVBSS takedown of the So San, they did so in the course of the day, after confirming with the captain of the So San that they’d be coming aboard. However earlier than they fast-roped in, Spanish snipers shot off among the information wires. As you possibly can see, the ahead cargo publish has no aft tending information wire stays.

a Sea King helicopter from Navarra fast-roping a VBSS group aboard. 

A detachment of Spanish Sailors and Marines boarded the vessel with out incident and commenced the search. Within the cargo maintain, they found, as anticipated, a cargo of 15 Scud missiles, hid underneath luggage of cement. 

What was not instantly clear was the vacation spot of the missiles. Regardless of rampant hypothesis that different extra nefarious cargo could be onboard, repeated searches of the So San by a U.S. technical group revealed nothing of significance apart from the Scud missiles.

The cargo maintain of So San had concrete packages overlaying containers loaded with Scud missile parts. 





Iran? Sudan? Iraq? Al Qaeda? No…Yemen

At first, the captain of the So San wouldn’t reveal his supposed vacation spot. Hypothesis was rampant that the supposed recipient of the Scuds was both a state sponsor of terror or a overseas terrorist group (FTO). Ultimately, the Yemeni authorities filed a criticism with the U.S. Division of State because the cargo of Scuds was actually destined for Yemen, a rustic which at the moment was ostensibly allied with the U.S. coalition within the ongoing anti-terrorism operations that had been then referred to as the World Battle on Terror (GWOT). 

So, after lots of excessive visibility drama that made the entrance web page of newspapers around the globe, we let the So San go on its method to Yemen the place it delivered its cargo of cement and Scuds.

Was This A Spanish Navy or A U.S. Navy Mission? Sure.

Whereas the Spanish Navy in the end executed the Go to, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) of the So San, this was, from inception to completion, a U.S. Navy mission. On the level of seizure, U.S. management decided to let our Spanish ally take the lead. That was a irritating determination for many people within the Navy that had spent over a month monitoring the So San, however it was additionally the suitable determination.

Though Spain has a restricted army functionality, within the rapid aftermath of 9/11, it agreed to work carefully with the U.S. authorities on the GWOT. As greatest I can inform, the choice to permit the Spanish Navy the prize of really taking down the So San was supposed to thank them for the cooperation and to solidify their standing as an in depth U.S. ally within the GWOT. It was additionally an opportunity for the Spanish Navy to indicate that it might conduct essential, excessive visibility operations at a distance from Spain.

Spanish Protection Ministry/Getty Photographs)
Spanish commandos aboard So San.

From Main Win To Fake Pas?

Initially, the seize of the So San and discovery of Scud missiles regarded like a significant win for the Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) part of the GWOT. 

The overwhelming majority of the know-how switch between the ballistic missile and nuclear program of North Korea and Iran takes place on ships, as does the switch of weapons from Iran to Sudan. Additionally, nearly all of Iran’s switch of rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas takes place by ships. If you wish to cease the State Sponsors of Terror from serving to one another and serving to their allied or cooperative FTOs, it is advisable to have an efficient MIO program. 

The general public does not know a lot in regards to the MIO program, however within the aftermath of 9/11, the Navy and its allies had been conducting or getting ready to conduct MIO in dozens of areas around the globe. It is the epitome of a low profile, excessive impression mission. 

So, efficiently detecting, monitoring, intercepting, and boarding the So San was a significant, excessive visibility win for the Navy MIO program—proper up till the purpose we discovered the Scuds belonged to an ostensible ally.

Spanish Navy snipers present cowl aboard Narvarra in the course of the boarding, search, and seizure operation.

A Small Win Is Nonetheless A Win

Looking back, the mission was executed accurately. There was no method to know the place the Scud missiles had been going and boarding the So San was the one affordable plan of action to take. The truth that a U.S. ally was shopping for Scud missiles from North Korea was portrayed by the media as a humiliation, however most of us concerned within the mission did not see it that method. 

The whole lot in regards to the So San mission was performed accurately. The truth that Yemen was shopping for Scuds from North Korea painted the nation in a far worse mild than the U.S. determination to interdict the cargo and verify its vacation spot. 

Backside line, the Scuds weren’t destined for a state sponsor of Terror or FTO. Nonetheless, the U.S. Navy validated its functionality to detect, monitor, and seize illicit cargo on the excessive seas. 

We sailed away disenchanted that it wasn’t an even bigger win, however a small win continues to be a win.


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