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The Terrorists Move to the Sea

December 1, 2008

Updated at bottom.

The Navy still considers anti-piracy operations as beneath their attention which is why we have a steadily shrinking fleet equipped with giant boondoggles ready to fight last century conflicts. Meanwhile, by using the loosely watched littoral seaways a small band of terrorists last week lay siege to one of the greatest of Asian superpowers, India. Read this analysis from the Long War Journal on the Mumbai attacks:

One of the more intriguing aspects of the attack is how the teams entered Mumbai. Reports indicate at least two of the assault teams arrived from outside the city by sea around 9 p.m. local time. Indian officials believe most if not all of the attackers entered Mumbai via sea.
Indian Coast Guard, Navy, Mumbai maritime police, and customs units have scoured the waters off Mumbai in search of a “mother ship” that transported one or more smaller Gemini inflatable boats used by the attackers. A witness saw one of the craft land in Colaba in southern Mumbai and disgorge eight to 10 fighters.
Two ships that have been boarded are strongly suspected of being involved in the attacks: the Kuber, an Indian fishing boat, and the MV Alpha, a Vietnamese cargo ship. Both ships appear to have been directly involved. The Kuber was hijacked on Nov. 13, and its captain was found murdered. Four crewmen are reported to still be missing.
Indian security officials found what they believe is evidence linking the boat to the attack, as well as linking the attackers to Pakistan. “A GPS map of south Mumbai was found along with a satellite phone on the ship, Coast Guard officials confirmed,” The Times of India reported. “There were reports that this phone was used to make calls to Karachi immediately before the shootings began in Mumbai.”

So, this piracy thing is only a minor problem, as Galrahn suggests? As we saw dramatically on 9/11 ( a point in which I continually refer to admittedly, but our memory these days are so short lived) in which a handful of dedicated religious fanatics can turn our own airliners into weapons of mass destruction and hold the greatest military powers hostage, even the smallest of threats should be taken seriously.

Under its current shipbuilding budget, the USN can afford a “1000 Ship Navy” consisting of small warships like corvettes, patrol boats, FAC, and so on. These could be spread throughout the world as the  Victorian Era gunboats, backed up by motherships, interdicting the insurgents at sea before any major damage is done. It is incredulous that 8 years into the War on Terror, the Navy hasn’t learned this lesson but the Army has!

A couple months ago, I wrote this:

Due to the unsustainable costs of modern amphibious ships, as well as missile threats driving the amphibs further from the shore where they need to be, we see amphibious warfare reverting mainly to small scale raiding parties. Backed by precision naval and aerial firepower these squad, platoon, to company size units will possess capabilities far beyond their size, but still lack the staying power to seize and hold large territory as in the huge invasions of WW 2.

Instead of Normandy or Iwo Jima, these sea warriors will be more comparable to the Viking invaders of the Dark Ages. Small landing parties will then capture and destroy enemy terrorist bases on a coast, or launch deeper raids inland if needed (in ATVs?).

I was thinking the West should lead in this new and more affordable form of sea assault, but the terrorists have beat us to the punch! We see in these new “Viking Raiders” a glimpse of future amphibious warfare. From massive beach landings during the world war we now have small Viking style raids which are effective more for terror, all out of proportion to their size.

Lets turn this around and think what the West could do, basically with total command of the seas, plus aerial firepower in the form of UAVs armed with precision weaponry, using the terrorist’s tactics against them. Marines striking from small stealthy attack craft, or better yet, large and nearly invisible submarine transports against pirate coastal havens. From these new age pirates we certainly could earn a valuable lesson, such as how to launch an amphibious operation on a shoe-string!

Finally, a plea to the civilized world to Wake UP comes from blogger Rajan at Raja’s World:

A group of men carrying AK 47’s and grenades, trained in the neighboring country hostile to India for decades, coming in by the sea and frontally attacking and killing Indians and our guests from different nationalities, destroying two major landmarks, holding hostages constitute an ACT OF WAR against my Country. If the Government were to live in the fool’s world that War denotes only conventional warfare of attacking the borders by the foreign army, then they are sadly mistaken…

We need to respond in a different way.


Update-Read this via the Ares Blog:

The U.S. Homeland Security Department considers a weapon of mass destruction – chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological – as the major terrorist threat facing the country. But the 2002 sniper attacks that struck the Washington D.C. area — killing 10 people —  paralyzed surrounding communities and shows that a few determined — or crazy – people can wreak a lot of damage both physical and psychological. In the DC area, local restaurants and theaters saw attendance drop, schools canceled recess and field trips, high school football games were moved out of the region.
You can imagine the economic chaos a few carefully placed car bombs in the parking lots of U.S. shopping malls could cause in the weeks before Christmas. The bombs don’t even have to kill anybody. How many shoppers would be dissuaded from gift buying if they feared being maimed or worse? And what would that do to the consumer-dependent U.S. economy?

What does all this mean? The terrorists can do expeditionary warfare, at far less cost than ourselves and all out of proportion to the resources allocated. Where America would need to send an airwing or two, perhaps an Armored Corps taking three-six months to enter in theater, or a carrier strike groups backed by a Marine Expeditionary Unit, all enormously expensive and backed by decades of experienced, the terrorists send in a few guys armed with AK-47s or even box cutters to perform much of the same mission. By this I mean: enforcing their will on the enemy.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 2, 2008 7:17 pm

    Leesea-If we send the Perry’s, can they have their guns back?

    Thanks West!

  2. west_rhino permalink
    December 2, 2008 3:13 pm

    Mumbai being a variation on the last charge of the Calcutta Light Horse, albeit in not in Goa, what’s to say 3SFG in a weapons free, hot and red couldn’t end the land based side in a decisive manner

  3. leesea permalink
    December 2, 2008 11:48 am

    I like the way that lady thinks! It take guts. i wonder what Genl Petraeus is going to do?

    My platform solution: Send more Perrys over there. Weaponize the SeaFighter and send it and more like it over (cheaper and quicker than LCS). Put real weapons on JHSV and use it for manuever warfare. Oh that’s another build it later ship from NAVSEA.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 1, 2008 7:18 pm

    I call it the “Jellicoe Syndrome”. The USN just doesn’t want to risk any of their costly and magnificent Big Ships, fearful they might need them for some obscure future conflict. But that conflict is already upon us and we are losing, not because we aren’t strong enough or even or disunited, but apathy.

  5. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 1, 2008 3:11 pm

    Softcore isolationism.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 1, 2008 1:21 pm

    Galrahn seems to think because the pirates haven’t attacked America yet, then it isn’t our fight. I’m reminded of the Churchill quote about hoping the crocodile will eat us last.

  7. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 1, 2008 10:16 am

    This is all indicative of a moral problem, not a hardware problem. The Navy will not fight the pirates even with the overwhelming behemoths on site. You could see this in the pusillanimous approach of “Fox” Fallon to the Iranians which may have encouraged the pirates to go on their recent rampage.

    Piracy is a broken window problem and failing to address it immediately only invites greater problems in the future. Our political and military leadership does not have the necessary intestinal fortitude or moral commitment to perform the often distasteful duties they bear and instead seek shelter for their inaction behind legalisms. The bill for this dereliction will be high when it finally comes due.


  1. Pirates+Terrorists=Trouble « New Wars
  2. Chinese Missiles and other Carrier Killers « New Wars

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