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January 10, 2003

Pushing The Attack Back? I

Pushing The Attack Back?

I might be going out a limb here, especially considering my record on war predictions, but it seems to me that the early February date being tossed around the blogosphere for the start of the Iraqi invasion is increasingly in danger of being wrong. Most commentators have assumed that the next dark of the moon (February 1st) is the obvious date for the start of an attack, given the advantage night-fighting gives our military over any opposing force. But if the war is going to commence at that point, shouldn't most of the ground forces already be in position, or nearly in position? Yet we're still shipping out forces, on ships that will take at 24 or 25 days at a minimum to get forces to the Persian Gulf.

How do I know this? Well, the USNS Bob Hope, which left Hampton Roads back in November, has a top speed of 24 knots. A naval officer estimated then that the trip took 23 to 30 days. The USS Ponce and USS Saipan, and which have not even been loaded with either Marines or Ammunition, have a top speed of 21 knot and 24 knots, respectively, so the minimum passage time puts them on the scene after the most favorable attack time in February. As the two ships tend to travel together, the passage time will actually be longer than that 23 to 30 day estimate, as the Ponce's speed will determine the pace of the crossing.

Update: The USS Gunston Hall has also received orders to ship out. Its top speed is 22 knots.

Just because ground forces won't be in place doesn't mean that the war can't start. We bombed Iraqi forces for several weeks before we invaded back in 1991*, so that can start regardless of whether ground troops are in place or not. It would also make sense to keep shipping troops to the area for several weeks after the deadline for having them there in time for the invasion has passed, just to fuzz the boundary conditions used to predict the invasion date.

Historical Editor's Note: In the early 19th century, at least, a group of sailors from the same ship were referred to by their ship name. So, crewmembers from the HMS Victory would be called "Victories", as sailors from the HMS Surprise in Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin books were called "Surprises". If this tradition remains in effect, seamen from the USS Ponce would be called "Ponces". Not that I would call them that. I value my ribs as they are.

*I wonder if we'll be so staggeringly anal as to start bombing Baghdad on January 16th this time, too.

Posted by Bigwig at January 10, 2003 12:36 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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