Thursday, April 24, 2014

Submarines, Spies and the Search for Malaysia Airlines 370

Every day when I get up, I check to see the latest news on MH 370, our missing 777. Every night when I give up for the day, I check to see the latest news. Its day 49 or so in the search and I am completely fascinated. Its the O.J. Simpson trial of our generation. There are so many little details, nuances, retractions, infographics, revelations, it goes on and on and on. And somewhere, somehow, there is an airplane, whether 4 miles deep or in Afghanistan, waiting to be discovered.

It is commonly asserted on the Internet forums, that the real location of MH 370 has been known for a long time. Here is a quote from a probably non-crazy person on a related topic from an article in which you can find here

        Professor David Stupples, an expert in electronic and radio engineering at City University,
        London, believes that officials did not upgrade to a more powerful submersible earlier 
        because they were acting on “good” information.

        “My reading of this is that some as yet undisclosed and very good intelligence is at play,” 
        Prof Stupples said.

        “Intelligence that seems to be so sensitive that it has not been disclosed.”

Well, I do not believe they know exactly where the plane is. But I do believe there is reason to think that they might have some evidence that leads them to a guess where the plane might be.  And I think this might be the case because of one of the great stories of the cold war, a story that is partially in the open and yet by no means is it all in the open, a story about how the US Navy found a lost Soviet submarine that had gone down with all hands and which the Russians could not find.

So who is this "they" I refer to?  My guess is that it is the US Navy and maybe even specifically the part of the US Navy that is concerned with anti-submarine warfare.

The US Navy has a tremendous incentive to track the submarines of other nations, particularly those submarines designed to carry strategic missiles. Even the other side does not know where these submarines are, it is a part of the theory of second strike deterrence that neither side knows exactly where they are. Only the submarine itself knows where it is, except at certain intervals when the submarine raises a radio antenna above the surface and checks in. The rest of the time all that is known is the general area where the submarine is, its patrol area.   The submarine is somewhere in that area with all those nuclear missiles.

So the US Navy developed a variety of ways to track such submarines, and most of them involve listening for them. We listen with grids of sensors on the ocean floor, we tow sensors from ships, we drop buoys from the sky and we listen. We listen all the time and we look for very specific things, and those sounds are the sounds of specific types of ships that travel underwater. The ocean is very noisy and so they have a lot of technology to filter out all the things they don't care about.

So how does that help us find MH 370?

The listening stations generally archive their data for a few weeks. We know this from the story of the missing Soviet submarine. So they can go back, if they choose, and are prompt, and look at the data and see if there was anything unusual that took place within a certain time frame. In the case of the Soviet submarine, there were two explosions in the water one several minutes after another, and the sound thereafter of what sounded like many smaller implosions in the water. As if tanks were imploding. Which is what a submarine would sound like if it sank after a disaster.

What would an airliner sound like if it hit the water?

I dont know, it depends on its speed and angle of impact, I think. But almost certainly big sections of it would break apart and sink. And when they sank, the wings with empty fuel tanks and other parts of it would trap pockets of air and implode as it descended to the bottom. 

So my theory goes like this. That out of interest and a desire to help, the people who run some of these sensors decided to look and see what they could see.  Possibly Pres. Obama asked them to. They looked at the data for the period of time that MH 370 could have been flying, and they looked in the general area of that part of the world, and they heard something anomalous. Maybe it was the plane going in, or maybe it was the sound of imploding parts of the plane, or maybe it was both or something else entirely.

According to my theory they would not talk about what they found, they have no intention of compromising their very expensive, very secret systems that have other much more important missions in life.

But they could say to the Australians, “Look in this area, somewhere within about 10 or 20 miles or so of this point. Look there...”

So that is my conspiracy theory.

Thank you.



Wikipedia page on SOSUS

Undersea Warfare article on SOSUS

I am not very impressed with the Wikipedia article on the K-129 submarine which says nothing about how they found it and has other spurious information.

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