[Intel Source: NOSI] Once again, I'm proven prophetic (I think). Back when USS Virginia (SSN 774) left on her maiden "deployment" in September, I predicted that we'd see people claiming that they were going to the Southern Command region to spy on Venezuela. I think I might have been proven right, based on this story/blog entry in the Washington Post that says... well, I don't really know what the hell he's trying to say. Excerpt:
"Whether Latin America is Rumsfeld's host to "relatively little" terrorism activity or is a hotbed that constitutes yet again a soft underbelly of threats to the United States, the USS Virginia deployed to the Caribbean and south Atlantic waters between August and November in support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the Miami-based warfighting command that covers Central America south of Mexico and all of South America.
"They don't call it the silent service for nothing, so we don't know whether the boat made us of its special operations capabilities to launch some covert raid on a FARC gathering in the Columbia jungles or an al Qaeda camp in the Brazilian jungles.
"Undoubtedly the boat collected radar and communications signals and proved its "enhanced littoral intelligence-gathering capability," carrying onboard special eavesdropping equipment configured especially for Latin American signals and targets. Did it listen in on the governments of Venezuela or Bolivia or some other special event?
"My guess is that more likely the USS Virginia "practiced." It practiced what it might do in real war because its safe deployment to Latin American waters wasn't meant to really put the new boat into harm's way, and any terrorist threat from Latin America, if there even is one, can't really be handled with a submarine anyway."
Whiskey Tango...??? The author, William M. Arkin (former director of military research for Greenpeace International), seems to be upset, but I really can't tell why. Maybe because he's written such a haphazard and confusing article. Maybe he's upset that he accepted uncritically the erroneous information put out in an article in The Day that I had dissected earlier without doing any additional research on his own. (The boat left on a 77 day deployment in September, vice a 90 day deployment in August, as Arkin says.) Maybe he's upset that our submarines conduct at-sea operations in the Western Hemisphere. He really seemed concerned that she might have "listened in" on the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, and was upset to later learn that Bolivia is land-locked, and thus an unlikely target for submarine intelligence gathering (not that I'm saying subs gather intelligence). Maybe he's upset that he spelled "Colombia" wrong. But I think that the most likely reason of all (that he's upset), may have been that his last two paragraphs are laughably misleading:
"When the USS Virginia returned to the United States, it entered the Groton shipyard for a year of post-construction work, additional billions.
"Just this week, General Dynamics Electric Boat received lead funding for construction of the eighth, ninth and tenth Virginia class boats. That's a minimum of a cool $24 billion, a truly incredible story."
For starters, Post-Shakedown Availabilities do not cost "additional billions" -- the total for the PSA is $54.8M. The total for all 10 boats will probably be $24 billion, not for the 8th through 10th. No, the main reason Arkin should be upset is that, once again, a respected media outlet has shown that, when writing about defense issues (and submarines in particular), their writers really don't have a clue. Maybe it's time for the MSM to reconsider the advice I gave them a year ago...