Sunday, February 13, 2011

Somali piracy--a new solution: UAV carriers

There are three problems in East African waters:
1. Piracy
2. Overfishing from non-Somali vessels
3. Toxic waste dumping.

The current solution for piracy:
1. Going real fast/evasive maneuvers
2. Various nonviolent defenses, from acoustic weapons to firehoses and barbed wire.
3. Armed guards on board.
4. Patrols by various navies with various degrees of cooperation and various policies.

The current solution for foreign fishing and toxic waste dumping:
Nothing that I know of.

Some interesting solutions have been offered on this thread, but nothing that would address all three problem. And addressing all three problems would be politically effective--it would be seen in the third world as much more even-handed. It would also be just, for what that's worth.

My solution would address all three problems and solve some additional challenges as well.
It is building and deploying a UAV carrier task force. A UAV carrier would be about the size and capabilities of an assault carrier/helicopter carrier. These aren't exactly tiny but they are a less than half the size of a supercarrier. I spent five hours touring such a carrier a few months ago, and I'm sure it would serve the purpose perfectly after conversion from carrying choppers and Harriers to carrying UAVs (plus a few choppers).

The purpose would be to patrol the coastline from which the pirate motherships and skiffs are setting out into an area the size of Europe. Navy destroyers can't do that cost-effectively. It would take hundreds, if not thousands. UAVs can do patrols like that on teacups of fuel, at an altitude from which they can't be seen or heard.

You have four types of vessels involved:
1. Pirate skiffs
2. Pirate motherships (usually stolen)
3. Pirate motherships with captured crews on board.
4. Captured freighters the pirates are taking back to their port.

Of course UAVs can't exactly capture vessels. Nor can they always tell an innocent fishing trawler from a pirate mothership until it goes into action--usually at night--much less whether a pirate mothership has a captured crew on board.

But UAVs can follow ships for long periods. Once they're revealed at pirate vessels, the hunter UAV's info is relayed to a killer UAV--the kind we use to kill terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen. It would come in and sink any pirate skiffs, then disable the mothership by blowing off its rudder/prop assembly.

Then the UAV carrier could coordinate with a Coast Guard-type vessel to go there and board the mothership. If the pirates surrender peacefully, they could be dropped off at the nearest coastline. If they put up a fight they would be killed on the spot. The ship would be towed to a friendly port and either sold as salvage or repatriated to its legitimate owners after paying cost of recovery.

Currently all our armed forces are rapidly developing and deploying many kinds of UAVs. UAV carriers would be extraordinarily useful and relatively cheap. Using them to solve this problem would also help us develop and refine tactics for using them.

Likewise, ships dumping toxic wastes in Somali waters would be stopped, confiscated, and sold, the value being used to defray the cost of patrolling. Ditto foreign fishing boats--though in this case they could be given a warning first, dropped from a recon UAV, and if they don't leave immediately, confiscate those too.

Pirates would be biometrically ID'd before being released on the nearest coast, wherever it was (Somalia, Mozambique, India, Yemen, whatever). If caught a second time they would be tried and executed by the assault carrier's captain, under centuries'-old law of the sea.  Not killing them the first time would serve the purpose of securing the safe release of innocent crewmen being held captive on captured ships.


Anonymous said...

Dear President Obama,

I voted for you because I was impressed about your ability to make good, analytical decisions. I, however, am not impressed with the fact that we are now stuck in 2 wars that, you said yourself, were not worthy of our efforts. What happened?

Because most Americans have lost faith in your leadership, I will make this easy for you. Probably 90% of Americans will agree with this, you need a winner. By the way, we will end up with someone worse in Libya.. You are welcome to use this version or amend it. You really need to focus on the most important issues, lest you lose your next election.

P.S. Plan on obliterating the most recent launching point of several pirate excursions.. Then, the owners of these marinas will stop all of this piracy without our help.

Press Conference by the President, South Court Auditorium
Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release
February 26, 2011

President Obama:
In light of the recent tragic execution of four American citizens by their pirate captures in International waters of the Indian Ocean and, of course, hundreds of other piracy attacks, I am announcing today the new proactive policy of the United States Government and the Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), the multinational coalition naval task force, related to piracy along, specifically, the east coast of Somalia. Since the lawless and ungoverned country of Somalia has no effective way of preventing piracy by its own citizens, the United States Government in coordination with other member countries of the United Nations will enact the following 10-point military initiative:
1. All boats originating from Somali may not fish or sail more than 200 Nautical Miles from their eastern coast. Fisherman: buy a GPS, you are going to need one. Larger registered shipping vessels may ask for special permission to sail this area.
2. All boats of any nationality sailing from between 200 NM and 400 NM from the coast (“No Sail Zone”) will presumed to be hostile and subject to immediate boarding, seizure or destruction, at the will of on sight military commanders. This “No Sail Zone” will be monitored aerially and by ships from the United States and our allies. United Nation member participating counties will rotate territorial patrolling responsibilities.
3. A “Safe Zone” is presumed past the 500 NM closest distances from the Somali coast. No civilian ship may enter the Safe Zone or No Sail Zone without permission.
4. Decoy, well armed pirate hunting vessels will be deployed within 500 NM of Somalia enticing pirates to attack. Upon attack, pirate ships will be destroyed.
5. Pirate ships attempting to evade capture by entering into 200 NM Somali territorial waters will not be afforded that escape opportunity and will be over run and destroyed.
6. Somali ports, land bases and marinas which are found to be the host of pirate boats are subject to invasion and destruction. This policy will be disseminated by aerially dropped leaflets to these ports. We will demonstrate an example of this policy shortly.
7. From this date forward and without warning, Somali citizens or others who are discovered to be financial sponsors, known accomplices, harboring agents, or are in anyway beneficiaries of piracy or hostage taking are subject to lethal covert actions or extradition and prosecution by our government and our allies.
8. The United States will introduce an amendment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea prohibiting any government or private entity from paying tribute for the release of hostages taken by pirates. The existing payments have only encouraged further piracy.
9. Established shipping lanes will be more closely patrolled for safety.
10. A similar policy will be implemented for the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that's all BS. Your suggestions only put a burden on us. Let's turn the tables on them, make it their problem. Go to war on them. NOW, it's their problem. Bring it home to them, in Somali. Anyway, see my blog comment.