Aegis Battleships Misused in Drug War
From Navy News we learn of an astounding drug bust by one of the world’s most powerful warships:
USS Anzio (CG 68), operating as part of the Combined Maritime Forces, a U.S.-led coalition supporting maritime security operations in the region, seized approximately four tons of hashish found aboard a skiff Oct. 15 in the Gulf of Aden, with an estimated street-value of $28 million.
The skiff was located approximately 170 miles southwest of Salalah, Oman when it was spotted traveling at a high speed by Anzio’s crew. Following a brief chase, the skiff was boarded by Anzio’s visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team, including officers from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy…
“The seizure of these drugs takes money out of the hands of those financing terrorists in the region,” said Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders, commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, embarked aboard Anzio. “Yesterday these Sailors were hunting pirates, today they have sent a message to all would-be smugglers that we won’t tolerate pirates or drug traffickers in these waters.”
Coalition Sailors discovered the drugs in the dhow along the ‘Hash Highway.’ The drugs were thrown overboard and destroyed. This is the first seizure of narcotics that Anzio has conducted.
However impressive a haul this is in the anti-narcotics mission, please note the type adversary the $1 billion dollar warship was facing and also the comment “Following a brief chase“, with our response being “ya think?” to this one-sided clash at sea . Also from the photos of this fearsome adversary, we think it a good thing for the Navy that the USS Anzio wasn’t photographed in the background.
The US Navy continues to use its most powerful and technically impressive warships to combat some of the world’s simplest (though still important) threats of smuggling. Such vessels like USS Anzio, of the vaunted Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers were built to combat the old Soviet Union, and sports the most sophisticated and expensive anti-air warfare radars and weapons ever devised. The revolution brought on by the Anzio and her billion-dollar sisters has been such a profound one in war at sea, they have been likened to the New Battleships, most notably by this blogger.
Today, one of the most called on assets by Presidents of late hasn’t been the larger and more visible aircraft carriers, but BMD shooters like the Aegis ships. Though Anzio currently is not equipped for this role, plans for the future include upgrading the vessel with SPY 1B systems allowing it a anti-theater ballistic missile capability. Such an enhancement to the vessel’s already considerable firepower upgrades it to space cruiser status.
We continue to honor the Anzio and her crew’s service, plus the sacrifice made from home and family to serve their country. We in no way disparage their mission, but consider it an essential one which the Navy should gear their building programs more in line with. With that said, we think the way the fleet as currently structured is for the wrong war, with ships fashioned to fight a like peer enemy as with the old Soviet Union. At some point, perhaps the Chinese will deploy ships that might match the abilities of the Aegis ships, but with 99 already built and building for the US Navy, we think such a threat extremely remote in the near future.
For the job currently performed by the Ticonderoga supercruisers and Burke superdestroyers, chasing down smugglers in motorized skiffs or pirates in speed boats and dhows, we see the same function performed adequately, perhaps better by 1000 ton offshore patrol vessels. The British head of the NATO counter-piracy flotilla recently described the requirements for this yet-to-be-deployed corvette, “The capabilities I want are a helicopter, a boat and a boarding party.” Vessels such as these cost in the millions, and are used by navies the world over to patrol dangerous shorelines with shoals, sandbars, and also pirates. No decades long programs, billion-dollar contracts, or shrinking force structures needed. Neither are space age battleships required, which might be put to better use elsewhere.
A low tech 21st Century war with many small threats, rather than the one single adversary from the Cold War, is the position the Navy finds itself in today. Yet, considering continued plans for the shrinking number of Aegis destroyers, large aircraft carriers, and costly amphibious ships it wants to buy but can hardly afford, the Navy’s strategy and their building plans are seriously askew. We would hope to see more plans for off the shelf weapons, small patrol ships and corvettes, plus commercial vessels converted to auxiliary motherships which could do the same function currently performed by exquisite capital ships like Anzio and her sisters, at drastically less waste in firepower.