Saturday, November 22, 2008
Towards a Solution to Piracy
Attacks Daily in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean
1. Justification: Piracy as practiced now is kidnapping and theft, with loss of lives in some instances. It is an international crime, and deserves an international solution.
2. Needs: The entire coastline of East Africa and the entire Indian Ocean is the operating area for pirates, who are mostly based in Somalia. The needs are many:
a. Put pressure on the Somalia government to rein in the pirates in their territory. No valid government to pressure.
b. Send warships to the area to patrol. This is being done.
c. Use the US Navy capability to coordinate between all of the ships and aircraft to generate a composite surface picture or CSP. This is being done.
d. Track all vessels in the area of interest. Combine all reporting and sightings into the picture, and focus on vessels that appear to be on an intercept course with merchantmen. We know how to do this from our long experience in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. This is being done partially, lacking full coverage.
e. Use high altitude reconnaissance vehicles to maintain the CSP over 120,000 square mile areas. Augment the CSP with satellite surveillance where possible.
f. Use towed-array sonar to perform surveillance, identification, and tracking of vessels in the passive sonar range of warships. Add this input to the CSP. Pirate vessels can ultimately be identified by their propeller signatures, which will aid the tracking of suspicious vessels. Possibly being done in some cases.
g. Focus upon the developing encounters between suspected pirate ships and merchantmen, in order to be able to warn the merchantmen of the threat, and to commit to counter action before the pirates can board the merchantman.
h. Arm the Merchantmen sufficiently that they can delay or thwart the pirates. Place a contingent of trained soldiers aboard to operate the weapons, help to stand 24/7 watch, and to use the usual military gear—night vision glasses, GPS location, and laser designators for targets—to help fight off the attackers. The right combination of weapons is needed to be able to defeat both the speedboats and their ‘Mother Ship.”
To defeat the speedboats, at least a number of 50 caliber machine guns, perhaps two to four on a side would be needed for close in defense. One of a number of relatively inexpensive anti-tank missile systems would be effective against the Mother ship, as well as the speedboats, with TOW as the first possibility to come to mind. Even Stinger would be useful.
i. Ensure that the Captains of merchant vessels have knowledge of effective evasion techniques against the speedboat boarding parties. With earlier warning of a possible attack, and from what direction, the merchant vessel can be better prepared, and can increase speed in directions that make the pirate attack more difficult. Ships radar should be used 24/7, and upgraded if it is obsolete. It appears that some Captains have successfully maneuvered away from the pirates.
j. Employ high altitude drones in the role of surveillance and counterattack or “Hunter/Killer type of operation. The MQ-9 Reaper seems fitted out best for this role at the moment, and the weapon of choice would be the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), GBU-39/GBU-40. This winged bomb has a range from high altitude, 30-to-50 thousand feet, of 60 nautical miles, and an accuracy of a few meters. The newer versions of this weapon will have terminal seeker capability and mid-course correction capability. A Reaper can carry quite a number of SDBs, perhaps 14 or more. No reported instance of a drone being employed as of today.
With these provisions in place, the pirates would have a far tougher time to bring off a capture. At 150 million dollars of losses this year, it will soon be evident to all that a joint solution by many nations would share costs and soon rid the area of pirates.