Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Attempt to Start World War Three

By Philip Gardocki

Shortly after the Arab-Israeli 1967 war, a US Navy cruiser was patrolling the eastern Mediterranean. The search radar started picking up an aircraft. The course was plotted, and it was determined to be heading towards Egypt. Signal returns were so strong that it had to be a very large aircraft, probably a Soviet Bear. The Bear was a large, four-prop, long-ranged bomber that was also commonly used for air transport and resupply tasks.

Shipboard standard duties involved watching all aircraft in range and the late night and boredom made this aircraft the main topic of discussion on the cruiser. Since it was a slow moving prop plane and search radars have a very long range, it was going to be observed for over an hour.

Soviet Tupolov-95
Nato Codename: Bear
When the plane came into missile range, the Captain came into CIC and ordered tracking radars onto the target. This in itself was not unusual and was part of the normal hassling of the opposing sides when in close contact. It was unusual when he ordered missiles on the rail, and started the launch sequences. The realization of the situation started filtering through the combat team; this Captain was going to shoot down the Russian Bear and possibly start a Third World War. No officer challenged the Captain on his intentions. In the radar room in the aft section of the ship, the fire control radar men turned off their radars. In that day, the radars were Tube driven, and, once off, could not be restarted for 15 minutes.

The Captain ordered the radars restarted, and had explained to him that the radars were vacuum tube driven, and once off, their oscillators would not synchronize for 15 minutes, rendering them useless. No one reminded him that since the radars were were on and in reality were already warmed up, that there was a special mode called "Battle Short" that would have brought them up in 15 seconds.

The Captain ranted, threatened, and then looked on helplessly as the Bear slowly pulled out of range. Two days later, the Captain retired, and a new Captain showed up by helicopter.

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