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18 NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011 It INT half hot, mum...

KNUCKLING down to a sustained period at sea, Her Majesty’s Ship Cumberland is in the middle of a mission to safeguard the waters of the Gulf from pirates,

smugglers and terrorists. Her men and women operate with a new weapon in their armoury. Not guns or missiles. Information. It comes courtesy of the Fleet Intelligence Centre. The centre at HMS Collingwood has just stood up

to provide detailed and dedicated info to deployed ships, naval squadrons and Royal Marines units. It’s not often that naval intelligence features in these

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pages. It’s a black art. The words ‘classifi ed’ and ‘top secret’ don’t necessarily sit comfortably with ‘newspaper’. In fact, not much in the intelligence world is actually secret. “There’s very little out there that is classifi ed,” explains Lt Cdr Colvin Osborn, one of several intelligence experts at the hub of the new centre, the Mar

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That said, there’s enough suffi ciently classifi ed to make the headquarters not your typical Collingwood building.

M itime Intelligence Fusion Cell. c

From the outside it looks like a big shed or sports centre. It’s only inside you realise you’re entering something a bit different. Surrender anything electronic – laptops, mobile phones and the like – and pass through those Spooks-esque tube doors. And inside it’s lots of people staring at computers. With charts of the world on the wall. And a couple of clocks.

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There’s a picture of Capt Mansfi eld Smith-Cummings, the father of the British Secret Service, immortalised in fi ction by Ian Fleming as M. There’s one too of Ewen Montagu, creator of the ‘man who never was’ who convinced the Germans that the Allies weren’t landing in Sicily but elsewhere in the Med.

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helped to defeat the U-boat in WW2. And there’s ‘Blinker’ Hall, head of the fabled

● Cumberland’s Mk 8 Lynx pulls away from her mother ship Pictures: LA(Phot) Steve Johncock, FRPU West

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who, with the help of Enigma de-codes

There’s Capt Rodger Winn (bottom ‘telegram’),,


Naval Intelligence Division which cracked German codes in the Great War and precipitated the Battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. And there’s a small Western Union telegram, a

But a few framed panels on the wall give a clue to the role.

information to the Mighty Sausage’s command team to draw up the CO’s intelligence estimate – it’s down to them to decide what they’re likely to face during their six-plus months away. “We don’t advise, we give information. It’s the

When fi nished, the centre handed all the

CO’s ship – it’s down to him to decide what to do,” Lt Cdr Osborn. “If we’ve done our job correctly before a ship

deploys, there should be no surprises.” To that end there’s no thought of brushing aside the pirates as mere fi shermen armed with AK47s or Caribbean drug traffi ckers as simple-minded criminals.

– it’s in their interests to keep pace with technology,” Capt Jon Perkins, Deputy Assistant Chief-of-Staff Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (thankfully shortened to DACOS ISTAR). “It’s our job to stay one step ahead of them.” The pirates in the Somali basin may look like a rag-

tag bunch armed with basic weapons in very basic craft, but behind them is a relatively sophisticated intelligence network which tracks the movements of merchant vessels. Half a world away, Central and South American

“These people are in the business of making money

druglords are using ‘narco subs’ – semi-submersible fi bre-glass boats which are extremely hard for the eye or sonar to spot. To stay that ‘one step ahead’ of these criminal elements, as well as rogue states and potential foes, the naval intelligence world is undergoing one of the biggest shake-ups in its 100-plus-year history. Firstly there’s the centre itself, formally opened by Major General Garry Robison RM, Chief-of- Staff Capability and the RN’s Commander Maritime Operations, Rear Admiral Mark Anderson. As well as the HQ in Fareham, there will be satellite buildings/offi ces elsewhere. Next there’s a fundamental restructuring in a world where the buzzwords are ‘intelligence-led operations’ and (courtesy of the Americans, naturally) ‘intelligence dominance’.

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real drive to recognise that it’s a professional sub- specialisation of the Warfare Branch.” It is one of the smallest arms of the RN – 86

“It has been here for 100 years, but it has been run by gifted amateurs. Now there’s a

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series of three, four and fi ve-digit numbers fi lling 17 lines of a piece of paper, sent to the German Embassy in Mexico in January 1917. The world knows it as the Zimmermann Telegram (top telegram), promising Mexico three US states if it sided with the Kaiser in WW1.

at a moment when the Kaiser’s U-boats were attacking shipping indiscriminately. It helped to push the USA into war with Germany on Britain’s side. The telegram was broken by men of Room 40. Nearly a century on, the FIC is its modern-day successor.

Room 40 had its eyes fi rmly fi xed on Germany. The FIC (sadly the room number of the hub of operations isn’t 40...) has dissected the globe into fi ve zones, refl ecting the Navy’s priorities and missions. There’s the North Atlantic (“our backyard”), the

Mediterranean, South Atlantic, the Somali Basin/ Arabian Gulf, and the rest of the world, all overseen by a team of two dozen sailors in the fusion cell. Of these areas, the Middle East and Horn of Africa

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is by far the smallest geographically – but as it’s the Fleet’s area of main effort (there were some 15 warships, submarines, auxiliaries and naval air units in the region as of the beginning of November), it gets a dedicated team of analysts. On top of that, each ship deploying is assigned an intelligence expert. The Mighty Sausage is the centre’s very fi rst ‘customer’. Nine months before the ship deployed, her CO received an introductory call from the Collingwood team. Thereafter the experts began building up a ‘deployment intelligence guide’ covering all the issues affecting the region – economics, climates, insurgency, unrest, cultural/religious issues, potential threats – pooled from all the available sources. In the case of an anti-piracy patrol such as F85s,

that guide includes the latest information on pirate hot-spots, their camps, their tactics and weaponry, and recent activity.

Decoded by the RN, it was handed to the Americans

offi cers. But it’s about to grow – massively. The aim on the offi cer side alone is to more than double numbers to 170 plus. And there will be an increase in employment for ratings as well. A 14-week course is being introduced for intelligence offi cers; if they pass they alternate between intelligence postings and General Service duties for the rest of their careers. What’s expected of intelligence offi cers and ratings,

says Capt Perkins, is “an inquiring mind. It might sound clichéd, but we want people who think outside the box. We also want people who are thorough – this is not the place for those who are slapdash.” The starting point for any intelligence they gather is ‘open source’: newspapers, television, Internet, Google Earth, Wikipedia, offi cial reports, publications. Throw in material gathered from other, classifi ed sources and a ship could drown in intelligence material.


at Northwood, puts it: “Take data, turn it into information, analyse it, then create intelligence which a commanding offi cer can use to make decisions.” He continues: “Most wars have been caused by bad intelligence. What you don’t hear about are the confl icts prevented by good intelligence.” There are, no doubt, many more successes in

specialisation exists as such,” Capt Perkins explains.

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have done magnifi cent things in naval intelligence,

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“There are so many people who but no naval intelligence

Which is not a good thing. Lots of chaff. A bit of Or as Cdr Chris Dyke, head of Fleet Intelligence

military intelligence than those listed earlier; when it comes to failures, well the list is seemingly endless. Barbarossa. Pearl Harbor. D-Day (for the Germans;

it worked quite nicely for the Allies...). The Tet Offensive. Yom Kippur. Falklands. We could go on... There’s even a best-selling book on the subject,

Military Intelligence Blunders. It’s regularly updated. It’s down to the Fleet Intelligence Centre to ensure a new chapter’s not added.

● HMS Cumberland’s RN/RM boarding teams practise manoeuvres with the frigate’s RIBs


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