Monday, April 7, 2014

Secrecy Below the Surface – Western Intelligence and the MH370 ‘ping’

Updated piece is available @ The Telegraph (where I've started blogging).

The search for MH370 is entering overdrive.

Following Haixun 01’s apparent ‘ping’ detections on Friday and Saturday, the Royal Navy is now sending a research vessel, HMS Echo, into the narrowing search area.

But Echo is not the only Royal Navy asset in the area.

Last Monday, HMS Tireless, a Trafalgar-class British attack submarine arrived in the southern Indian Ocean. Her mission – find MH370’s Black Box.

She’s out there right now. Lurking below the waves.

No one however, has realized why this is so significant.

Tireless isn’t just any submarine. Instead, albeit an older boat, Tireless possesses some extraordinary sensor platforms – perhaps even the 2076 sonar system (which is being introduced to the Trafalgar class complement). This explains why the UK has been so quiet about the deployment - they don’t want to attract other listening ears into the area...

And that’s because 2076 isn’t just any sonar. In fact, it’s one of the most advanced and classified programs in the British Government. Complementing integrated active-passive detection capabilities, 2076 provides highly developed imagery processors – offering sonar technicians the ability to ‘see’ what they hear. Of course, the key question is whether or not Tireless has already been fitted with 2076. And here, typifying the absent knowledge that besieges our MH370 discourse we can only estimate probabilities.

Still, the available information is compelling. For a start, we know that Tireless was homeported in February 2013 and on exercise in UK waters during JuneJuly and September 2013. Again, it’s presumption, but it’s plausible that Tireless was fitted with 2076 and running sea-trials during this period.

More specific to the latest news, it’s noteworthy that Tireless arrived on station about two weeks following the Australian Prime Minister’s release of satellite imagery of suspected wreckage. After all, those images were far inferior to the product of US spy satellites. And let’s be clear, under the ‘five eyes’ agreements, it’s almost certain that the US would have provided better imagery to the Australians before their announcement. In turn, this strongly implies that the Australians were confident their finding was significant – they knew more than they let on.

And then there’s the specific strategic importance of HMS Echo’s arrival at the signal site. In the deep waters of the southern Indian Ocean, detection is no easy game – along with exceptional equipment, it also requires exceptional human skill. As a corollary, Echo’s arrival would allow for a classified surface to sub-surface interaction dynamic. The Royal Navy isn’t exactly keen to share its sonar capabilities with China.

Regardless, a month after MH370 went missing, this is no longer just about finding a plane. In equal measure, it’s about minimizing exposure to present and potential future adversaries. In short, the UK is looking for MH370, they just don't want us to know how.

PS - If MH370 was deliberately diverted around Indonesian airspace... it makes the concern of terrorism far greater. It will certainly raise concerns on the part of Australian intelligence over a potential 9/11 style attack.

My previous writings on MH370 - here and here.

No comments:

Post a Comment