November 13, 2018

Tracking US Navy nuclear submarines using publicly available information

US Navy official photo (exact credit unknown)
US Navy official web page (Screenshot 2017-06-09)

(2018-12-16 Edit) The purpose of the secrecy around the locations of US Navy SSNs, SSGNs, and SSBNs is operational security; OPSEC.  You don't want to tell an adversary where the submarines are, so you don't jeopardize their mission.  The safety of those submarines, and their submariners, is of paramount importance to everyone. My objective in highlighting the following is to raise awareness that the supposed secrecy surrounding those deployments does not to hide their area of deployment from the Chinese Navy, North Korean Navy, or the Russian Navy; it hides or obfuscates their deployments from the collective knowledge of the American people, who happen to pay for the US Navy though their taxes. The technique I'm going to show you suggests that they are not hiding, and know it. I speculate they are not spoken openly about for political, rather than OPSEC, reasons.

The US Navy themselves post to official US Navy web pages and social media about US Navy submarine deployments; the screenshots embedded are proof of that, in case you hadn't noticed these posts before, or are not following the US Navy on social media.  Unlike the leaks to Fox News from Pentagon sources and other news organisations around the positions of the Russian Navy AGI Viktor Leonov, which were derived from US Navy intelligence sources and clearly Secret, if not Top Secret, these are public displays of the US Navy's ability to project power to the other side of the globe. The transponders being on, and the press releases, are all shows of force.

US Navy official Twitter account (posted 2017-06-07)
I do not want anyone to think the transponders on these subs are being used naively or in any incompetent fashion by the US Navy, or they're "forgetting" that they turn them on and off; all of this is extremely well known by the commanding officer of the submarine and the rest of the crew. The decisions related to who to tell or not tell in the public sphere are solely made at the Pentagon.  Submarines are stealthy by nature, and have the capability to remain hidden for an extended trip into hostile waters; that these submarines are turning up on AIS indicates the US Navy feels it doesn't have to hide these particular submarines at these specific times.  You'll notice very few SSBN "Boomers" on the list, since they do not show up very often at all; their areas of operation are more secret than the attack submarines. I presume this difference is directly related to their vital role in the nuclear triad; they must stay hidden.  This difference again demonstrates it isn't that the US Navy can't keep a secret, SSN deployments just aren't universally as secret as they may seem to be.

locations where US Navy submarines have last beaconed using AIS-T
(screenshot 2017-06-09 MarineTraffic.com)
Much like the NORAD interceptions of Russian Long Range Aviation flights, or Russian Open Skies Treaty overflights of the United States, the military is under no obligation to share information about these operations with the public, and by policy doesn't.  NORAD does not announce when they intercept Russian Long Range Aviation flights; the only time you hear them on the news is when information is leaked by someone (read: officials at the Pentagon). The USAF doesn't announce when Russian Open Skies Treaty overflights are going on.  Those flights are not secret, as evidenced by their transponders being on, and as they are announced in advance in the Russian news media.  Again, the silence is political.

The following spreadsheet should help you match the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI), which the submarine transponder identifies itself as, with the true name of the submarine. They usually identify themselves with a generic name like "submarine" or "us submarine"; with a little data aggregation we can fix that.  Special thanks to @lala_zet (どうもありがとうございました) who posted their MMSI / name correlations as well. The MMSI-name correlations I didn't have, I copied, and the ones I had previously, I was able to confirm.

Some of the below, but not all, can be tracked on MarineTraffic.com, if this interests you. The corresponding MMSIs can only be considered "best-guess" in terms of accuracy.


USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730) MMSI:
USS Alabama (SSBN-731) MMSI:
USS Alaska (SSBN-732) MMSI:
USS Nevada (SSBN-733) MMSI:
USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) MMSI:
USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) MMSI:
USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) MMSI:
USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) MMSI:
USS Maryland (SSBN-738) MMSI:
USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) MMSI:
USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740) MMSI:369970218
USS Maine (SSBN-741) MMSI:
USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) MMSI:369970231
USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) MMSI:369970198
USS Ohio (SSGN-726) MMSI:
USS Michigan (SSGN-727) MMSI:369970203
USS Florida (SSGN-728) MMSI:369970157
USS Georgia (SSGN-729) MMSI:369970181
USS Seawolf (SSN-21) MMSI:
USS Connecticut (SSN-22) MMSI:369970178
USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) MMSI:369970192
USS Bremerton (SSN-698) MMSI:369970170
USS Jacksonville (SSN-699) MMSI:
USS Buffalo (SSN-715) MMSI:
USS Olympia (SSN-717) MMSI:369970212
USS Providence (SSN-719) MMSI:369970008
USS Pittsburgh (SSN-720) MMSI:369970216
USS Chicago (SSN-721) MMSI:
USS Key West (SSN-722) MMSI:366874512
USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) MMSI:369970211
USS Louisville (SSN-724) MMSI:
USS Helena (SSN-725) MMSI:369970185
USS Newport News (SSN-750) MMSI:369970208
USS San Juan (SSN-751) MMSI:369970217
USS Pasadena (SSN-752) MMSI:369970213
USS Albany (SSN-753) MMSI:369970163
USS Topeka (SSN-754) MMSI:369970227
USS Scranton (SSN-756) MMSI:369970221
USS Alexandria (SSN-757) MMSI:369970165
USS Asheville (SSN-758) MMSI:
USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) MMSI:
USS Annapolis (SSN-760) MMSI:369970166
USS Springfield (SSN-761) MMSI:369970223
USS Columbus (SSN-762) MMSI:369970177
USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) MMSI:369970220
USS Boise (SSN-764) MMSI:369970169
USS Montpelier (SSN-765) MMSI:
USS Charlotte (SSN-766) MMSI:369970172
USS Hampton (SSN-767) MMSI:369970183
USS Hartford (SSN-768) MMSI:369970184
USS Toledo (SSN-769) MMSI:369970226
USS Tucson (SSN-770) MMSI:369970228
USS Columbia (SSN-771) MMSI:369970176
USS Greeneville (SSN-772) MMSI:369970182
USS Cheyenne (SSN-773) MMSI:369970173
USS Virginia (SSN-774) MMSI:369970229
USS Texas (SSN-775) MMSI:369970225
USS Hawaii (SSN-776) MMSI:369970158
USS North Carolina (SSN-777) MMSI:369970159
USS New Hampshire (SSN-778) MMSI:
USS New Mexico (SSN-779) MMSI:369970012
USS Missouri (SSN-780) MMSI:368926259
USS California (SSN-781) MMSI:369970327
USS Mississippi (SSN-782) MMSI:369970328
USS Minnesota (SSN-783) MMSI:369970641
USS North Dakota (SSN-784) MMSI:369970642
USS John Warner (SSN-785) MMSI:369970640
USS Illinois (SSN-786) MMSI:369970957
USS Washington (SSN-787) MMSI:369970958
USS Colorado (SSN-788) MMSI:369970201
USS Indiana (SSN-789) MMSI:369970960
USS South Dakota (SSN-790) MMSI:368926327

(2018-12-16 Edit)

9 comments:

  1. Excellent read. Shows the utility of OSINT for gathering information. So much is out there. The CIA once frowned upon the use of OSINT. No more.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you sir! Indeed, it's mind boggling what's out there from unofficial sources :)

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    2. Yes this is about the dumist shi_ that the US Navy has done, Well I am hopeful they will stop this crap from happening again, but knowing our government it will take weeks if not months. In the mean time we put our self's at risk by other nations.

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  3. I did not know that such information can be found online!

    ReplyDelete