Monday, October 16, 2017

The Report on the HMS SHEFFIELD: 35-yrs Later

Top of the fold article in the UK's The Guardian that should demand your attention this AM.

Ian Cobain has a superb summary following a review of the fully declassified results from the board of inquiry into the loss of the Sheffield during The Falkland Islands War.

I'll make the assumption that my readers are very familiar with the attack on the SHEFFIELD, if not - slap yourself three times, get to the bookcase and comeback. Instead, here are some of the findings as reported by Ian. And yes, we can all see this moment in time on ships we've served on;
- Some members of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity” and the ship was “not fully prepared” for an attack.

- The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom when the Argentinian navy launched the attack, while his assistant had left “to visit the heads” (relieve himself). 
- The radar on board the ship that could have detected incoming Super √Čtendard fighter aircraft had been blanked out by a transmission being made to another vessel.

- When a nearby ship, HMS Glasgow, did spot the approaching aircraft, the principal warfare officer in the Sheffield’s ops room failed to react, “partly through inexperience, but more importantly from inadequacy”.

- The anti-air warfare officer was recalled to the ops room, but did not believe the Sheffield was within range of Argentina’s Super √Čtendard aircraft that carried the missiles.
- When the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerised” by the sight and did not broadcast a warning to the ship’s company.
I have a lot of sympathy for the crew and leadership of the SHEFFIELD. They fit in a centuries long record of navies content in peace having a spotty transition to war.

The attack always come at a bad time, from a bad direction, doing things you were trained the enemy could not do, when you are worn down by constant watches and little sleep. 

At the end of the day, later with plenty of time, hindsight, and comfort; other people ashore will pick and pick at every detail to find fault - and so it was, is, and will be.

Before one judges too much Captain Salt, RN and his crew, make the effort to read it all - and understand the context and time.

I cannot find an online copy of the unredacted version The Guardian mentions, but here is a copy of the previously highly redacted copy.

The results continue to rightfully influence ship design and training. There are very few examples of what can happen in modern naval combat, and the weapons have not changed all that much in the last few decades - and physics along with the human element are unchanged.

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