Saturday, April 18, 2009

Somalia piracy and hunter/killer groups

One of my brothers mentioned that the convoy idea was sound, but that it would not protect the independently sailing ships passing through the pirate-infested waters off Somalia. He suggested placing two or three Navy Seals on each ship.

This idea does have merit, although I am not certain that I would want to deploy our crack units in this fashion. I don’t know about how the German, Italian, Turkish or Japanese merchant marine reacted to arming their ships when they were being attacked by an effective commerce raiding campaign. I do know that the English and American merchant marine have historically been somewhat combative concerning the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy. Many times hostility was and is today, quite open. In addition, I don’t know about any problems concerning insurance and any rules restrictions installed because of collective bargaining.

What I do know is that even when the convoy system was operating fully, many independently routed merchant ships were dispatched. Even at the end of the war, these tended to have a far greater loss primarily because of lack of protection. However, beginning in 1943 the allies began to operate in numbers what became to be called hunter/killer groups. This was a small task group, centered on a ‘jeep’ or escort carrier that would operate in areas of enemy activity. They went looking for trouble and were quite successful. Just three or four of these groups operating together could sweep a large section of ocean.

Because we are not actually at war, we cannot just send a modern version of these hunter/killer groups out to kill the pirates. Friendly submarines were known not to be in the area, so any subs encountered were the enemy and we could attack them without warning. We cannot do this today, so this idea in and of itself cannot be the answer.

Chances are, a combined approach would work best. Implement a system of convoys, organize some hunter/killer groups centered on a ship that could operate aircraft or helicopters, and place defenses aboard the ships where practical.

The pirate enemy of today is operating out of very small ships and is using only hand held weapons. It will take only a very small amount of defensive firepower to stop and/or prevent an individual attack. The problem is having the firepower in the right place. Maybe the cost is just not worth all of the effort. I disagree. I see the piracy operating from Somalia as being similar, if not connected to the Islamic terrorism that is such a scourge today. I believe that it is worth waging organized warfare in both cases in order to put an end to it.

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