Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Big Mistake on OEF-MIO Operations from the Persian Gulf and Incomplete Thoughts Thereon

I made a big mistake. In fact, I made a doubled-size, italics, bold-letter mistake here. Foreign Minister Komura under Diet questioning reaffirmed that naval vessels did participate in bombing sorties in Afghanistan after receiving fuel from JMSDF vessels, and that the new anti-terrorism bill would be limited to Maritime Interception Operations (OEF-MIO).

So, my unconditional, absolute apology to TIME and its intrepid reporting team.

But it was not to abase myself publicly that I am writing this. You see, the existence of such bombing operations is very important because that is the only plausible explanation for the USS Kitty Hawk engaging in OEF from the Persian Gulf during the three days (25-27 February 2003) that, according to Defense Minister Ishiba, it took to consume the 800,000 gallons that it received from the JMSDF refueling ship Tokiwa. (In fact, I'm very much embarrassed at the fact that I didn't see this point in the first place.)

Still, leaving aside the conceptual difficulty of wrapping your mind around the idea that you can somehow distinguish between the drops of JMSDF fuel and drops of non-JMSDF fuel in the same fuel tank (surely the Kitty Hawk was not running on empty when it was serviced by Tokiwa) the discrepancy between average daily fuel consumption figures under normal conditions (U.S. documents by way of Peace Depot-113,000 gallons, Mr. Ishiba-200,000 gallons) remains unresolved. Likewise, the Kitty Hawk command history that the Peace Depot accusations has uploaded appears to show that its objectives on this mission were to engage in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Southern Watch (OSW).

Moreover, the Kitty Hawk deck log, again courtesy of Peace Depot, together with a map attached to the hard copy version of this Yomiuri article on Mr. Ushiba's testimony raises a further question. The deck log shows the Kitty Hawk in "AT/PASSAGE FROM Malacca TO Persian Gulf" on two dates, 17 February and 27 February, the latter date being the day it changed command. I presume that subsequent log entries show the Kitty Hawk "AT/PASSAGE FROM the Persian Gulf TO". The Yomiuri map of the Kitty Hawk's final leg of its passage (did Mr. Ishiba display it during his Diet testimony?) shows the Kitty Hawk on the move continuously, as it approaches from the Indian Ocean on 24 February, refuels from the Tokiwa near the mouth of the Persian Gulf on 25 February, enters the Gulf on 26 February, then comes to settle off the narrow Iraqi outlet at the tip of the Gulf on 1 March. I suspect that if the log between its departure from Okinawa and arrival in the Gulf were disclosed, it would show that the Kitty Hawk had been in continuous movement every day. Now it is conceivable that it ran sorties to Afghanistan in passing as it neared its ultimate destination. But plausible? I have no military expertise whatsoever, so I'll leave it at that.

There's also the matter of the large amount of JMSDF-to-U.S. vessel refueling, both in number of operations and per operation volume, in FY 2001 (April-March) and FY 2002, and the dramatic drop-off thereafter. The 800,000 gallons in the 25 February operation is merely a small fraction of the total. OSW effectively ended with the successful subjugation of the Iraqi regime at the end of the Japanese FY 2002. This coincidence of the end of refueling large U.S. military vessels and the end of a continuous aerial operation must be matched against the rise and fall of battleground needs in Afghanistan at the time to derive any conclusions, though; and, again, I am in way over my head. Unfortunately for Ichiro Ozawa, DPJ wonks knowledgeable in defense matters do not seem to be in his corner in the attack on the anti-terrorism operations.

Okay, now back to life.

(note) Major operations in Afghanistan involving air power seemed to have subsided, at least for while, after Operation Anaconda in March 2002. And the Anaconda was run by the U.S. ARMY and Air Force and did not involve the Navy or the Marines.

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