Surface Forces: Pre-Dawn Madness

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February 21, 2008: The Japanese media jumped all over the Japanese Navy recently, when a 7,700 ton Aegis destroyer collided with a 37 foot long fishing boat at four in the morning. The sea was calm, and the media was alarmed that the Aegis radar could not spot a fishing boat. Pundits quickly pointed out that Aegis is an air defense radar, and not much good at spotting surface targets (although it can do that.) Destroyers have navigational radar, which should have spotted a fishing boat of that size, especially in calm seas. The cause of the accident is more likely someone on the destroyer bridge not being alert. That tends to happen at 4 AM, especially in a new ship (the Atago entered service a year ago) with a new crew. Someone on the bridge did spot the fishing boat, but only about 60 seconds before the collision. Critics were all over the navy about how terrorists could use this lack of attention to sneak up on Japanese warships.

This is the first collision of a Japanese warship in twenty years. The last one involved a submarine colliding with a fishing boat in broad daylight, in Tokyo Bay, killing 30 civilians. The latest collision apparently killed the two men running the fishing boat, which was about 40 kilometers off the coast.


 


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