US warship collisions raise cyberattack fears

Singapore : A spate of incidents involving US warships in Asia, including a deadly collision this week off Singapore, has forced the navy to consider whether cyberattackers might be to blame.

While some experts believe that being able to engineer such a collision would be unlikely, given the security systems of the US Navy and the logistics of having two ships converge, others say putting the recent incidents down to human error and coincidence is an equally unsatisfactory explanation.

The USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker early Monday as the warship was on its way for a routine stop in the city-state, tearing a huge hole in the hull and leaving 10 sailors missing and five injured.

The Navy announced Tuesday that remains of some of the sailors were found by divers in flooded compartments on the ship.

The Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Monday he could not rule out some kind of outside interference or a cyberattack being behind the latest collision, but said he did not want to prejudge the inquiry. His broader remarks suggested a focus on "how we do business on the bridge".

"We're looking at every possibility," Richardson said, when asked about the possibility of a cyberattack, adding "as we did with Fitzgerald as well."

Just two months earlier in June, the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead and leading to several officers being disciplined.

There were also two more, lesser-known incidents this year -- in January USS Antietam ran aground near its base in Japan and in May, USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel. Neither caused any injury.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, has refused to rule out sabotage in Monday's incident, saying all possibilities are being examined.

"We are not taking any consideration off the table," he told reporters in Singapore Tuesday, when asked about the possibility of a cyberattack in the latest incident.



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