Israeli Navy Conducts Commando Raid
Since today is a day we set aside discussing modern cruiser warfare, I thought the following story from the Washington Post was a perfect example of the current practice in seapower, and where the USN needs to be more focused:
Israel’s navy intercepted a cargo ship loaded with smuggled arms late Tuesday night, the latest development in the country’s effort to curb the flow of weapons to militant groups in the area, defense officials said.
The vessel was operating under the flag of Antigua and was rigged to appear as if it was carrying civilian goods, said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces.
A navy special forces unit boarded the ship about 100 miles off the Israeli coast and found “dozens of containers” of arms, she said.
“We had a suspicion” about the ship, which had passed through the Suez Canal and was heading north, Leibovitch said.
The ship was towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod for further investigation. Leibovitch said the IDF expected to release more details on the ship, the cargo and the crew later on Wednesday.
She did not provide details on the type of weapons the ship was carrying or the suspected destination.
For the record, the US Navy, like the Israelis, are pretty good at this type of warfare, which is what we insist is a return to traditional surface cruiser combat. Mostly dealing with commerce, it also involves tackling piracy and smuggling, especially arms smuggling, but also narcotics.
That said, current building programs are nowhere near where they need to be to conduct this type of conflict on a global scale. Today we use our most expensive and powerful Aegis battleships for this work, which is a terrible waste of resources, especially when such expensive vessels should be elsewhere guarding against more sophisticated threats. We discussed the problem a while back with Seeking the New Cruisers:
Today’s modern naval combatants which were adequate dealing with their Soviet counterparts of 20 years hence, the deep diving nuclear boats, have been hard pressed to contain those most minor of nautical threats, the pirates and smugglers. Now they are faced with suicide boats foreshadowing the spread of radical jihad at sea. Though there have been some successes, such as the USS Bainbridge’s take-down of pirate kidnappers off Somalia, or HMS Iron Duke’s headline-making anti-drug patrols in the Caribbean, such vessels are too large, too costly, and too few to manage these missions and still contend with traditional roles should they arise. As we see with the growing ballistic missile threat, plus rising China and historically belligerent Russia, such vessels and their heightened abilities are of better use elsewhere than in the backwaters of the Third World.
The new cruisers should be more like the littoral combat ship, only cheaper, easier to build, and deployed in large numbers. In no way can we ensure the safety of the sealanes building only $1 billion dollar battleships or even half billion dollar ones like the LCS. We can and must do better or they win.