back to article US-Iranian naval clash: Radio trolls probably to blame

Those readers who follow the non-IT'n'Paris news will be aware that in recent days a group of US warships almost fired on fast boats operated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This was after hearing radio transmissions in which the Iranians appeared to threaten some form of attack. A heavily-accented voice speaking in English …


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  1. Inspector_Morse

    So, no different to CB Radio back in the early 80s....

    .. when cretinous school kids totally killed CB radio's usefulness for professional drivers when in suburban areas. Maybe you, dear reader, were one of them?

  2. Josh

    Get your facts straight

    The admission that they didn't know for sure who was on the radio came out either the same day or the next day after the report was made. The very first article I read about the situation contained this information. The issue at hand was less what was said over the radio, but more the supposed actions in the water, including dropping boxes in front of a ship. Then the used what was heard over the radio a supporting evidence why it was so dangerous to be making the maneuvers in the water that they were. Now, I have not watched the video, nor am I familiar with typical maritime dealings, so I cannot comment on whether or not the Navy made too big of a deal out of this or not.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    High capability EWar/Elintel...

    I thought US warships were equipped with state of the art radio gear for electronic warfare and intel gathering. Would it not be sensible to make it standard procedure to Direction Find any broadcasts that seem to be threatening, in case they actually are? Or is that not possible in the frequencies in question?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Won't GMDSS SelCall eventually stop this by making the source of transmissions known, on big ships at least?

  5. heystoopid

    Oh no

    Oh no not another Turner Joy fantasy !

    Duck and cover !

  6. Pat

    Ears on a spider's legs

    Well at least the Americans didn't 'experiment' to find out after which bolt-of-destruction the radio transmissions would cease.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    RE: So, no different to CB Radio back in the early 80s....

    Actually, channel 9 was ALWAYS kept clear for emergencies. IIRC there was another channel number used for general shoutouts (for example traffic warnings) and requests for chat, and yet others that were taken over for specialised chat...*

    Of course the low number of channels (only 40 on the sets I remember) made it fun trying to find a private channel in heavily built up areas...

    *Note - I grew up in the area between Banbury and Oxford; results may have varied due to location

    Cretinous Schoolkid

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "We cannot make a direct connection to the boats... It could have come from the shore, from another ship passing by... I guess we're not saying that it absolutely came from the boats, but we're not saying it absolutely didn't."

    US Captain: "Jaw jaw jaw"

    Bush Cheney: "War war war"

    Neocon press: "War War War"

    Israel: "WAR WAR WAR"

    US Intelligence: "Naw Naw naw"

    Pentagon: "No no no"

    US Navy Spokeman: "No no no"

  9. David Tonhofer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @Get your facts straight

    > including dropping boxes in front of a ship.


    Seriously, here's an excellent complement to the above article:,15202,159657,00.html

    It says:

    -- And when I say "speedboat," folks, I'm not talking about a small frigate, or even something the size of PT 109. I'm talking about the kind of boat you see on American lakes every summer pulling sunburned water skiers around. These Iranian boats are typically armed with a single high caliber machine gun, which is, to put it placidly, a darn sight less weaponry than U.S. combatant ships carry. It sounds to me like the "white box-like objects" the speedboats dropped into the water were Little Rascals technology simulations of mines, painted a bright color for the express purpose of ensuring the Americans saw them and steered around them.

  10. EJ

    "Or perhaps both sides actually did know all this, but they just like shouting at each other."

    Bingo! We have a winner.

    Good to know that Internet manners have spilled over to maritime communications, too.

  11. Steve

    All too familiar

    *cough* Gulf of Tonkin *cough*

    I'll be taking anything the US says on the subject of Iran with a shovel full of salt.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Yup, that's about right

    Having been through the Straits of Hormuz a few times myself, Lewis' account of the environment seems pretty much spot on to me.

    Ships going through the Straits do so *fast* - everyone in the game knows that. Which is why, also, everyone knows to stay out of each other's way ..... unless you mean to cause trouble .... or have some psycho Revolutionary Guard style fun, that is.

    Only a handful of people know the truth of that situation, though.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    A little outside the box here...

    ...but could this have been some kind of Iranian Electronic intelligence gathering excercise?

    I mean, the scenario seems to be unusual enough to force a more-lengthy-than "weve come across a ship" communication, would definately generated some encrypted comms from the US side of things, maybe with enough type-specific information the Iranians are trying to match the ships encrypted transmissions with the circumstances, eg, trying to break the US Navys encrypted comms.

    Im sure Im going to be flamed back to the stone-age for saying that lol. In my defence, the Germans and Japanese in WW2 thought their encrypted comms were secure as well, though the US are hopefully using the stronger One-Time-Pad jobs Id expect. Maybe the Iranians have had a breakthrough of some kind, who knows. Lets hope someone at the right desk has at least thought about this scenario.

  14. Jon Double Nice


    Just like in the films: Computer - enhance that and get a fix on it...

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Open Fire!

    Its all a bit Gulf of Tonkin Incident if you ask me.

    If your old enough or learned enough to know about this then the parallels are worrying. For those who aren't, well, it was the incident in which the US claimed the North Vietnamese attacked their ships and which they subsequently used as part or all of the reason for a bit of bombing in retaliation and we all know how that turned out 10 years later.

    I'm surprised that the yanks didn't have a pop.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    gotta love it

    the automatic knee jerk defense of the Ayatollah's Iran, the same Iran of hostage taking fame, of college crackdown fame, of "brag about supersonic torpedoes" fame. Even with video, the anti-American brigades and the treasonous media bend over backwards trying to come up with the most half-assed reasons to let the Iranians off the hook.

    If there was any "prank" to this, it was the Iranians trying to see just how provocative and violent they could get and still the media would make up excuses for them.

    Of course, we're supposed to believe, that at the point where this occurred, some high-power transmitter equipped "prankster" was watching that part of the sea and just happened to catch the Iranians dropping off packages and racing around warships in an already hostile situation, and figured that time was perfect for setting up this whole situation. Wow. nevermind that this wasn't at the narrowest point of the Strait, so there would have to have been some pretty powerful optics "coincidentally" scanning the area at this exact time. The "9-11 Truth" make more sense than this.

    However, had the roles been reversed, our anti-Western folks would happily have allowed for and celebrated nuclear retaliation and billions in "reparations" owed to the poor insulted Iranians had it been an American yacht off course anywhere near an Iranian military convoy.

    Is El Reg partially owned by Al Jazeera now? Does someone have to bribe Mr. Page to automatically doubt Americans (and even the British) even when against the historically provocative theocracy that Iran has been since my childhood? Or is it some sort of psychosis due to some sort of chemical inhalation in the jungle? Or is it more of "better to be at the left hand of the devil, than in his path"?

    Besides, I thought Mr. Page was he's naval bridge crew? I know.."Commander" Bond?

  17. Phil

    And another thing ....

    While I'm ranting ... if I had seen my democratically elected government toppled by a foreign power (at the request of another) and suffered under a right bastard and his secret police for a few decades then, when I got hold of some representatives of the offending state I wouldn't have taken them hostage - I'd have put their heads on pikes on the walls of the Tower of London.

    And if some moron had parked his cruiser under an airway off my coast, shouted "it's coming straight at me !" (far too like South Park to be funny) when an airliner did what it did every day and killed hundreds of innocents, then had those involved let off scot free to avoid problems in next year's Presidential elections I'd have a bit of a bad attitude as a a result.

  18. Lewis Page (Written by Reg staff)

    Mine Clearance Diver

    Mr. Coward -

    I was a Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officer, a bit like a USN EOD diver. MCDOs serve in minewarfare ships as complement officers, as well as in shore-based EOD units. There being no place for officers who can't stand a bridge watch in an RN minehunter, you have to get your bridge ticket before you can attempt MCDO training, and you keep watchstanding as Ops and even XO.

    And I don't like the Pasdaran at all. I've been within their reach as an armed, uniformed representative of Western democracy, in fact, so my position on theocratic gunmen should be pretty bloody clear.

    That doesn't mean I think our side can't make mistakes. Nor does it mean this was a likely time for the Pasdaran to be doing any more than fool about annoyingly, given the recent US intel assessment of their nuclear plans. Nor does it mean that the Pasdaran are the same as ordinary joe Iranian in the street.

    Watch your step when you accuse me of taking Islamist money.

  19. George

    Oh dear, egg on face.

    Having said that they were doing their job, I think though until it was fully investigated the US should having kept it on the lowdown.

    As for electronic intelligence gathering, the VHF channel is unsecured and the 'ship to ship' US comms are always live so could be hacked any time (in theory of course). I doubt this was the reason but you can't rule anything out.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Called what in Iran?

    The Revolutionary guards are called "I f*ck your mother"? No wonder they always seem mad at everyone.

  21. Phil

    The US fail to understand humour

    I read the transcripts of the event and my first thought was that the speaker was taking the piss - the idea that it was someone nearby didn't occur to me, but it does feel eminently possible. After all, if I heard the crew of one of the most potent warships on the sea today seemingly fill their pants upon the approach of an unarmed bright blue speedboat I'd be inclined to take the piss too.

    In addition, I do find it hard to reconcile the "if Iran starts anything we'll wipe them out" rhetoric with the "oooooo a speedboat we're all going to die oh noes !!!! quick shoot first they're so dangerous !!!111eleven " comments.

    To be fair to the USN, maybe the two Iranians had really, really dangerous beards ?

  22. Peter Simpson

    A couple of small points

    - I don't see any weapons on those boats in the video

    - boats in the video were bright blue? Not a typical military color.

    - Gulf of Tonkin was at night, in a storm, by radar.

    Crazy Iranians. Must have been a few frazzled nerves on those ships, though. Good on the captains for keeping their wits about them. Lucky for those idiots in the speedboats.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    @gotta love it

    > it was the Iranians trying to see just how provocative and violent they could get and still the media would make up excuses for them.

    Because of course the Iranian armed forces have transformed Canada into a festering corpse and are asking for a permanent seat in Club Warcrime, the Iranian Navy has two Carrier Battle Groups patrolling within sight of New York and Iranian politicians of left and right are making grunting, threatening noises about "all options being on the table" if the US won't come clean about what exactly is happening with those US nuclear installations.

    Clearly, the media are biased.

  24. Ed Arnold
    Black Helicopters

    A little perspective...

    Can we come off the 'Tonkin Gulf' fantasy for a moment and note that the Navy, despite having boats of sworn enemies come well within firing range of any number of genuinely dangerous anti-armour missles (200 meters is an easy shot for a Sagger), held their fire. Had they deployed a 20mm Gatling anti-ship battery, the Pasdaran would have been reduced to hamburger in the water in seconds.

    Both the US and GB naval units have shown enormous restraint in the face of deliberate provocation to avoid giving the Iranian nutcases in power the propaganda victory of having been 'attacked' by the Infidels, which the regime much desires. The surge in patriotic feeling among a currently disaffected populace, not to mention the raving of the BushCheneyHallibutonBloodForOil paranoids in the West, would help the Mullahs hang on to power a bit longer, maybe until they can beg borrow or develop the nukes they so fervently desire.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Been there, done that.

    As being in the region right now, and having gone through the Hormuz straight twice now, I'd have to say you'd have to be a complete moron to not know the difference between the "Iranian Navy" (which in itself is worse than actual pirates in the region) and the "Filipino Monkey's" that exist in the region. Having actually spoken to the Iranian Navy, the Royal Omanian Navy and Iranian Coast guard I would have to say they are just doing their job (unless you encounter the nutjob Revolutionay Guard) and are quite as bored as talking to us are we are at talking to them. We (as in coalition) take every single hail very seriously and are all reported to a central location for intelligence gathering purposes.

    The Iranians can be asshats, and trust me we're pretty freaked out in general transiting the Hormuz, and i've seen pictures of guys on jetski's with RPG's harassing ships that transit through, so I can see how everyone gets freaked out pretty quickly.

  26. Tom


    Has anyone considered that those boats could've been packed with explosives? I'd have probably fired after the 'explode' comment, those little fast 'unarmed' boats could've sunk one of those cruisers if they had been fitted out to do so, and saying 200m is about 7/8 seconds in a boat like that, they pose a very real threat at that distance.

    Add to this the behaviour in general, the object jettison ect, I can't see how anyone can seriously deffend the Iranians actions, they're lucky to be alive if you ask me.

  27. Richard Cartledge

    American jerk?

    The accent sounded like an American putting on a made-up foreign accent, it most certainly wasn't a Persian accent which would have sounded like Weee r caming aaat yoo, you weeel bloe up. Khuda hafiz.

  28. Shun F

    Re: Mr./Ms. Coward

    "there would have to have been some pretty powerful optics "coincidentally" scanning the area at this exact time."

    No, there would have had to have been some radio receivers around at this time. The article makes clear that folks sitting around the Strait are probably listening on those "hailing frequencies". They must have heard the US Navy going apeshit about the speedboats and decided to have a laugh/see if they could cause an international incident.

    You wouldn't need to see the incident to figure out what was going on. The Navy was pretty clear that they were attempting to communicate with several small ships in the area. Just transmit your prank on the same frequency, and you've got your story.

    From the antics of the speedboats, they did not appear to want to communicate, at all, or there would have been some shaky garbled explanations with the sound of a high-rpm motor in the background. The fact that the "prank call" came in pretty clear, without any background noise, and even the transmissions from the Navy ship came with a little background noise (I'm assuming a USN destroyer/frigate/cruiser can be a noisy place), leads me to believe that the "prank call" came from a place of relative quiet, and not from the open deck of a speedboat.

    What I want to know is: how would the United States react if Iranian gunboats came within 50 miles of Florida? Hey, they'd still be in international waters, but I doubt they'd get quite as good a reception as these USN folks got in the Straits of Hormuz.

  29. Michael

    Regarding the speedboat

    A lot of people are talking as if suicide bombers execute their missions in military fatigues, in a military jeep, etc etc etc.

    The fact that this was an unarmed speedboat doesn't make it appear any more benign. The van that took out the Oklahoma City federal building was "unarmed". The airlines that took out the WTC were "unarmed". Hell, for all intents and purposes, the boat that blew a hole in the USS Cole was "unarmed".

    You're an idiot to approach a warship without hailing them first, and given the radio transmissions, with a boat in the vicinity with uncertain intent, if I were the American watch officer, my sphincter would tighten up a little too.

  30. Martin Usher

    Anyone remember the Vincennes?

    Way back in the 80s a US warship that patrolling in the Gulf was hosting a TV news crew. Suddenly there was an alert, something had been launched from Iran and it was heading towards this guided missile destroyer. Much macho professional panic on the bridge as they aquired the target, launched some missiles and took the threat down. Then, in the after-adrenaline come-down someone stopped and thought for a minute -- was it an incoming missile or some regularily scheduled Airbus flight between Iran and Dubai?

    The footage ran on the news but has probably disappeared from view by now since it was really bad. Seeing a bunch of kids kill 290 people like that -- but then they were Iranians, not really people.

    It seems that not much has changed in the Gulf in a generation. Someone will start a war because they're not capable of stopping and thinking.

  31. David Frazer

    You know....

    It seems somewhat suspicious that those speed boats got so close to a USN Warship, especially after said Warship's having broadcast warnings to the speedboats. Very ballsy. Why would they risk something like that?

  32. Luther Blissett

    Two sides on every coin

    Usually the sides are a little different. One or both sides may be defaced, degraded, or difficult to read. And so on.

    So here is the incident from the Iranian pov, from a videotape broadcast on Iran's state-owned English-language Press TV channel.


  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @gotta love it

    "the automatic knee jerk defense of the Ayatollah's Iran,"

    He's dead you know.

    " the same Iran of hostage taking fame"

    That was 1979. Reagan was believed to have paid them to keep the hostages until after the election so he's be sure to win.

    Remember Iran-Contra? When Reagan sold arms to the Iranians to fund a secret war in Nicaragua? Thus confirming his commercial relationship with them?

    Yeh, I know it was a long time ago. So many people want to forget.

    "anti-American brigades.. treasonous media the hook....provocative and violent ...dropping off packages around ...warships... hostile situation, ...9-11"

    Yeh, lots of buzz words in that paragraph. I don't see the point of it though, as soon as we went to youtube it was clear they were little speedboats doing nothing particularly threatening in International waters off the coast of Iran. All you're doing by keeping pushing this is immunizing everyone to the future rhetoric. You'll have to use even more big, scary, ominous, words next time to have the same gravitas.

    "Is El Reg partially owned by Al Jazeera now?"

    We get Al Jazeera on satellite you know, it's just another news channel.

    "Does someone have to bribe Mr. Page to automatically doubt Americans (and even the British) even when against the historically provocative theocracy that Iran has been since my childhood?"

    Dude, those speedboats had only ONE outboard motor, the speedboat I water skied behind on my holiday had TWO. It was TWICE as scary!

    Do you know how silly you warmongers sound at this point? Even the Navy spokesman is distancing himself from this silliness.

  34. Paul
    Thumb Down

    RE: Anyone remember the Vincennes?

    "It seems that not much has changed in the Gulf in a generation."

    You know, I could have sworn that I saw an actual lack of gunfire in the video. That they didn't just take the threats at face value and blast the ships out of the water shows that at lot more has changed than you give them credit for.

    The crew onboard the warships showed one hell of alot more restraint than most people would have if they had speedboats seemingly coming at them and threats they'd be blown up coming over the radio, even if there was a chance it wasn't them.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    So when exactly did Iran blow up a few frigates unprovoked the last time round?

    Yeah, can't remember either. Fancy that.

    At least the next batch of hopeful retards are more easily convinced:

    Huckabee: "be prepared that the next things you see will be the gates of Hell.”

    Thompson: “One more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing"

    Giuliani: “This incident should wake a lot of people up"

    McCain: “Don’t think that this wasn’t a serious situation of the utmost seriousness”

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @ Shun F

    <What I want to know is: how would the United States react if Iranian gunboats came within 50 miles of Florida? Hey, they'd still be in international waters, but I doubt they'd get quite as good a reception as these USN folks got in the Straits of Hormuz.>

    Ummm the Soviets used to do this all of the time. I used to work someplace that had sensitive documents which also faced the Ocean. We were not to have anything in the outside (Ocean facing) offices because of this.

    Note that last I knew, the Russians still do this - so your point is?

  37. Keith T

    Ed, you've hit the nail on the head.

    The problem is the US has far too many sworn enemies.

    Having sworn enemies is a sign of immaturity.

    What did Iran do to the US? What did Iraq do to the US?

    Now look at Britain, France, Germany and Italy, and what they have done to each other.

    It took long enough, but they finally learned that nothing good comes from having a culture dominated by vengeance, imperialism, "our troops", "defending the homeland", and looking for silly excuses to go to war with oneanother.

    They finally learned to work together, to treat each other with respect, and it has paid off great for them.

  38. Joe Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    RE: Anyone remember the Vincennes?

    "It seems that not much has changed in the Gulf in a generation. Someone will start a war because they're not capable of stopping and thinking."

    But they didn't shoot them.

    Actual military boats showed up, swarmed them, and someone on the radio said they were about to explode. And the USN didn't even fire a warning shot.

    This is after the Cole was *successfully* attacked by a little pussy boat like these.

    And you're comparing that to shooting a completely unidentified flying object because "it's coming right for us".

    Shit, why stop there? Anyone remember the Rape of Nanking?

    Howabout Duran Duran?

  39. Dave Bell

    Sea Devils

    The Italians were doing this whole explosive-filled speedboat thing nearly sixty years ago. Attacked HMS York off Crete. It was the same outfit that sank a couple of battleships in Alexandria Harbour, and I'm sure Lewis knows far more of their history than I do, being in a related line of work.

    10th Flotilla MAS, wasn't it?

  40. heystoopid

    The real problem

    Unfortunately the real problem is the Yankee Navy is tripping over it's own stupidity and applying poor definitions as to what they falsely claim to be international waters when in fact any one checking any map including the UN official treaty ones clearly show that both the spokesperson from the US Navy and the ever dumb complacent always in my ass sucking up mass media reporters who are not doing the job they are paid to do !

    UN clearly defined the Iranian and Border with Oman as the midstream point and clearly shows no international waters period but also defines two shipping lanes of which convention has the out bound one on the Omani side of the line with the inbound lane partially on the Iranian side due to shoals and other problems !

    By standing International treaty conventions when any Armed Warship from any country enters or crosses the international sea boundary in order not to be mistaken as an illegally armed pirate vessel they are required to advise said country the time and the place and the transit time if they are following a defined shipping channel within that countries border ! The said country may send a patrol vessel to observe said transit and the said foreign naval vessel is bound by the same conventions not to interfere with duties of the said patrol vessel(s) as it could be considered either an act or war or deemed to be piracy whilst they are transiting the channel in question !

    Now the even dumber American Spokesperson from the US Navy has since falsely claimed this Shipping Channel is in international waters which it is not and never has been and never will be , the transit time of twenty minutes is the approximate time to clear the inbound channel on the Iranian waters within the straits ! They became even dumber by condensing it into four minutes and added some judicious sound effects enhancements undoubtedly !

    The truly sad part about it is the effect that the even dumber mass media reporters have failed to ask the correct appropriate probing questions if properly asked would show the spokesperson from the US Navy to be telling an extraordinary number of lies in this case !

    There are three versions of the truth here , unfortunately the one the Yankee Navy is claiming to be fact has so many vast holes and most information they have told the public so far is just one of numerous bad lies dressed in absolute fiction !

    Sadly just another modern day version of the USS Turner Joy !

    It would be truly hilarious if some one on an inbound tanker bridge wing also filmed this incident at the same time given the large numbers of vessels within the channel at any one time !

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I would have expected the warships to have some form of Automatic Direction Finding equipment either on the bridge or as part of the Electronic Warfare equipment. Three ships should have been able to quite quickly distinguish between a close fast moving source and a more distant fixed or slow moving source.

  42. Tom Oliva

    Salty Dog

    A tactic used to my certain knowledge by irritated watch keepers to shut up Filipino Monkey is >cue bad/truly awful American accent and clipped delivery on Ch16 < "Vessel at (position) this is American warship on your starboard bow... state your intention!" - blissful silence.

    Gotta agree with all the comments about idiot mass media reporters and clueless USN press/PR - if they can beat + twist a story as much as this one's been tortured - what about the rest of the "news"?

    Oh, and these guys with speedboats, khaki bandannas and ray-bans are notoriously adrenaline fueled + trigger happy - being on the receiving end of .50 cal machine gun is non - trivial as a number of my commercial shipping acquaintances can confirm... And of course, our American cousins are no strangers to mis-reading the situation + screwing up in the heat of the moment as others have pointed out - the worrying thing in their case is - pull the trigger=promotion, don't pull the trigger=retirement.

  43. Michael P

    A Voice From Beyond...

    "I am coming to you... you will explode after a few minutes."

    Ladies and.. well.. this is just for the ladies..

    The Velvet Voice,

    Mr Barry White

  44. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    RE: David Tonhofer, Martin Usher, Keith T

    RE: David Tonhofer - the Iranians have a long history of attacking commercial shipping in the Gulf and Straits using small craft usually referred to as "Boghammers", though that name really applies to a Swedish company's product. They have mounted everything from machine-guns up through anti-tank missiles to multiple rocket launchers like the Chinese Type 63. They usually used them to attack tankers collecting oil from Iraqi refineries during the Gulf War, but they have also used them to harass and attack US and NATO warships operating in the Gulf under UN mandates. A modern warship does not have armour like WW2 craft, so even light rockets can do serious damage, especially if the attackers use swarm tactics to overload the defence. There record of almost suicidal attacks on unarmed tankers are a well recorded, as is their oft-repeated desire to kill Americans. Personally, I think the USN showed great restraint.

    RE Martin Usher - the Vicennes incident is completely different, the USN ships in the area were operating to protect unarmed commercial tankers from Iranian Boghammer and air attacks. You could just as easily claim that if the Iranians hadn't been in the habit of attacking commercial shipping then the USS Vincennes wouldn't have been there. The Iranian Airbus (Flight 655) was 27 minutes late, carried an Iranian Air Force IDF device to stop Iranian Hawk crews shooting it down (and so gave off the electronic signature of an Iranian military aircraft), and it flew out from an airport that was base to Iranian F-14s. The USS Vincennes tried to establish radio contact four times, then went to missiles AFTER Flight 655 had traveled well inside the threat perimeter. At no time did the Iranian authorities, who were no doubt listening to the USN naval chatter, try to pass on the Vincenne's warnings or try to warn Flight 655 to change course. The Vincennes's commander had a duty to his crew and unfortunately it meant he had to take the threat seriously.

    Keith T - actually I took it as a sign that the US was willing to defend its own and their interests, and those of their friends. If you find that so bad and think those "enemy" nations are so wonderful, please feel free to emigrate to one of those enemy nations and then see how easy it is to read Indymedia on their restricted internet ....

    Ever since the USN gave the Iranian Navy a kicking during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, the Iranians (especially the Revolting Guard) have been itching to strike at the USN. Sooner or later, one of their little games will end in tears for one side or the other or both.

  45. Tsu Dho Nimh

    VHF goes a long way

    My. Coward:

    "Of course, we're supposed to believe, that at the point where this occurred, some high-power transmitter equipped "prankster" was watching that part of the sea and just happened to catch the Iranians dropping off packages and racing around warships in an already hostile situation, and figured that time was perfect for setting up this whole situation."

    No, anyone within radio range who was listening could have picked up on the VHF traffic and made comments. Decades ago, a friend was involved in a standoff between his survey ship (dead in the water, with instruments and divers down) and a couple of small Russian warships in the skinny part of the Bering Strait. Their traffic could be heard all the way down to the Aleutians.

    BTW, they made the Russian ships back off by lobbing packets of girlie magazines, candy bars and Coca-Cola onto their decks. The sailors were delighted, the coimmissars were not.

  46. JohnG

    It is not the first incident...

    There have been a few incidents recently, one of which did involve a USN ship firing warning shots to ward off small Iranian boats:

    The Iranians (or maybe just their president) seem hell-bent on having a war with the US and given the amount of oil carried through the Straits, provoking some kind of incident there might be a good way to kick things off.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Looks like we have the usual division into "professionals" and "bigmouths"

    From the same article on Washington Post:


    After passing the white objects, commanders on the USS Port Royal and its accompanying destroyer and frigate decided there was so little danger from the objects that they did not bother to radio other ships to warn them, the officials said.

    (...) "When they passed, the ships saw that they were floating and light, that they were not heavy or something that would have caused damage," such as a mine, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Gulf.


    But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, said the incident reflects Iran's shift to small craft that can aggressively menace larger naval vessels. "It's clearly strategically where the Iranian military has gone," Mullen said.


    The Navy announced a few hours later that two other incidents occurred last month in which its ships had close calls with Iranian speedboats. On Dec. 19, the USS Whidbey Island fired warning shots when a single Iranian boat came within 500 yards of it in the strait. On Dec. 22, the USS Carr emitted warning blasts as three Iranian vessels sped close by in the same area, a Navy official said. (...) Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff said U.S. and Revolutionary Guard naval units come across each other "regularly."


    "The incident ought to remind us all just how real is the threat posed by Iran and just how ready we are to meet that threat if it comes to it," Mullen told reporters yesterday.

  48. Joseph Helenihi
    Thumb Up

    Why the USN did not fire on the speedboats

    Just a theory here, but, if you really *are* driving a speedboat full of explosives with the full intent of attack/suicide, in order for your mission to succeed, you certainly don't announce your intention to do so over the radio while still on approach.

    Suicide bombers are complete a**hats, but don't demonstrate stupidity on the scale of "nya, nya, nya, here I come to blow you up". Some provocation starting twit on Channel 16 on the other hand, well there you go.

    Cudos to the USN for not falling for this and holding their fire.

  49. Frank Bough
    Thumb Down

    Reality Check Time

    "Both the US and GB naval units have shown enormous restraint in the face of deliberate provocation to avoid giving the Iranian nutcases in power the propaganda victory of having been 'attacked' by the Infidels, which the regime much desires."

    Both the US and UK are pissing around in heavily armed warships just a few miles off the Iranian coast - the USA would be at DEFCON 2 if the Chinese navy were doing exercises off Catalina Island. The Iranian régime might be twats, but try and imagine what life would be like if YOUR country was under constant threat from the largest and most aggressive armed forces in the world. Let's not even mention Iran Air 655...

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Like anyone took this seriously.

    Since the lies from the Iraq war, I don't know a single person that actually believes anything to come from the US gov.

    It reminds me of the boy who cried wolf, every single whitehouse press release is taken with a pince of salt. This is a real pity, coz I actually liked US politics before Cheney & Rumsfeld - Bush is just another puppet like Reagan. He is irrelevant.

    Yes I know Rummy is well gone...

  51. Matt

    At least it beats...

    <Comedy Omid Djalili Iranian voice>

    "Hormuz Coastguard, Hormuz coastguard, radio check please"


    My coat's the one that does up at the back

  52. Anonymous Coward

    New in the box! Automatic Direction finder!

    Want to know which way/direction to look, for the source of those annoying "I will make you explode!" gunboat transmissions?

    For less than $1000 USD you too, can purchase a new civilian ADF unit, that covers all current commercial marine VHF bands. Digital readout!


    Default colour is sand/tan. Battleship gray not available.

    - The Garret

  53. Gary

    How so?

    "Having sworn enemies is a sign of immaturity"

    Can't quite follow your logic on this one.All you have to be to become a sworn enemy of a large number of our Arabic population is white and Christian. I qualify on both counts. OOH Dear, should I buy a flak jacket!

    1; The boats could have been suicide bombers. 2 How the hell can a radio operator,who was probably wiping his legs after hearing the old "We you Coming to get!" pony and trap decide whether or not the call was from them. Last time I worked in EW (60s/70s) two at least,and preferably three or even four receiving stations were required for accurate triangulation. And yes, I am familiar with our Arab populaton, having served in Aden (Britsh Army 1967) And yes,I would have shot the SOBs. The great thing about regretting actions is that one has to be alive to do it!


  54. Anonymous Coward

    @Matt Bryant

    I think you're thinking of bog trotters that come from a Swedish company.

    Wonderful piece of kit, not likely to be found in the Straits though - If they had, it would have made Armilla a lot less boring :)

  55. Brad

    Audio on the Video

    Where is the background noise on the transmission from the "Iranian" speedboats. They are in speedboats going pretty fast on very choppy water with an open deck. There is no wind, motor, wave noise or alteration in the person's voice, this is impossible! The americans are probably just looking for another excuse to fight someone else.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can assure you that at least two stations being needed was still true as recent as 1990/'91 when I worked in radio reconnaissance, and I doubt that outside Hollywood much has changed since.

    Although the US vessel might have two sets of antennae, at bow and stern, which might be sufficient for close-range triangulation.

    Mind you, I once worked with a SW kit, which could point to (probable) sender locations without triangulation by taking into acocunt the angle at which the signal arrived and the atmosphere layer at which the signal frequency was reflected.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm no expert but the brightly coloured paint jobs and lack of fixed weaponry made them look more like prizes from sadly-missed sunday afternoon darts-themed gameshow 'Bullseye' than high tech warship killing superweapons.

    I was almost expecting the dubious radio broadcast to finish with "look at what you could have won".

  58. Christopher A Light

    Nothing new, situation remains the same

    A point to remember is that, during the 'Cold War', it was very common for Warsaw Pact 'fishing boats', trawlers, frequently more than one, festooned with masses of comms and radar antennae, far more than any Western trawler would ever carry, to play chicken with NATO vessels, especially during NATO combined manoeuvres.

    Interestingly there was rarely, if ever, any response to hailing or other attempted communication. But you might put that down to differences in national temperament.

    In addition submarine crews were frequently subject to cat and mouse manoeuvres by Warsaw Pact subs and surface vessels - all this in international waters BTW.

    The whole object in these incidents was to study NATO response in emergency situations and gather ELINT data for analysis.

    Did NATO behave similarly? Well, yes, on occasion, though rather more subtly.

    Then of course there were the Warsaw Pact aircraft that used to skim the borders of Western airspace, not so much as a sabre rattling exercise as to gather data on response times, ground control comms, etc.

    It's interesting to note that the Russians have, to a somewhat limited extent, recently resumed that practice under our friend Putin's direct orders...

    Whatever... this sort of thing has been common in the past, so it's no real surprise to see it happening now between the Americans and Iranians.

    Of course the Iranians aren't as well resourced, or trained, as the Warsaw Pact forces were during the Cold War, hence the use of domestic spec speedboats and the, apparently, less than rational behaviour of their personnel.

    This is placing the Americans in a difficult position. The obvious response is to react defensively to aggressive behaviour, hopefully drawing a line and transmitting a very clear warning message.

    However, given the level of rationality exhibited by the Iranian government, the chances of that message being heeded is slim.

    However, I don't see that the current outcry is helping them much either. Much better, IMO, to deal with the situation calmly professionally and above all, quietly.

    Unless of course the Americans have simply had enough of these antics and are escalating the situation? Next time warning shots maybe? And the next time...?

    The resulting rants from the Iranian government would be a great argument in favour of preemptive action to deny the Iranian government any future possibility of deploying nuclear weapons.

    It's geo-political poker you see.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The only thing that prevented this from staying a misunderstanding is the attitude of politicians who were determined to make capital of this.

    It's kind of depressing as their actions only ratchet up the tensions and make the possibility of people dying (including their own citizens) all the more likely.

    I've no doubt that the revolutionary guard are dangerous nutters. But emulating them isn't the way to go.

  60. Jim Lewis

    Iran Air 655

    I believe it was later established that the civilian flight DID NOT carry a military transponder, but that the operator whose job it was to track flights in the vicinity of the American warship had inadvertently left his screen cursor on a military aeroplane which had taken off and was in flight at the same time as the civilian flight.

    All warnings from the US to the 'military' flight were made on military frequencies which the civilian flight could not hear, and anyway were being addressed to a callsign different to their own, (the callsign of the military flight), so even if the civilian flight did hear the warnings, they would not have realised they were intended for them.

    (they made no transmissions on the civilian frequencies, and again would have been addressing them to the wrong callsign anyway).

    Similarly, the Iranian authorities, who one poster believes should have alerted the civilian flight, would also not have realised they were addressing this flight due to the confusion on callsigns.

    Although the killing of innocents is of course a tragedy, and the ensuing retaliation of the PanAm Lockerbie incident are highly regrettable, the incident itself seems to be due to poor design in the system used by the operative to identify aircraft, and too much reliance being placed on a relatively junior rating in a highly stressful situation.

    That being said, the civilian flight was flying straight and making a normal ascent for it's route, and if I recall correctly, whilst it did enter the vicinity of the ship, by the time it was shot down it was actually moving away from it.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think you got that the wrong way round

    "The Iranians (or maybe just their president) seem hell-bent on having a war with the US "

    They could never win a war and hence would never start one. The reverse however is true, US faction has been testing messages on focus groups to see which will be more effective at convincing them to attack Iran:

    "On November 1, she went to the offices of Martin Focus Groups in Alexandria, Virginia, knowing she would be paid $150 for two hours of her time. After joining a half dozen other women in a conference room, she discovered that she had been called in for what seemed an unusual assignment: to help test-market language that could be used to sell military action against Iran to the American public."

    Not surprising who was doing the testing.

    "Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the founder and president of the Israel Project, contacted Mother Jones and said that her group had commissioned the focus group ...Its board of advisers includes 15 Democratic and Republican members of the House and the Senate, plus actor Ron Silver."

    The usual regional sh*t stirrer at it yet again.

  62. J


    "Can't quite follow your logic on this one.All you have to be to become a sworn enemy of a large number of our Arabic population is white and Christian. I qualify on both counts. OOH Dear, should I buy a flak jacket!"

    Maybe you know logic (can't tell from this), but you sure must know very little else. Or you are a racist or something. Do you think only your little country contains white Christians?

    Either way, the world is full of white Christian people whom "the Arabic population" does not hate. Take Brazil (my country), for example. Fore some funny, unfathomable reason "they" are not our sworn enemies. I suspect they don't even hate us, to begin with. Too many browns there for your taste too, you say? (yep, there are more Lebanese descendants there then there are Lebanese in Lebanon today!) OK, take Argentina? Or Australia? Quite white, and Christian. Very probably more so than the US. Are "they" sworn enemies of these guys, too? Of the Austrians, or the Swedes?

    Oh, and I suppose you also don't know that Iranians are NOT Arabs, and their language, even if using the Arabic script, is actually from the Indo-European family (so you can understand: same family as English, Italian or Sanskrit), and not the Semitic family (Arabic, Hebrew).

    Maybe you just forgot to write the other half of your expression: "is white and Christian and imperialistic pigs". That might qualify, maybe.

  63. Charles Manning

    Perception != reality

    No doubt the US radio reception apparatus could have (and most likely did) determine the true direction that the transmissions came from. Modern DSP-based direction finding kit is very close to instantaneous and does not need the loop antennas etc of yore.

    However, Bush et al need some "evidence" to support the current Iran-is-evil theme. It is not in their interests to find/release facts that get in the way of the story. Nobody would fall for the WMD gag a second time so they need a new angle.

    Another alternative is that this was not just a silly prank, but a deliberate attempt by some third party (Isreal etc) to throw a brick at the hornets' nest.

    Iran has the least to gain from the whole episode and it makes little sense that they would do this. About the only reason that they would do this is to thumb their noses at the US for some local or international chest beating but then they'd hardly deny their involvement.

  64. Rich
    Thumb Up

    @those slagging Mr Page

    He didn't say he *was* the watchkeeper, he said he was on board.

    I've been allowed on the bridge of warships as a civvie contractor, so I assume Royal Marine officers would be equally welcome to come and see what's going on.

    And another thing. Warships run on process. If any sort of credible threat occurs (like kamikazes attacking you) there'll be a tannoy announcement called a "pipe" for everyone to go places and do things (like shutting the watertight doors, putting on flash gear, etc). I can't hear any pipes on that tape. Which raises a suspicion that the crew weren't actually taking the speedboats very seriously.

  65. James Anderson

    @Keith T

    " They finally learned to work together, to treat each other with respect "

    Surly we dont treat the french with respect?

    Its one thing to refrain from taking turns with the germans to slaughter thier "invincible" armies and force a bit of regime change on them.

    But respect is relly pushing it.

  66. steve
    Thumb Up

    I see a pattern......

    A lot of the people saying the iranians were in the wrong state their name. Most of the people saying the US is warmongering are AC's. What's the matter cowards? Not willing to put your name on your statement? I will.

    The iranians were in the wrong, and it is only the proffesionalism of the navy that stopped the little toy ships from being turned into matchwood. I certainly would have quite happily authorised such action. Don't quote cr*p such as iran air 655. The truth will never be known about that incident. Whichever version of "truth" you wish to believe, the captain did his duty by shooting down that plane, in the same way the sub captain did his job by sinking the Belgrano. People harrasing warships in little boats has been happening for a long time. It's nothing but psychological warfare. No suicide bomber is going to say "i'm coming to blow you up!" while still in range to be shot before he does his job. They were just trying to shake the nerves of the USN crew by saying things like that and throwing their lunchboxes into the water. luckily (for them) the officer in charge of that warship was a smart guy. Blame the politicians for blowing things out of proportion or trying to use it for their own agendas, but American forces actually managed to do the right thing this time. Give them support, not criticism.

  67. Chris Bradshaw

    All this means

    Is that the 'filipino monkey' chatter will treble in volume... And the <insert hostile country here> military will figure out a way to cause more paranoia on <insert friendly naval power> ships...

    I'm glad that they held their fire. But I'm worried that (idiots on) both sides are looking for an 'incident' in which they are 'innocent victims' and the other side is the 'aggressor'. :-( I agree with AC that the Iranians will 'lose' the war, just as the Iraqis 'lost', but what then? Who wins the peace??? And, in the larger picture, what is the political fallout? How much more extremism and hatred of the US/West would a war with Iran build up? And where will this all end???

  68. Graham Wood
    Black Helicopters


    A lot of the people going AC will be afraid that opinions expressed negatively about the US government could result in them getting a nice unlimited holiday far away from the stresses and strains of modern life. I'm probably (tin foil hat ahoy!) already being watched for voting in a couple of petitions on the UK government's website - as well as having a brain, which seems to be amongst the worst possible offenses here now.

    I'm not sure that anyone has reacted negatively to the personnel in this specific incident - the seamen reacted very professionally and with amazing restraint. However, (to my mind) they shouldn't have been there in the first place - and with the war mongering that is going on in the US (as viewed from the UK, at least) the public opinion is bound to be against that at least. Which is pretty much what you've said too.

    Their president CAN'T be as stupid as he seems - even if he were just a puppet, he would need to be more believable. This means that a lot of people are seeing his behaviour as a pose to justify the aggresive and interfering policies that the government is following. If a "serious" government were to carry out the same actions, there would be a LOT of outrage, but since it's him it's almost a case of "that's just the way he is", and they get away with a lot more.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quit hiding behind the troops

    "People harrasing warships in little boats has been happening for a long time. It's nothing but psychological warfare...Give them support, not criticism."

    It's not even warfare, psychological or otherwise. We're not at war, they're not our enemy, they're one of our major suppliers and market for our goods. Not a single reason in the whole world why we would attack them.

    As for the attempt to equate criticising Bush & co's warmongering as criticising the troops, quit hiding behind the troops. It's the same bleating we hear from politicians again and again, if they are sent to war with Iran, it will be the leadership to blame not the soldiers.

    As for your AC comment 'steve', we lost the freedom to say what we think when Blair created the extremely vague 'incitement to' law. So now anyone not touting the Blair world view has to speak as AC because they cannot control the actions of others and so leave themselves open to attack using this trick law. That's what happens when you let tricky lawyers make laws under a weakened parliament.

  70. Mr Chris

    Well, the US Navy agrees with Lewis,,2240533,00.html

    "the US navy's journal, Navy Times, has claimed that the threats, which were broadcast last week by the Pentagon, are thought to have come from an infamous radio prankster.

    It said the Filipino Monkey, who could be more than one person, listens to ship-to-ship radio traffic and then interrupts, usually with abusive insults.

    Rick Hoffman, a retired captain, told the paper: "For 25 years, there's been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats. He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy.

    "Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely."

    An unnamed civilian mariner told the Navy Times: "They come on and say Filipino Monkey in a strange voice. You're standing watch on bridge and all of a sudden it comes over the radio. It's been a joke out there for years.""

  71. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Iran Air 655

    The US Commander responsible for the shooting down of Iran Air 655 made a catastrophic error of judgement and did not follow the correct process for correctly identifying the threat. It wasn't the first time he had acted irresponsibly and had already been reported to his superiors for such behaviour. He was most certainly *not* "doing his duty", he acted rashly and his mistakes caused the death of 290 innocent people. Even the US Government have admitted as such (although they have never accepted responsibility for the mistake).

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "A lot of the people saying the iranians were in the wrong state their name. Most of the people saying the US is warmongering are AC's. What's the matter cowards? Not willing to put your name on your statement? I will."

    So you are brave enough to put your name to it. Well 'Steve' that makes you clearly identifiable. Clearly you are the only Steve in the world.

    They call me Mr Doody !

    ("Blame the politicians for blowing things out of proportion or trying to use it for their own agendas, but American forces actually managed to do the right thing this time. Give them support, not criticism."

    The problem is that many politicians conflate "support for our boys" with support for the politicians actions. As I mentioned above they politicians are the ones that put their own citizens at risk.

  73. Cameron Colley

    @the ACs

    If you really are using AC to hide from government snooping, you may want to ask El Reg what their policy is on giving up your name and IP address when asked to do so for reasons of prevention of terrorism.

    If the government want to question you, they will, just not putting your name on your comments is pointless (coming from a non de plume user -- so I don't have to answer to my employer for my comments here).

  74. Rob Crawford


    I think you are responding to a bluntly stated response as opposed to a bigoted agenda.

    When working in London for the last few years I became subject to much abuse from several individuals of the Muslim faith (I wouldn't say that they where particularly representive of their faith though).

    Why ? becasue I disagreed with 2 statements :

    1: the UK should have have Sharia implemented in parallel with normal UK law (and it should apply to everybody in the UK)

    2: Women should not be allowed to wear revealling clothes (regardless of their religion) at any time

    For 2 years I had to put up with crap that my nobody would do anything about (I belonged to the wrong ethnic & religious background). (I also watched the hassles that a born again christian caused with another employer).

    You simply don't have to do much to gain the loathing of certain types of people

    To say that you are immature if you have sworn enemys is a little rich. Surely the ones insist on having sworn enemy are the immature ones.

  75. Anonymous Coward

    Provocation! Us? Surely Not ...

    Ed Arnold

    "Both the US and GB naval units have shown enormous restraint in the face of deliberate provocation"

    What you mean provocation where you deliberately stick Naval units off someone elses coast while your President calls them names?

    If Iran was sailing its navy through the Irish sea I think you would be using a completely different set of logic to justify why they were wrong.

    If the US navy is scared of a few little boats in the Gulf they may I suggest they sail back to US waters.

    You can pretend the Gulf of Tonkin incident is a "fantasy" if it makes you feel better but most other people know better. Hey I bet you think Iraq had WMDs and Germany was attacked first ...

  76. Tawakalna

    and about that Gulf Of Tonkin incident...

    Funnily enough, in a remarkable parallel to the exploding Iranian speedboats of death scare, whilst the US warmongers were whipping up a casus belli over that back in 1964, the facts didn't bear it out; the report of an F-8 Crusader recce pilot over the USS Turner Joy and USS Maddox at the time said, categorically, and I quote:- "Not a one. No boats, no wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes - nothing but black sea and American firepower."

    Within 24 hrs of the incident the captain of the USS Maddox admitted that there may not have been any attack and that his instruments could well have been in error. But on the basis of the war-war, not jaw-jaw, principles of US chickenhawks, facts didn't stand in the way of killing 2 million Vietnamese (and 58,000 American soldiers)

    Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it.

  77. Demian Phillips

    Clearly a trap.

    "Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the founder and president of the Israel Project, contacted Mother Jones and said that her group had commissioned the focus group ...Its board of advisers includes 15 Democratic and Republican members of the House and the Senate, plus actor Ron Silver."

    Ron Silvers presence nails it. Another attempt to entrap Heatvision and Jack.

  78. Gary

    Takes one to know one!

    Maybe you just forgot to write the other half of your expression: "is white and Christian and imperialistic pigs". That might qualify, maybe.

    And you say I am racist--------- Gary

This topic is closed for new posts.