Where is the “1000 Ship Navy”?
Update at the bottom.
Back in 2006, then USN Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen called for a vast undertaking by the world to combat the maritime threats of this new century. Dubbed the “1000 Ship Navy“, it was described as “a global maritime partnership that unites maritime forces, port operators, commercial shippers, and international, governmental and nongovernmental agencies to address mutual concerns.” Now that swift action is desperately needed by the very force now JCS Chairman Mullen once called for, the good Admiral admits to being “stunned” by the new epidemic of piracy and terrorist hijackings at sea. Actually the most stunning aspect is the lack of a clear strategy on how to deal with the situation from our military leaders.
Ship owners continue to plead for the International Community, anybody, to defeat the scourge of piracy off the Gulf of Aden. The response so far has been fairly lukewarm at best, especially after Monday’s call for a blockade of the Somali Coast. Here are the typical responses:
- …NATO, which has four warships off the coast of Somalia, rejected a blockade.
- U.S. Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s supreme allied commander, said Monday… “That’s far beyond what I’ve been tasked to do.”
- Lt. Nathan Christensen, 5th Fleet spokesman…declined to comment on the idea of a blockade.
- But the navies say it is virtually impossible to patrol the vast sea around the gulf.
- “Blocking ports is not contemplated by NATO,” said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels. U.N. Security Council resolutions “do not include these kind of actions and as far as NATO is concerned, this is at the moment not on the cards,” he said.
Everyone involved sees the need for action, but few even contemplate the obvious, that we there will be a need to go to war to stamp out this recent outbreak of piracy. According to Galrahn, Russia is calling for an amphibious assault against the pirate’s inland strongholds. But considering America’s continued reluctance to use her unmatched amphibious capability in an aggressive manner, we don’t see this happening.
The idea that a blockade is “impossible” is something we grudgingly agree with, at least for the moment. Though the need to combat terrorists on the high seas have been obvious since Sept. 2001 and before, little effort has been done to suitably equip Western navies with new littoral hull forms able to seek out pirates in their shallow water haunts. The recent launch of the USS Freedom littoral combat ship is a greatly belated nod to this role, something consistent Maritime Strategies have called for with very little effort made in this direction.
It will likely be late in the next decade before the USN has anywhere near the 55 LCS planned for procurement, but some say to blockade the Somali Coast would require hundreds of warships on constant patrol to do any good. Obviously a frigate size warship like Freedom, or the huge Aegis battleships the US has previously utilized to patrol the Gulf are not necessary. Small ships which can be bought in huge numbers, and can easily ford the pirates coastal havens are all that are required and could give the Free World the edge needed to perform this essential new maritime mission, which we often contend is “the calling of our generation”. Not the conflict the Navy wanted or planned for, but there it is. Make the most of it.
Update-Sadly, my friend Galrahn at Information Dissemination gives the Navy some cover for doing nothing about the threat of piracy in recent years. Such an attitude that somehow these threats in the littorals are “beneath” our giant Blue Water armada, is the primary reason for our continued purchase of giant aircraft carriers and missile cruisers that are supposed to “scare” our adversaries. Lot of good such a strategy has fared us so far against Iran and in the Gulf of Aden!
By still focusing on past century threats and reacting at every rumor that China may have an aircraft carrier, perhaps, maybe some day, the USN is missing the boat here. Some contend that we should depend on NATO or the UN to solve this problem for us, but considering the half-hearted support so far fighting terrorists on land, we don’t see much of an effort by the international community in combating the insurgents at sea. The American taxpayer has given much of their hard-earned wealth to have the greatest fleet on earth. Now lets see if the Admirals can give us our money’s worth. Otherwise, pass the funds over to the Army and Marines who are doing the hard work we ask of them.
Update2-Or we could just let the Russians steal our thunder.