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Old 04-10-2009, 10:18 AM   #81
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I don't understand how, in this day and age of satellites and GPS and large navies with sophisticated equipment, we can't keep an eye on where these guys are and capture them (or blow them out of the water trying). It's as if they are wearing an invisibility cloak.
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Old 04-10-2009, 11:40 AM   #82
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Probably because too many legit freight and fishing vessels.

Satellite images, despite the excellent resolution they have, would have to be analyzed by hand to determine if the small craft with four guys have fishing gear or AK-47s. By the time you've processed that they aren't in the same place, it's too dynamic.

Navy ships have very powerful radar as do the P3s they can fly in the area but it's a lot of blips that would have to be checked visually.

Maybe they have a chance interdicting the pirate mother ships that are supposed to be operating hundreds of miles outside the coast but even then you'd probably have to board and search to prove anything.
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Old 04-10-2009, 12:20 PM   #83
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If the US Navy, with the best technology that money can buy, with the best-trained personnel in the world can't protect US flag carriers, then I guess we just run up the white flag and hand these ships over to a bunch of scumbag terrorists? Paying them off every time just makes it worse. (Where is Thomas Jefferson when we need him?) We need to make it really unattractive for them to come anywhere near a US-flag vessel. Demonstrate a clear, concise, no-nonsense policy regarding inderdiction of US flag shipping interests in international waters. Expecting a unified international policy and/or the UN to actually address the issue is a joke. We need to look out for our own interests (perhaps including signatory allies, who are in lockstep agreement and are willing to put their own assets on the line) Let countries with other ideas devise their own policies and/or payment plans regarding their shipping interests and implement them accordingly.
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Old 04-10-2009, 12:29 PM   #84
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Realize that the lifeboat looks like this:





So, if the captain is tied up, and the pirates have a gun to his head, there's no easy rescue method.
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Old 04-10-2009, 07:39 PM   #85
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More pirates searching for lifeboat, official says - CNN.com

Pirates in ships are searching for the lifeboat containing four pirates and their hostage -- the captain of a freighter they failed to hijack earlier this week -- according to a U.S. military official with knowledge of the situation.

The pirates are using ships they have already hijacked and larger ships from which they are launching skiffs, the official said Friday. One of the pirated ships is the German cargo ship Hansa Stavanger, seized April 4 off the coast of Somalia.



Now this I don't get. US Navy already has two ships on site with four helicopters, they should put up the helos to introduce any additional pirate ships that come within twenty miles to our friend the hellfire missile.
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Old 04-10-2009, 07:45 PM   #86
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Now this I don't get. US Navy already has two ships on site with four helicopters, they should put up the helos to introduce any additional pirate ships that come within twenty miles to our friend the hellfire missile.
Not as cut and dried as you might think. According to reports, one of the pirate "mother ships" approaching the scene has hostages on board:

"German 20,000-tonne freighter Hansa Stavanger seized 400 miles off the Somali coast. It has 24 crew members on board: 5 Germans, 3 Russians, 2 Ukrainians, 2 Filipinos and 12 Tuvalus. It is owned by Hamburg-based Leonhardt & Blumberg Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Co.KG. Two men who are either pirates or affiliated with pirates have said the Hansa Stavanger is one of four vessels pirates have directed toward the Maesrk Alabama."
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Old 04-10-2009, 07:51 PM   #87
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Try to disable it. No rudder + no screw = flotsam.

Actually I have no idea if that's possible.
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Old 04-10-2009, 10:13 PM   #88
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I'm seven years out of the loop and I'm not reading the classified message traffic anymore, but here's some things that would concern me if I was ordered to rush Horatio Hornblower my command to that section of the world and clean it up:
- Big ocean, little ships. These guys are going a couple hundred miles off the coast, and it's just not so easy to tell the bad pirates from the innocent fishermen or itty bitty enterpreneurial merchants. By the time you see someone veer out of line to attack a merchant, it's too late to do more than shoot live ammo in the vicinity of a big civilian vessel.

- Big bad unilateral imperialism. If the U.S. Navy blows away a few pirate ships, it'll instantly wipe out years of African diplomacy-- not just for the Navy but for the Army & Air Force. It'll send the wrong message to the Middle East, too. It's unrealistic to expect the U.S. Navy to impose worldwide Pax Americana, just like it's unrealistic to expect our imperialistic grunts to bring peace out of chaos in a two-front war. Every one of these pirates is just a poor, oppressed, impoverished people trying to make their way in a lawless, unfriendly world that doesn't care about their culture unless it gets in the way of shipping oil to fuel America's gas-guzzling SUVs for Paris Hilton reality shows.

- A little help here? (Corollary to the previous paragraph.) Where are all the other countries that are a few time zones closer to this shipping lane, and what have they been doing to protect merchant shipping? Isn't any other country in Africa or the Middle East capable of imposing some limits on Somalia?

- Your tax dollars at work. Putting all these warships on station (nuclear aircraft carriers & submarines included) costs a horrendous toll of fuel and material wear & tear. Every time a member of the national command authorities asks for a unit to be placed on the scene of a crisis, that's one less unit available for some other crisis scene. It's also (for the Navy) at least two other units that have to deploy earlier, stay later, and delay upkeep/shipyard repairs. It also raises the deployment rate of the crews who have already cost hundreds of thousands to obtain & train, let alone retain.

- Rules of engagement. Ask the Coast Guard how much fun it is to get the drug-runners in the crosshairs and then spend hours on the radio negotiating with LEO to see if they can order the vessel to heave to for boarding, let alone whether weapons are free or not. Sure, the Navy can "blow these guys out of the water" but there will be collateral damage just like the NYT headlines about UAVs killing innocent Afghani & Pakistani civilians. Frankly, it's a lot easier to goad the pirates into shooting back so that the Navy can invoke self-defense criteria. But then American hostages would die, which is also an unacceptable solution.

- Target practice. No easy answers to this one. If the U.S. has the only Navy that's shooting pirates, then U.S. merchants might be a lot more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Instead of boarding ships with their RPGs for the chance of a $1M payoff, the Somalis might just accept a low-risk $10K from their friendly local Al Quaeda affiliate to stand off and shoot every fourth tanker. Rather than risk those exchange ratios it's a lot easier to cough up a million or so to ransom live hostages every few months. And so if you're not going to kill pirates or break things, then why race a Navy ship to the scene?

- Everyone understands how hard it is to fight land-based terrorism. Pirates are a waterborne equivalent.

- Finally, everyone who's done any open-ocean sailing understands this question: When's the last time you saw a merchant ship take "evasive action"?
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Old 04-11-2009, 01:03 AM   #89
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Nords, no surprise, but your posting contains more intelligent commentary
that all the other posts in this thread combined.
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Old 04-11-2009, 01:39 AM   #90
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Nords, no surprise, but your posting contains more intelligent commentary
that all the other posts in this thread combined.
Yes but it is a lot more fun to imagine the good guys whacking the bad guys., with 4 well trained head shots.

Assuming the lifeboat tops isn't particularly thick (i.e. rubber) I still think that thermal imaging can be used to separated the hostage (i.e the guy with gun being held from the bad guys. I some point the gun won't be pointed at the hostage and BAM.

I also think that Navy should be able to keep the other hostage ship out of the area, through a combination of force and intimidation. Although since the people on board aren't American citizen the situation is far more complicated diplomatically.

Finally, a lot of the commentary I see on this board and else where is discussing the larger (and admittedly) more complicated problem of solving piracy off the Horn of Africa. In this particular case, I much less interested in solving the big problem, and focusing on the immediate problem. What is the best way of discouraging piracy attacks on AMERICAN ships. It seems to me that killing and/or imprisoning the piratess, sends a clear message, you want to go after a US ship, we will use force (even at the risk of causalities) not ransom. I got to believe that this will cause the pirates to favor attack on other nations.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:53 PM   #91
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Yes but it is a lot more fun to imagine the good guys whacking the bad guys., with 4 well trained head shots.
Assuming the lifeboat tops isn't particularly thick (i.e. rubber) I still think that thermal imaging can be used to separated the hostage (i.e the guy with gun being held from the bad guys. I some point the gun won't be pointed at the hostage and BAM.
That's not out of the question, and I'm sure that the SEALS are hanging around, but there are significant risks in sneaking over there underwater to keep an eye on the bad guys. The SEALS can't guarantee the hostage's survival, either, and they're justifiably reluctant to take the French approach. Far easier to wait for everyone to get tired, hungry, and thirsty and then see what develops.

Seems to be an enclosed lifeboat and they've also been closing the viewports for self-defense. So fatigue must be accelerating.

I'm not sure where the source info lies, but the M/V MAERSK ALABAMA may have been modified for service as a military prepositioning ship. If that's the case then it's possible for the U.S. to claim that a military asset has been attacked, although of course it's a diplomatic fig leaf.

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I also think that Navy should be able to keep the other hostage ship out of the area, through a combination of force and intimidation. Although since the people on board aren't American citizen the situation is far more complicated diplomatically.
I hope that Somali ship comes to its senses. It's pretty frustrating for the U.S. & allied navy ships to have to sit around all day waiting for something to happen, and planning for sixteen different contingencies all at once, and dealing with that weather. So if the Somalis show up (in international waters) and get a little mouthy about it, someone may be tempted to take out their frustration on an easy target.

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Finally, a lot of the commentary I see on this board and else where is discussing the larger (and admittedly) more complicated problem of solving piracy off the Horn of Africa. In this particular case, I much less interested in solving the big problem, and focusing on the immediate problem. What is the best way of discouraging piracy attacks on AMERICAN ships. It seems to me that killing and/or imprisoning the piratess, sends a clear message, you want to go after a US ship, we will use force (even at the risk of causalities) not ransom. I got to believe that this will cause the pirates to favor attack on other nations.
The other countries around the Horn have to step up and take care of their part of the world... and I'm surprised that Somalia still has its own borders after all these years of chaos.
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:49 AM   #92
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Nords, you hit on all the good reasons why this won't be solved through purely military means, or even through mainly military means. It requires political and economic action, but that's pretty hard when the actors are rogue and they come from failed states.

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- Finally, everyone who's done any open-ocean sailing understands this question: When's the last time you saw a merchant ship take "evasive action"?
I've never seen that but, with the rise of piracy, evasive action seems to be SOP for merchant ships -- at least in pirate-prone waters. Its overall success is questionable, but there are some cases in which it worked or at least bought time while other tactics were tried. Here's an ONI message from a few years ago, posted on the NGA public site, so it's open source. Search under "evasive."

http://www.nga.mil/MSISiteContent/St...1227100000.txt

There's also a number of cases of using water cannons as a defensive measure, as my merchant marine friend used to do. Not sure how many ships carry these, but it seems like that should be SOP as well in case any unknown small craft approaches. Even if the pirates outgun the merchant vessel, there's not much they can do if they can't board it. Well, they could blow it up but that's no gain for them, and it then exposes them to be blown out of the water as well. But that gets back to the price we'd pay in terms of lives lost and cost, and paying ransom is a cheaper way to go.
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Old 04-12-2009, 12:46 PM   #93
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Breaking News. Capt. Phillips has been freed, unharmed. Three pirates dead, one captured. Go Navy.
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:04 PM   #94
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:20 PM   #95
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:26 PM   #96
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Seems he jumped a second time, giving the navy an opportunity, this time they took it. Glad the Captain is ok.
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:35 PM   #97
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Actually, I don't want to know what happened - and I hope the crew and captain just stay silent. I'm much happier if pirates think when they go against a US flagged vessel it will turn out bad for unknown reasons. If this gets analyzed and reported in every little detail, other pirates will likely learn something about countermeasures and not let the same thing happen next time.
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Old 04-12-2009, 05:05 PM   #98
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So, when are we going to stop calling these guys pirates and start calling them what they are~terrorists? Or, since the "global war on terror" is no longer used (or is it just over?), is the T-word also not to be used?
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Old 04-12-2009, 05:10 PM   #99
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So, when are we going to stop calling these guys pirates and start calling them what they are~terrorists? Or, since the "global war on terror" is no longer used (or is it just over?), is the T-word also not to be used?
I don't think it's the same thing. Terrorists usually commit their mayhem in order to gain political leverage or get societies to cave into their political demands by influencing public opinion (i.e. "just give them what they want and they'll stop causing trouble"). These pirates appear to be purely mercenary.

Some of the tactics are similar, I'll grant, but usually seek a different end. Having said that, I think terrorists and pirates are in similar positions on the food chain, somewhere between algae and plankton.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:51 PM   #100
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An oil tanker ... $100M
A pirate's ransom ... $2-3M
An accurate sniper ... priceless
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