Archive for the 'Piracy' Category
Many of the decision points in our lives can be sorted into four specific guiding questions. They provide an excellent means of evaluating our decision, our choices, and most effectively melding what we need with what we can afford. The questions can correspondingly apply to selecting a college, or to prospective employment. They work well when designing and building a house, or buying a car. Purchasing insurance. Even when deciding on marriage. What are these four questions?
- What can I live with?
- What can I live without?
- What can’t I live with?
- What can’t I live without?
Simple questions, really. But their answers require a good deal of thought.
They are also questions that should be asked when developing National Security Strategy, and its subcomponent, National Military Strategy. Those questions need to be asked as we determine the size, posture, and capability of our military and its supporting industrial base. Those four straightforward questions must eventually be asked of our Navy at a number of different levels.
The first is to address the size and capabilities/capacity of our Navy. What can we reasonably expect our Navy to do? For how long? In how many places at once? Hard questions that demand realistic and informed discussion. Currently, we have a Cooperative Strategy that cannot be executed under any but the most benign conditions on the world’s oceans. How long are we going to continue to make promises to ourselves and our allies that we cannot keep? What are we willing to have the courage to say openly that we cannot do with current capabilities?
Related to the above queries, but not identical, is to ask how big will our Navy be. Numbers tossed around in the previous decade and a half range anywhere from 340 down to the current 285-ish. (The disparity of 55 ships is equivalent to the strength of two Royal Navies, so it isn’t trivial.) Yet, the budget realities and the cuts made to shipbuilding projections point to a number closer to 260, if not lower, by the end of the decade. While it is true that 260 modern warships have tremendous combat power, it is also axiomatic that they cannot have the same global forward presence that 340 warships, some with somewhat less capability perhaps, can have.
The next level at which the four guiding questions need to be asked is the level of ship design and shipbuilding. This cannot be done in isolation, but must be informed by serious and exhaustive discussion regarding what Admiral Zumwalt called the “high-low mix”. How many capital ships of extensive capability are required for our missions, and how many of lesser but more appropriate capabilities does the Navy need? It is this level in particular that the Navy seems unable, in fact abjectly refuses, to answer. Not every ship needs every capability. When we believe it does, we end up with multi-BILLION dollar platforms chasing skiffs off the Horn of Africa, and a fleet so expensive that the risking of a single unit for a dangerous but necessary mission becomes all but unacceptable.
There has been much discussion of those issues in the pages of Proceedings, and among Naval Officers and strategic thinkers, Naval enthusiasts, and the legions of the Great Unwashed who blog the intertubes. One of the more interesting remarks in this regard was an assertion, perhaps rightly, that with its current philosophy and unwillingness to address the high-low question, the Navy is incapable of building a platform in between the under-gunned and unsurvivable LCS and an Aegis-capable Arleigh Burke.
So the question of the mix is not new. Captain Jerry Hendrix wrote of it with his Buy Fords, not Ferraris in the April 2009 Proceedings. Discussion at the last three USNI/AFCEA West conferences was rich with commentary. In this month’s Proceedings, Norman Polmar evokes Plan URR with his A Paradigm Shift, asking whether a much larger number of STOVL carriers would be more effective than a small and likely shrinking number of $15 billion dollar CVNs. (A hat-tip woulda been nice!) When I asked the question of high-low mix at this year’s Shipbuilding Panel in San Diego, the panelists all but admitted that there hadn’t been much discussion on the subject, and that the goal was still 313 ships.
The final level at which those four questions above need to be asked is in the experimentation with “Optimal Manning”. Anyone who even occasionally glances at this site knows my aversion to reducing crews of ANY equipment or weapon platform below what is required to drive, fight, fix, and maintain. The biggest decision for the Navy has to be defining “optimal”, and to whom the term applies. Is it “optimal” for the Navy leadership to show reduced manpower costs to our Congresscritters while our warships continue to experience serious maintenance issues and are not mission capable? Do we want crews so thin that there is only time for eating, sleeping, and operating? No time for training in the myriad skills and requirements of basic seamanship, damage control, or weapons proficiency? Do we want crews that have no ability to absorb any casualties without compromise of mission?
Again, difficult questions. Senior Navy leadership, and senior Defense Department officials, are going to have to make some hard calls. The answer is not to exhort our Sailors to do “more with less”. That bit of self-delusional platitude is the path to a head-on collision with the realities of combat, with usually catastrophic results.
The discussions must be informed, serious, and realistic. And they need to be soon. In May, USNI/AFCEA will be holding the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach. The theme is “Joint and Coalition Forces; The Inflection Point. What to Hold and What to Fold?” Without these discussions, commentary will again be nearly blind speculation, akin to a hand of five-card stud, but deciding which cards to keep and which to discard without looking at them. If we continue to insist on playing our cards in such a way, we ought not to be surprised if the betting patterns of our potential adversaries change accordingly.
We do this a couple of times a year – yes, my friends, it is a “Midrats Free For All.”
Is there a topic we have not covered that you want Sal from “CDR Salamander” or me to address? Better yet – do you have a question you want us to answer?
Well, now is your chance. We’ll cover the topics of the week on our own – but for a change you can jump the line.
Call in or hop in the chat room this Sunday from 5-6pm EST, you never know what topic will come up.
Click here to join us. If you miss the show, you can listen to it or download from that same location or on iTunes.
As noted in an earlier post on my home site, the weather in the upper Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is beginning to shift from monsoon back to that more favorable to the operations of pirates in the small open attack boats. After several weeks of slowed pirate activity, the pirates have managed to snag a new victim and her crew of 21.
Arrayed against the pirates are warships from the EU, NATO, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Iran, Russia and armed guard teams embarked on many merchant ships and fishing boats.
Naturally, it’s a good time to talk pirates. So, on Sunday, February 12 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.), that’s what we are going to do.
The problem with piracy is not going anywhere. Each year in places like Somalia it is becoming part of the local economy. In areas near poorlly governed areas, it threatens the free flow of goods at market prices through the world’s sea lines of communication.
Is it an economic problem, a global security problem, a political problem, or a mixture of that and more?
Join Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne (that’s me!) from “Eagle Speak” for the full hour to discuss these issues and more with their guest, Rear Admiral Terry McKnight, USN (Ret.), former Commander of the anti-piracy CTF-151 off the horn of Africa.
Nigeria has the second largest oil reserves in Africa and is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the U.S., approximately eight percent of U.S. oil imports, according to the State Department. This rich resource in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea has been a source of internal dissention and attacks on oil and gas platforms, largely by the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND).
According to the 15th edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Nigeria’s Navy includes two frigates, two Erin’mi-class patrol combatants, two operations patrol craft, three non-operational fast patrol boats, fifteen 25-foot boats, and some auxiliary ships. Last month, the Nigerian Navy acquired the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter CHASE.
Whether the country assesses its assets are insufficient to deal with the threat or another reason, the Nigerian government has awarded a ten-year contract worth USD$130 million for maritime security. The awardee, Global West Vessel Special Nigeria Limited (GWVSL) will provide platforms for tracking ships and cargo, enforcing regulatory compliance, and surveillance of the Nigerian Maritime Domain. The firm is run by Government Tompolo, a former senior MEND militant.
The background of the awardee aside, the contract is opposed by some in Nigeria who believe that maritime security should rest with the Navy and Coast Guard.
This raises two issues: 1) if any state is unable to secure its waters or its commercial assets, who fills the maritime gap, and 2) if PSCs – or, rather, maritime security companies – fill that need, how should they be vetted?
The past few years have boosted the maritime security industry due in no small part to instability and piracy in the Horn of Africa and the need for shipping companies to hire more armed guards. More companies and countries have gradually, albeit reluctantly, recognized that armed riders may be a necessary addition to the cooperative efforts of state navies. (The Philippines just became the latest country to permit its flagged ships to use maritime security.)
I first interviewed Dominic Mee, CEO of Protection Vessels International, two years ago about maritime security companies offering escort vessels. “We would welcome more regulation…this would help the reputation of the industry.” Just last week, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) announced that its International Accreditation Program will include a three-stage process of due diligence that includes: financial and legal checks, physical verification, and checks on deployed operations (source: MarineInsight.com 4 February 2012). Such efforts might improve, as Mee said, the reputation of the industry and, more importantly, accountability.
Lieutenant Commander Berube is the co-editor of the recently published “Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century.” These views are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work provided the USNI West 2012 Conference with a very good and stirring speech on Thursday morning. The remarks were covered in a previous post, along with my personal concerns for whether Secretary Work’s perspective represented a too-sanguine assessment of what the budget situation would leave us for the coming decades. Indeed, over at Information Dissemination, Bryan McGrath summarizes well precisely the balance between the truth of the Secretary’s words, and the operational and tactical realities on the other side of the coin:
News reports and Pentagon statements indicate that the Navy will retire 7 cruisers and 2 LSD’s early, while cutting its shipbuilding totals 28% from the FY12 estimate for 2013-2017 (57 ships) to 41 ships in the same period with this budget. Retiring assets early from a Fleet already stressed to meet its commitments, and then eating your shipbuilding “seed corn”, strike me as odd ways to demonstrate an emphasis on Seapower. I’ve talked to some in the Navy who suggest that under the new plan, we’ll be able to field as many ships in 2020 as we do now, which is put forward as evidence of great progress and victories within the Pentagon bureaucracy. How this reconciles with the fact that the Fleet we have NOW does not meet the needs of the COCOMS–let alone the Fleet some project to be necessary to underwrite East Asian security in the face of Chinese expansion and modernization–evades me.
Mr. McGrath also emphasizes the realities that networking and technical sophistication is not a panacea, or a replacement for PRESENCE.
Clearly, the number of hulls as a measure of Naval power ain’t what it used to be. However, the suggestion that networks and precision guided munitions make hull counts unimportant points again to the basic physics problem that Naval planners have faced since the Phoenicians–a ship can only be in one place at a time. Quantity does have a quality all its own, and as I’ve advocated many times on this site, networks and PGM’s are of incalculable value when the Navy is fighting; however they are less important when the Navy is doing what it does the vast majority of the time–deterring and assuring.
Precisely. And not in the guided munitions sense.
Thursday morning, Under Secretary of the Navy (and more importantly, former Marine artilleryman) Robert O. Work skilfully executed his own “pivot”. Secretary Work had intended to deliver remarks regarding the program choices associated with the recently-released Defense budget. Well, you go to the podium with the speech you have, not the one you wish you had. It seems SECNAV was not going to publicly comment until later in the day, so Secretary Work chose not to publicly do so ahead of that, and instead delivered an enthusiastic and decidedly upbeat address on the challenges and opportunities facing the Navy-Marine Corps Team in the coming century.
Secretary Work referenced former CJCS Admiral Mullen’s talk of the previous day, and lived up to his well-deserved reputation for his grasp of history and its relevance to future events. Diverging from Admiral Mullen’s views of the uniqueness of the path ahead, Secretary Work outlined the challenges faced by President Eisenhower in 1953, an ongoing war far larger than the current and recent conflicts combined, an existential threat from a peer enemy about to detonate a thermonuclear device of their own, faltering allies asking for assistance in remote regions of the globe, and an electorate very tired of war. Indeed his example speaks to the tendency to consider present challenges as groundbreaking and unprecedented, when in point of fact, they are usually not nearly quite so.
Secretary Work proceeded to provide a Huntington-esque perspective on the history of America’s military eras, as defined by salient policy events. That perspective is worth summarizing here.
The Continental Era
July 4th 1776 to December 1, 1890
America’s Army was dominant, with an intermittent and largely coastal (with notable exceptions) Navy and small Marine Corps, no overseas bases, and a focus on western expansion across the North American continent. The era ended with the tragic events at Wounded Knee, which was the last of the frontier fights. During the Continental Era, for every month the United States was at war, she spends approximately six months at peace.
The Trans-Oceanic Era
December 1, 1890 to March 12, 1947
America becomes a two-ocean Mahanian maritime nation once and for all, and after massive military commitment to winning two world wars, is a world power with overseas bases, with far-flung interests, and security commitments to allies and former adversaries (whom we have to build up from virtual ruin) on almost every continent. The era ends with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, and the beginning of the Cold War. For every month of war during the Trans-Oceanic Era, there are 5.2 months of peace.
The Cold War
March 12, 1947 to May 12, 1989
Containment of the Soviet Union, a peer adversary, which dominates Eastern Europe and makes serious inroads in Asia, southern Europe, and Latin America. Large wars in Korea and Vietnam, the respective growth and contraction of the US Military in the aftermath of those wars, and lots of little wars by proxy, and an existential threat of Soviet first strike. The Cold War is declared over on May 12, 1989, by President George H W Bush. Indeed, in 1990-91, forces from Europe are sent to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War, more than a year before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. In this increasingly active era, aside from a Cold War for the entirety, for each month of hot war, the United States is only at peace for 2.67 months.
The Global Era
May 12, 1989 to December 31, 2011
Two wars in Iraq, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, protracted and expensive efforts at nation-building are the events of the most active time for America’s military in her entire history. For every month at war during this Global Era, America will have just 1.08 months of peace. The Global Era ends, according to Secretary Work, with the end of the war in Iraq
The beginning of 2012 is the beginning of the “Naval Century”.
This era, says Secretary Work, will be one of global American sea power, focused on the western Pacific, always a maritime region, and the Middle East, which is becoming increasingly so.
Secretary Work asserts that this nation’s military, its people and equipment, are tired out. They need to be refreshed, revitalized, and allowed to recover from the strain of two protracted wars. And the military needs to shrink. Especially in manpower, the single highest cost category.
I reproduce Secretary Work’s perspective in near entirety because I believe it is cogent and well-thought, from someone whose grasp of history is superb, and because it is worthwhile. It also allows us to put current conditions in context. Some of his points are excellent, and provide an insight into how Mr. Work thinks of what he calls the Total Force Battle Network and its shape in the coming decades.
This Total Force Battle Network will be characterized by a Navy-Marine Corps team capable of forcible entry and power projection globally, and an ability to keep vital SLOCs open to freedom of navigation. This Naval force will be characterized by thoroughly networked platforms and weapons, unmanned systems in all three dimensions, with technology-enabled combat power second to none. An increased emphasis on SOF throughout the services, Navy and Marine Corps included, and a more capable maritime domain awareness using unmanned and manned platforms to cover vital areas nationally and globally. Forward presence in vital regions will be credibly maintained. This force will be maintained and sustained by personnel strengths equal to the task, a break from the “optimal manning” experiment that went “too far”.
This will also be a force that is used less frequently than were forces in the Global Era, allowing for time to train and maintain, and to test and experiment with new technologies and new methods of employment. And, passionately, Mr. Work reminded us that the people who make up our Naval forces, Sailors and Marines, will remain the single greatest asset the Total Force Battle Network can employ. They will remain the professional, motivated, educated young warriors that are exemplified by CDR Ernest Evans, who told his crew of Johnston (DD- 557) “This is a fighting ship, and I intend to take her into harm’s way!”. And at Samar, when eight Japanese capital ships appeared on the horizon, turned his destroyer toward the vastly superior force and interject his little ship in between the Japanese and the escort carriers of his task force. The decision cost him his ship and his life, but helped save the Task Force and possibly the Leyte landings further south. It also earned CDR Evans a posthumous Medal of Honor. Our people and our Navy and Marine Corps will do the things that are required to be the best in the world, because, as in the past, they will be “great by choice”.
Secretary Work’s words should be inspirational to any Sailor or Marine who takes pride in his service. The Navy Undersecretary is definitely on our side. He is a man who says what he means and means what he says. The coming cuts, the $480 billion in the next ten years, are challenging but workable. They represent a drawdown of some 24% of the US Military, which Mr. Work points out is rather less than that of other post-war draw-downs, including the years of the “Peace Dividend” following the Cold War and Desert Storm. His was definitely a tone of confidence in the future of our Naval forces.
I hope he is correct. I hope we have a strategy commensurate with our capabilities, and our reach doesn’t exceed our grasp. And that our focus on SOF and unmanned systems will not require the “Plan B” of conventional forces in great numbers, because they simply will not be there. Whatever the numbers of ships, systems, and personnel we settle on, that cannot be the starting point for the ill-conceived concept of further pinching of pennies by chasing temporary savings (“Optimal Manning”, deferring maintenance, retiring warships at half their service lives) that result in driving up long-term costs and reducing effectiveness.
And I hope he is right about sequestration. Because, as upbeat and slightly sanguine as Secretary Work’s words were, even he admits that the cuts that would come in that event will devastate our nation’s defenses and make any meaningful National Military Strategy impossible.
Just when you thought that the ARCTIC SEA piracy story couldn’t get any weirder, comes news via Fairplay of an arrest warrent being issued in the case, for the former head of Estonian Intelligence:
The decision to put out an international warrant over the hijacking of the timber carrier Arctic Sea in August 2009 stemmed from Erik Niyles Kross’s refusal to answer a Russian summons for questioning in December.
Kross, former head of Estonian intelligence, has been charged with planning and directing the month-long pirate takeover.
Arctic Sea had been under way off Sweden’s Baltic coast when nine Russian and Latvian men took the vessel. They were convicted of piracy in Moscow and Arkhangelsk and given stiff prison terms – after reportedly naming Kross as the mastermind.
Estonia’s government has said that Russian prosecutors are welcome to interrogate Kross in Talinn. The 4,706dwt ship later found and taken back by the Russian Navy off Cape Verde. – Fairplay
Just why would the former head of Estonian Intelligence want to hijack a ship full of timber? Maybe he’s crazy? Given his involvement, maybe there is something to the rumors that the ship was carrying something much more interesting than just timber. I can understand Mr. Kross’s refusal to travel to Russia for questioning. However, he can’t be feeling much safer sitting in nearby Estonia. I suspect the level of danger he is in depends on what he knows and how embarrassing it is to the Russian Government.
One question I would like answered is just where the ‘hijackers’ were planning to take the ship. They did not appear to be taking the vessel anyplace when the Russians arrived. Apparently, thanks to Russian threats, the crew is still not talking.
Surely this is not the final chapter.
This week in San Diego, USNI/AFCEA West 2012 will be examining the issues and challenges associated with a US Military that has reached a “crossroads”.
As has happened so many times in the last century, the signposts to that crossroads are fiscal and not operational. Even with the drawdown in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan employing just a small fraction (about 90,000) of the 1.44 million US servicemen and women, the driving forces for the coming cuts are budget shortfalls, and spiraling national debt.
Panel sessions include discussion of the future of the Navy-Marine Corps Team (which doubtless will encompass amphibious capabilities), information and INFOSEC requirements for Naval forces, the balance between the warfighting head and the logistics tail, and the looming question of our new Pacific orientation, China.
Speakers include former CJCS Admiral Mullen, Navy Undersecretary (and former Marine Artilleryman) Robert Work, David Hartman, and Medal of Honor Winner SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
As usual, USNI will have a reinforced fire team of bloggers to tell you about it. The unit symbol is below. We will begin in a wedge formation for all around security and flexibility, and then we will do whatever SWMBO tells us to.
If you are going to ask tough questions, and give tough answers, San Diego in January is a pretty good place to do it. The forecast in Vermont is for snow.
Sharp’s told the Telegraph that “The Typhon force will be the first of its kind for probably 200 years and will protect private shipowners’ assets at sea.” The statement is incorrect since several other companies have either attempted to provide this type of private security or have actually conducted operations. The former company Blackwater offered a decades-old NOAA ship, the M/V McArthur, RHIBs and an embarked helicopter with the intent to protect ships from pirates. But the ship arrived in the Red Sea without clients; absent business, the ship left the region and the industry. Since then several companies have either claimed to have vessels or intended to procure them for the purpose of maritime security specifically in the Gulf of Aden. Others, like Protection Vessels International (PVI) have operated several security vessels.
According to the Telegraph article, Sharp “hopes to have 10 vessels on the water within 24 months.” This is an ambitious number particularly since other companies have made similar unfulfilled projections, such as one U.S.-based company which initially claimed it had fourteen vessels. It isn’t clear if the current level of piracy will support additional vessels. To date, no commercial ship with an embarked private security detachment has been taken by Somali pirates. The threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden may have already peaked. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s just-released 2011 piracy report, annual actual and attempted piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden were as follows: 2007 – 13; 2008 – 92; 2009 – 117; 2010 – 53; and 2011 – 37. This downward trend can be attributed to the increased use of private embarked armed security (as well as private armed escort vessels), improved Best Management Practices by the shipping industry, and the creation of Combined Task Force 151 as well as other international maritime operations in the region.
While piracy attacks in the heavily-trafficked Gulf of Aden have decreased, incidents have increased elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. If Typhon and other firms are interested in filling that maritime security gap, they will have to identify larger ships that have the range and speed or improve their logistics that can support clients in a broader region.
LCDR Claude Berube, USNR, is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Reponses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks of the 21st Century (Routledge, 2012). The views expressed are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy or U.S. Navy.
Early report and not much in the way of details, but there is this from NATO Shipping Center Daily Piracy Update:
The M/V LIQUID VELVET, the previously pirated vessel that may have been used as a mothership, was disrupted by naval Counter Piracy forces in the evening of 10 January. This mothership is no longer considered a threat to merchant shipping.
|RN Lynx helicopter|
I expect more details will be forthcoming.
Should be interesting reading.
UPDATE: Looks like a blocking move by a Royal Navy force as set out here:
RFA Fort Victoria
Fort Victoria, which is operating as part of Nato’s Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, cut off the vessel’s progress when it was 90 miles from the coastline and forced it to return to Somalia.
Fort Victoria approached the Liquid Velvet under cover of darkness, before circling the vessel at speed. The ship’s Lynx helicopter was also used. Fort Victoria then followed Liquid Velvet as she retreated towards Somalia.