Sunday, July 30, 2006


#1: Did Hanit fire the chaff?

This is a very simple question related to the current Israel attack on Lebanon (or Hezbolla). As we all know, Hezbolla (or Iranians) fired two missiles at the Israely corvette Ahi-Hanit and scored one hit. This is a highly unusual result, as
Therefore, one of the two statements must be true:
  1. Missile defense on Hanit was disabled and the crew asleep at the wheel
  2. Modern missile defense is not very efficient against moderately obsolete antiship missiles
The modern missile defense consists of three components:
Note that there is a good reason sometimes to disable the short-range gun, as it can accidentally fire on one's own aircrafts. There is a weak reason to disable the chaff - for example, if a helicopter tries to land on the ship. I do not know of any reason to disable the ECM.

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

I start this blog out of a sense of frustration with the current state of journalism. The articles - both off- and online seem to incessantly quote each other and engage in navel-gazing. Good journalism has always been characterized by asking -- and answering -- real questions. Since I am not a journalist by any means, I will not pretend to search for answers, but will humbly attempt to post the questions that do really interest me.

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).

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