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USS CARON - STRANGE NAVAL HISTORY - US NAVY SHIP DELIBERATELY RAMMED BY RUSSIAN MILITARY VESSELS

Spruance-class destroyer vs Mirka II class light frigate

In February 1988, Caron operating with Yorktown, entered the Soviet Union's 12 mile (22.2 km) territorial waters limit in the Black Sea off the Crimean Peninsula without permission. Under established international law, this act was permissible if the transiting foreign ship is progressing from one point in international waters to another point in international waters via the shortest course possible. The Soviet Union had however claimed the right to authorize or prohibit travel in selected areas within the 12 mile limit. The United States did not recognize the Soviet claim. To prevent it from becoming accepted precedent, the US Navy had sailed warships through such areas at regular intervals in the past.

On this occasion, Caron had onboard a ships signal exploitation spaces system, operated by a crew of 18 personnel in support of the U.S. National Security Agency. This system was capable of recording data on Soviet defense radars and communications.

In response, the Soviets deployed a destroyer and a Mirka II class light frigate as well as many other Soviet Navy, Coast Guard, KGB and "civilian" ships to intercept the U.S. ships. Soviet aircraft continuously buzzed the Caron and Yorktown as smaller vessels weaved to an fro in front of the American ships. Several times, Soviet vessels and aircraft obtained radar "lock" on the Caron and Yorktown. Both American ships maintained a constant course and speed throughout the incident. Eventually, the Soviets lightly rammed both Caron and Yorktown. No significant damage resulted to any of the ships involved. The much beloved (by the crew) Captain of the Caron Lou Harlow, ordered that people go over the side of the Caron to paint over the superficial marks created by the "ramming" within minutes of the event. The move was intended to intimidate the U.S. as a measure to encourage them not to engage in such flexing of international law in the future.

Russian side depicts the outcome of the incident slightly differently. Following is a transcript of a report by Russian officers Nikolay Mikheev and Vladimir Bogdashin:

By the moment they approached our waters, the Americans followed in radio order distanced at 2700-3600 meters from each other. Cruiser was leading and more to seaside, destroyer closer to seashore at the cruiser's angle of 140-150 degrees left board. Coast Guargship "Honest" ("Bezzavetny"), which was 8 times lighter than its American counterpart, and Coast Guardship "SKR-6" (equally lighter) were following the cruiser and destroyer at their course abgles of left boards 100-110 degrees at the distance of 90-100 meters. Behind that group an additional two USSR coast guardships followed.

When we received the order to start push out the US invaders, we run "All sailors man their battlestations", we sealed the bow sections, moved personnel out of bow sections, armed torpedoes, primed the machine-guns, fielded the fire-fighting crews, sent "ready to engage" to shock troopers, rest of the sailors manned their stations. Right anchors were moved out the hawseholes. At the bridge of the "Honest" was Mikheev in contact with headquarters and managing the battle group, Bogdashin is helming the ship, translation officer keeps constant radiocontact with US group.

Closed in at distance of 40 meters, then closed to 10 meters (SKR-6 does the same with the destroyer). At the US cruiser's deck jolly sailors and officers waving, shouting, taking pictures, making obscene gestures as US sailors normally do. US cruiser's captain walked out to the left open part of the bridge.

When we've been confirmed "Act as planned" we started to "shove" the cruiser, simultaneously SKR-6 "shoved" the destroyer. Bogdashin steered the ship in such a way that the first contact was at tangent to the US cruiser's left board. After the impact as a result of the shock, sparckles flew, and American's board paint started to burn. For a moment, the fireball appeared, and then deep clouds of smoke trailed our movements. After the hit, our anchor has torn up the cruiser's board and made a pretty dent in our bow. The aftershock threw our bow away, while our stem went left, and our aft got dangerously close to enemy's board.

The US cruiser sounded full alarm, personnel rushed from decks down to holes, Cruiser's captain rushed inside from the outer bridge. At that moment Americans obviously were unable to control the ship, so the cruiser turned right, which made it even more dangerous for the "Honest". After that Bogdashin commanded "riht on board" increased the speed to 16 knots, which allowed somehow to lean our aft away from the enemy, but at the same time the US cruiser turned left and the most devastating (for Americans) impact occurred - what we wanted as "showing" turned into full ramming.

We've hit the cruiser into the helideck - our high and sharp bow, so to speak, "crawled" onto cruiser's helicopter deck, and at angle of 15-20 degrees to the left started to crush everything in its way, gradually sliding down to the cruiser's aft. The "showe" tore up the deckhouse, cut down all the rails of helipad deck, destroyed the commander's cutter, further crawled to the aft deck, and also destroyed all guardrails. After that we broke the "Harpoon" launcher - we thought we're going to cut it off completely, but we just cut it in half. Then the anchor tore loose off the chain (by miracle, thank God, it didn't hurt any of US crewmen) it flew within inches from cruiser's firefighters crew and fell into water. Out of four US "Harpoon" launch pads, two were cut in half, the missiles' warheads hanging on the wires. One more "Harpoon" launch pad was bent.

Finally, our forecastle fell on water from the cruiser, we've parted with the cruiser and started to follow it at 50-60 meters. We've informed Americans that we will repeat a "showe" if they don't leave our territorial waters. Strange activity was observed at the cruiser's decks. Firefighting crews (all of them afro-Americans) first unrolled the fire hoses, but then disappeared into the holes - the US "Harpoons" didn't catch fires, so all men went into ship's inner spaces. As intelligence reported later, US cruiser developed a fire in "Harpoon" support bunks deep in the hull, and also in "Asrock" anti-submarine missile bunks.
 

USS CARON - STRANGE NAVAL HISTORY - US NAVY SHIP DELIBERATELY RAMMED BY RUSSIAN MILITARY VESSELS






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