US Navy captures Somali ‘Pirate’

The BBC reports the USS Winston S. Churchill captured a Somali pirate ship. This followed a report of piracy in the area. Notable about the BBC report is, in addition to the standard background, was the fact the are still referencing the Top Cat Marine Security contract to provide anti-piracy services, implying it is current (a few weeks back the BBC reported TopCat was “in mobilization” for the gig). What about the US Navy being the world maritime police?

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Update on the Cruise Ship Pirate Attack

This is an update / post mortem on my item on LRAD and Defending the cruise ship

Since I posted the item from the TimesOnline stating a sonic weapon (named LRAD from the manufacturer) was used to repel a pirate attack, the major news outlets have since updated their stories to reflect this information. It seems the cruise ship owner has also realized the value the weapon, although a press release on their site does not acknowledge the device.

The "ultra luxury" cruise industry obviously has a lot to lose with
increasing acts of piracy and an increase in the number of
piracy-related deaths. This may bring a problem that has been growing
for the last decade to the forefront of international news, sneaking behind the front pages for years has been increasing concerns of disruption to shipping channels.

Questions about the ships location
(only 100 miles from shore) are now being raised. It is sure that
anti-piracy laws (which laid the foundations for the Laws of War and
the term filibuster) will also be discussed, especially framed as acts of terrorism (criminal without pecuniary gains) acts and not acts of robbery. From a follow-up AP news story:

Seabourn has said it appeared the attackers were pirates whose
motivation was robbery. But Petersen doubted that was the case, because
he said pirates would have tried to disable the ship’s steering and
propulsion if they wanted to get onboard. Witnesses said the attackers
shot grenades toward passengers.

Here is the WashingtonPost’s post-mortem on the incident.

The LRAD and the cruise ship

There is an interesting piece of information not in either CNN or BBC as of this writing on the pirate attack on a cruise liner, the Seabourn Spirit, off the coast of Somalia. From the TimesOnline:

The liner used a sonic blaster to foil the pirates. Developed by American forces to deter small boats from attacking warships, the non-lethal weapon sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet. The equipment, about the size of a satellite dish, is rigged to the side of the ship.

Sonic "weapons" have reportedly been used by Israeli military in Gaza and Lebanon. This "poor man’s system" (not cheap when considering the cost of operating a jet but cheap in the terms of R&D) uses jet aircraft to create a sonic boom, intentionally creating shock waves that locals (Palestinians) say is similar to "an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and ‘leaving you shaking inside.’"

The device used by the cruise ship was a "proper" sonice weapon, designed and developed for a specific purpose.

The weapons technology the cruise ship apparently had, according to the TimesOnline, is an LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device).
This 45-pound, dish-shaped  non-lethal weapon is response to the 2000
USS Cole attack as a deterrent to small boat attacks. Apparently, these
devices have been used on US ships since the summer of 2003.

the Army and Marines have added this auditory barrage dispenser to
their arms ensembles. Troops in Fallujah, a center of insurgency west
of Baghdad, and other areas of central Iraq in particular often deal
with crowds in which lethal foes intermingle with non-hostile civilians.

the growing stable of non-lethal weapons is a Star Trek phaser gun made
real: the Active Denial System will repel enemies with a painful energy

I am curious if the TimesOnline got it right since other sources, including the WashingtonPost, CNN, and BBC did not report on this (as of this writing / posting). CNN reported the cruise ship outran the pirates. The BBC reports ‘the crew simply took evasive action without returning fire’. According to Daily
International Vessel Casualties & Pirates Daily Report
, "gunmen sailing in 3 boats later abandoned chase as they could not venture into high seas".

Or, are they being fanciful. I would tend to believe they got it
right if their description of the cruise ship is correct. It was odd to
read in BBC / CNN the ratio of crew to passengers by better than 1:1 on
the US-owned ship. The ship, owned by a Miami-based subsidiary of
Carnival Cruise Lines, must be an "ultra-luxery" boat with such a high complement of sailors / staff to passengers. Hence, their ability and desire to have such a device.

Modern weapons for modern, indiscriminate war. It will be
interesting to see if news starts to report the use of the LRAD or if
it disappears. This defensive measure is conceptually similar to
equiping airlines with counter-measures against SAM (surface-to-air
missile) attacks.

[UPDATE: CNN reported 7 Nov 05 — one day after I wrote this article — that a ‘sonic weapon’ was used. They did no indicate their source.]

:: SEE UPDATE 9 November 2005 ::