Sunday, July 30, 2006
#1: Did Hanit fire the chaff?
- Hanit is a modern ship that was designed to provide missile defense for other boats
- Iran (and thus Hezbolla) does not posess modern antiship missiles
- Missile defense on Hanit was disabled and the crew asleep at the wheel
- Modern missile defense is not very efficient against moderately obsolete antiship missiles
- Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) equipment is supposed to detect the incoming missile and generate signals to fool its seeker in a way that will take the missile off-course
- Decoys simulate the ship to fool the seeker. A typical decoy consists of "chaff" - lots os aluminum-coated fibers that are fired into the air to create a cloud that reflects the seeker radar beam in a way similar to the ship. Since the ship is somewhat away from the cloud, the missile hopefully hits the chaff.
- Short-range defense consists of a high-speed computer-driven machine gun that tries to hit the missile while it completes the last mile or so of its journey.
The actual choice between 1 and 2 above is very interesting -- and affects the world -- since if the second option is true, and Iran has missiles that score 50% hit ratio on the modern ships, its threat to close the Hormuz Straits is very real, and Iran thus is as untouchable as if it had nuclear weaponry.
While the actual positions of the control switches on the Hanit will not be known for long time, if ever -- except by the various spooks -- there is a question that allows us to select one of the options above and answer to which is currently most likely known to people without security clearances:
Did Hanit fire the chaff?Any operator of a civilian radar in the vicinity should theoretically know if the Hanit actually fired the chaff. If it did, the missile defense was activated, and Hezbolla was good. If it did not, the missile defenses were down and Hezbolla was lucky - and we here in the US can continue to sleep well.
What are Real Questions
Questions that are of interest to me are "real" in a sense that they a) definitely have an answer that can be found today and b) this answer contains information that affects large numbers of people. Note that it is not important whether these large numbers of people know or care about either the question or the answer. Examples of questions that are "not real" in my sense: "is there life on Mars?" (fails a) and "what are the sexual habits of Tom Cruise?" (fails b, as even though a significant percentage of the world population is very interested in both the question and the answer, the latter does not affect their lives in any way).