Why won't the Navy release the USS FITZGERALD's track?


Hey c,
Just read the rule regarding in extremis. When that point arrives, both vessels are required to take any action that is best able to avert a collision. Did either vessel blow the Danger Signal? Forget this craziness about a Navy coverup. This is not the time for conspiracy theories, Ask why the vessels’ captains were not on the bridge, Ask why the watch officers did not use the VHF for bridge-to-bridge verbal communications. There is too much we do not know, Please forget the anti-Navy rant.


Perhaps the light wasn’t a signal but an attempt to ‘illuminate’ the problem. I was illuminated on a stormy night 50 miles off Canaveral by a merchantman and it saved my vessel and my life.


There is no conspiracy theory involved other than from a handful of obvious tin foil hatted whackjobs here and there who are very easy to ignore, and I’m not sure the silence is a conspiracy at all.

It appears to be a carefully orchestrated public relations strategy to minimize what would be some very adverse publicity at a time when the Navy and the president want to cozy up to a few billion more tax dollars and hire a few thousand more sailors. The Pentagon has learned a great deal about how to manage, control, and manipulate information and “news” to avoid embarrassment.

Notice that the network media has already moved on and there is virtually nothing about the incident other than choreographed photo ops about memorial ceremonies for the victims.


Most seagoing commercial ships don’t have em so it the ALDIS lamp that gets the call. What’s the term for them? “Coon ass radars”?


Really? Maybe not the xenon “ice lights” but all the “seagoing commercial ships” (as you say) that I’ve sailed on had searchlights on the wheelhouse… Not all of us in the bayou now are “boat trash.” Some of us might actually be “edjumacated” to driving real ships as well, so yeah… Crystal could have used a searchlight (of SOME sort) that probably would have put out a damn sight more light than the dinky little ALDIS lamps I’ve had the displeasure of using during UNREPs as well.


Your reading too much into the response so simmer down. I never impugned your experience nor industry simply stating a reference from a former captain of mine who sailed in the gulf.

It has been my experience that most ships of like the ACX Crystal are not equipped with operable searchlights in the wheelhouse. Believe it, or don’t that’s up to you. Typically all you have are lights on the bridgewings and FWIW I would never signal a ship using my bridge wings lights because they usually few seconds to power up (if the crew can find the switches) and they are usually directed forward impeding my ability to see and could obscure my running lights. Thus the ALDIS gets the call. In fact I make sure it is operable and plugged in when I work at night.


Your thinking of the search light.


Isn’t that a no-sail level deficiency?


The "Daylight Signaling Light " is a SOLAS requirement. There is no other requirement for searchlights.

The crew refers to it as the ALDIS light but when Port State Control reads if off the check-list, they ask to see the Daylight Signaling Light


Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a vessel without multiple search lights except one that might have only had one search light. (Also, US tugs are required to have them.)



Above post got reduced. Please provide a link to a SPY1 radar return from the 1st generation system. Not the weather display which I’m sure you are sure to post.

Show a radar scope as we know it with a surface or air contact please. You said it could be googled. Well… I couldn’t find any so you must know where they are at.


Looks like Crystal had two traditional searchlights (and also no doubt the Aldis) but mounted on bridge wings vice housetop. Remains to be seen which he used.


I have similar looking lights in the same location. In my case they are flood lights for deck lighting.


Unless your profession is or was being captain of the Vincennes you might want to relax a bit, nothing I wrote said the radar operators were incompetent, I said all the information the captain needed was there but he refused to acknowledge input from other sources or ask for the extra step required to read the civilian transponder code which would have been displayed on the smaller screen below the large one. It took a couple of extra button pushes. One of the other ships in the group recognized it as a commercial airliner and they had a less capable radar suite.

Did you read the USNI case study?

How come you want me to provide you with a photo? Aren’t you claiming to be an Aegis radar guy? If as you say, you agree with the facts and were an Aegis operator why not add your knowledge and experience rather than “call me out”? If I wrote something that is inaccurate, correct my error(s). Attacking me doesn’t make the Navy look any better.

Here’s a picture taken on the Vincennes itself. Got 119,000 hits in 0.97 seconds.

Taking this back to the subject … even in 1988 ships of that class were capable of seeing a medium sized containership a few miles away and getting closer by the minute. There was nothing lacking in the technology department.

Unless there was a total system failure that took out all radars, radios, binoculars, eyeballs and internal communications systems the answer to the question in the thread title has to be political or cultural. Maybe the whole ship went dark, total loss of all power … I can see why the Navy doesn’t want that to come out while the arguments are still being made about a multi-billion $ increase in the Navy budget but for some reason I just don’t believe this was a technical failure.


Back in the pre-AIS days there usually was spotlight that was available on the flying bridge (via a reach rod in the overhead of the wheelhouse) or on the bridge wing that could be used to get the attention of a vessel. I never used the ALDIS lamp for this purpose although there were times when I have had a Navy ship aggressively maneuver in closer than desired proximity with a signalman blinking away trying to engage me. I struggled through every license exam to receive 6 words of code a minute so that was never going to happen.

In the early nineties I was 2nd Mate on a loaded product tanker heading north from Venezuela through the Windward Passage while a naval blockade of Haiti had been declared. As the watch proceeded I could hear a U.S. Navy destroyer on interdiction duty challenging traffic further up the coast. I then picked up a radar / ARPA target that I deduced, by its frequent and erratic course changes, to be the Navy ship. As I proceeded north I was overtaking a Polish bulk carrier on my port side, which was on a roughly parallel course to me, with a CPA of over a mile. When I was at about 6 nm from the Navy destroyer, with him clearly visible about a point on my port bow and his plot showing a “near zero” CPA, I unambiguously turned right 45 degrees (COLREGS Rule 8 a & c) and established a CPA of +/- 2 nm. About two minutes later, the Navy destroyer decided to resume “flitting about” and came left about 45 degrees thereby re-establishing a near zero CPA!

At this point I hailed the Navy ship on VHF 16 and established contact. After switching to a working channel and explaining my position and intentions, the OOD on the destroyer told me that I had his ship confused with the Polish bulker. I asked him to standby, walked over to the spotlight and tilted it up to the sky, turned it on and swept it back and forth several times. I then called the Navy ship on the VHF and asked them if they could see the spotlight. They responded in the affirmative. I explained to them that the Polish bulker was on my port bow and I again identified my ship as a U.S. Flag tanker northbound. As there was still adequate sea-room with Haiti on the right, I requested that if they would hold their course and speed, I would maneuver around them, to which they (somewhat chastened) agreed. Anyway the spotlight was just one of the tricks we used pre AIS and like any aid to navigation, AIS is not to be relied upon solely.


As for the highly vaunted radars and highly skilled crews operating them, it seems that neither the radars or their operators can tell the difference between a fighter and and an Iranian airliner

This is what you posted that got in my crow.

You notice I didn’t say or have ever taunted the radar. Matter of fact the 1st gen SPY could not tell a difference between the two (airbus and f-14), which they corrected and updated latter. You have not seen me support Capt. Rodgers on his actions. I know about the other ship which called them and told them they had the hostile id’d as an assumed friendly. I understand how all this info is exchanged and displayed which you obviously do not but you sure are posting like you do and I sure don’t need to be told about IFF and where it can be found and displayed. Heck I even had to load my own Mode 4 sometimes. I didn’t have to read the link. I was in the gulf and we get things called TAC MEMOS which is a lot more useful reading then some government report. Was the mode 4 mentioned in the report you posted? Most likely not, at that time we only gave it to two other nations and none should have been flying over IRAN.

The picture you showed is of the TDS or Tactical Data Screen. No radar input is displayed on those screens, only symbols. I will not be able to provide you a picture and you will not be able to provide me a picture because none exist as I know of. (Raw video of a SPY1 1st gen. on a radar repeater. )

I agree with you and all the others something went wrong. Even that close to land most USN ships will maneuver to maintain a 2NM CPA. You are coming across like the SPY radar didn’t pick it up. It may not have, heck it may not have even been on that close to land if they were pulling into port. Things may have changed which I’m sure they have in the last 15 years, damn how time flies, but the SPS-67 radar is used to track surface tracks and to give the rng/brg to the moboard plotters. I’m willing to beat you anything the other ship was being tracked. How they hit… I have no clue.

You are not going to hear me standup for the USN on anything, it’s men and women I will though. I did 20 years and saw a bunch of stuff that I didn’t agree with but it was for the best of the nation or USN. I do not live in the dream world thinking everything is perfect or should be because I know it can not be.

And for the LOVE OF GOD will you folks stop talking about the SONAR as a passive weapon used to track surface ships. That happens only in the movies guys, could it pick up a ship that close? Sure but like many have stated I’m sure it was seen by one of the lookouts and was being tracked on radar before SONAR picked it up. If you are hoping to find something on the ships sonar you are already sunk my friend. Using the 60R and transmitting it’s buoy info to the sonar suite well… That’s a different story.

I never post anything to c-captain when he is bashing the NAVEEEE but he never attacked the enlisted folks either. He may have bashed some ADM. which is fine because they are more politicians than sailors IMO. I sure liked TK Shannon though.

Steamer, I have always liked your posts and agreed with most and find them very useful. I just felt like you were belittling these USN sailors who do a completely different job than merchant sailors. If this was not your intent then I am sorry.

Folks keep talking about how many folks are on the bridge when a USN ship pulls into or out of port , Think tactical folks. They are training to pull into and out of port in the worst conditions if they need to. No fog or downpour will stop them from getting underway and they have to be trained on radar navigation and visual navigation incase they pull out under EMCON. GPS you say, well if we are fighting any foe with the capability they will take out the GPS to pretty much disable the Tomahawks.

Don’t forget about flight 800. That has USN stink all over it.

I’ll let this rest and just let the folks babble on about the USN and all its equipment and how useless it is in the hands of it’s incompetent sailors. When in short it can be summed up as people just make mistakes.


And what part of that statement is incorrect? They had the latest most expensive hardware and the best trained operators but they still shot down an airliner because no one had the balls to contradict Vincennes captain or to analyze the data that was available. The airliner was squawking an ATC code, it wasn’t some military IFF frequency and the Aegis at that time could receive it if they wanted to.

I’ll go along with the USNI verson of events and believe that not much has changed and that is a contributing factor in the Fitz case.


Lights on an 8000 TEU container vessel


One more . Search lights in both wings, fixed lights in a row below the bridge windows.


They are search lights…sort of. They are used primarily to illuminate the ships decks and house and not operable from inside of the vessels wheelhouse and I, personally, wouldn’t use them to signal another vessel unless I absolutely had too for a few reasons:

  1. The crew may not find the switch (not all are at the light)
  2. Once activated they may take a while to illuminate or may not illuminate at all in time to assist in an emergency .(common)
  3. Flashing the light most likely would be difficult as once extinguished the light needs to be re-energized—see #2
  4. The light might not be operable. Meaning it’s securing mechanisms may be frozen and the light’s orientation be fixed in a direction (common).
  5. Not all vessels have their running lights placed forward, many have them right there in the bridge wing about 1.5 meters below your “search light” (first picture). Energizing that light would probably obscure the running light, something I, personally, wouldn’t want to do.
  6. Once energized my night vision might be impeded making a difficult situation more so. The ALDIS lamp (provided the operator doesn’t turn around and ask a question with the trigger pulled…yep that happened once) is much better at saving night vision and applying a direct signal to the vessel in question.

My thoughts based on my experience. YMMV.

When someone mentions searchlights this is what I think they mean.