Now that U.S. naval vessels have been required to turn on their navigational beacons in crowded waters, online Navy enthusiasts believe they are tracking those ships' movements.
Stars & Stripes is reporting:
A tweet posted on Sunday that maps the location of a “US GOV VSL” approaching Hong Kong reads: “Reason to believe this is USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).”
The aircraft carrier and the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee anchored near Hong Kong on Monday, a Pacific Fleet statement said.
Retired Vice Adm. William Douglas Crowder, a former 7th Fleet commander and a former deputy chief of naval operations, told NPR that Navy ships typically use locators in receive-only mode, which allows them to see other vessels using the system but doesn’t let other ships see them.
“It’s all about operational security,” Crowder said. “We don’t want to be broadcasting our exact position to everyone.”
However, Lyle Goldstein, an associate professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., said in an email that he doesn’t think America’s potential adversaries will gain much by studying warships’ [Automatic Identification System] data.
The professor also noted that Chinese intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance personnel probably know where U.S. surface ships are located anyway. It employs satellite monitoring, Skywave Radar, large fishing and merchant fleets, as well as a huge Coast Guard and related maritime patrol assets.