Yet another New Wars experimental post consisting of News and Opinion.
Taking Advantage of the Shrinking Navy
A revealing story of how the world’s most minor of seapowers, the Somali fishermen turned Modern Day Buccaneers easily circumvent the patrols of the world’s most powerful navies. From Japan Times we see the Pirates exploiting widely scattered naval patrols:
“It is highly likely that Somali pirates are finding loopholes created by navies of various countries,” Capt. Yasuki Nakahata said Sunday.
Between 30 and 40 naval vessels are on station near Somalia to ward off pirate attacks, but the number of incidents more than doubled last year to 215 from the 111 in 2008, according to the MSDF.
Nakahata pointed out that piracy has recently expanded in reach, drawing patrol vessels beyond the Gulf of Aden. At the same time, however, pirates are targeting more vessels within the gulf, he added.
“Vigilance in the Gulf of Aden is weakening as antipiracy vessels are drawn out toward distant waters,” Nakahata said.
Hate to say I told you so…Well, actually I love saying it! Hopefully the leaders sending the anti-piracy fleet to the Gulf will eventually get the idea that their high tech supership built to fight the Cold War are unneeded and most incapable of dealing with low tech insurgents on the high seas. The best counter to a small warship is another small warship.
Defending the Indefensible
Last week, British First Sea Lord Mark told Reuters:
“We are not going to eradicate piracy — it’s still a very very large area,”
This week the Admiral is seeking to defend the Royal Navy from scathing attacks by British Army Chief General Sir David Richards who chastised the policies of building weapons geared for another era of warfare. We read from the International Institute for Strategic Studies:
Hi-tech weapons platforms are not a good way to help stabilize tottering states – nor might their cost leave us any money to help in any other way – any more than they impress opponents equipped with weapons costing a fraction.
Referring to numerous expensive weapons systems such as new 65,000 ton aircraft carriers which have little use in low tech insurgency operations. Such warships along with heavy amphibious ships are good for invading countries, but are of little use in sustained warfighting. Meanwhile the British Army has been forced to fight with its hands tied, as essential funds are channeled away for future obscure threats. They are only just now getting some of the helicopters required for transport in the road-poor Afghan, and are often less well equipped with vehicles and arms then their European and American counter-parts, despite being one of the worlds third or fourth top defense spenders.
But it is General Richard’s who seems a better spokesman for the Navy than the RN Chief when he says:
Operating among, understanding and effectively influencing people requires mass – numbers – whether this is ‘boots on the ground’, riverine and high speed littoral warships, or UAVs, transport aircraft and helicopters.
So we have to question where is Admiral Stanhope’s priorities, if from his own mouth we hear failure against the impoverished “navies” of the Gulf of Aden, preying on merchant shipping virtually unimpeded, while vast sums go toward ships and planes which have virtually nothing to do! Clearly the leadership is out of sync with real problems of modern seapower, and have contributed to the Navy’s decline far more than the politicians, as they cast off still useful small warships to pay for giant platforms of little worth, save to distract from current enemies at sea.
Pirates Command the Sea
Apparently and inadvertently we are sure, the Somali Pirates have succeeded where the powerful international anti-piracy fleet in their space age warships have been less successful, control the waters in the Gulf region. Listen to this story from ABC News titled “Kenya Fishermen See Upside to Pirates: More Fish“:
In past years, illegal commercial trawlers parked off Somalia’s coast and scooped up the ocean’s contents. Now, fishermen on the northern coast of neighboring Kenya say, the trawlers are not coming because of pirates.
“There is a lot of fish now, there is plenty of fish. There is more fish than people can actually use because the international fishermen have been scared away by the pirates,” said Athman Seif, the director of the Malindi Marine Association.
Though the established navies and US Allies have managed some spectacular solitary victories over the pirates of the Gulf of Aden and surrounding environs, they have yet to bring about a decisive solution. Part of the problem is too few hulls to counter all the possible attack areas the pirates frequent. The rest has to do with apathy and a lack of interest in old style sea control operations, which often entails long arduous patrols, many ships, and sometimes great expense.
Modern navies like to consider their large multimission frigates and destroyers as general purpose, jack of all trades, the low end of the fleet which will include aircraft carriers, submarines, and amphibious command ships. Despite their last century titles which sound like the tin cans and “small boys” of the World Wars, modern escorts ships are some of the most powerful and expensive of their type ever to sail. To pirates operating a skiff or speed boat, using a commandeered merchant freighter as a mothership to extend his range, such vessels are likened to battleships and easily countered by avoiding the small area the handful of ships can patrol.
Large warships would actually do well to support smaller craft, from light cutters to patrol craft, which would extend their own range and increase the numbers of hulls, putting them at a greater advantage versus the pirates, who make up for their lack of capability with agility and deception. In this they coincide with the insurgent on land and the principle and tactics are the same. We leave with this quote from Corbett on maintaining effective sea control, which the pirates have seem to grasped from the far-better equipped and well established navies:
If the object of naval warfare is to control communications, then the fundamental requirement is the means of exercising that control. Logically, therefore, if the enemy holds back from battle decision, we must relegate the battle-fleet to a secondary position, for cruisers are the means of exercising control; the battle-fleet is but the means of preventing their being interfered with in their work. Put it to the test of actual practice. In no case can we exercise control by battleships alone. Their specialization has rendered them unfit for the work, and has made them too costly ever to be numerous enough.