Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The U.S. Navy In The 21st Century: Fighting Pirates

GULF OF ADEN - Merchant vessel Golden Nori transits under the escort of the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) following its release from Somalia-based pirates Dec. 12.

4 Fronts For Pirate-Navy Battle As U.S. Descends
On Captured Ship -- Popular Mechanics

Deep in what this weekend became the most notorious pirate hideout since Neverland, Somali buccaneers are currently hunkered down in the Indian Ocean with the biggest pillage of their biggest year: the Ukrainian cargo vessel Faina, loaded with 33 T-72 tanks, plus small arms, rockets and ammunition—all headed for Sudan, a U.S. Navy spokesperson confirmed this morning. As its USS Howard destroyer reached the area and more foreign ships descended on the hijacked boat, however, the U.S. Navy’s response to Thursday night’s capture may signal a new stage in this cat-and-mouse game of modern-day piracy.

From ramshackle beginnings four years ago, Somali piracy has evolved into a lucrative industry, reportedly bringing in 10 times as much cash as the country’s once-thriving fishing industry. But after a year in which pirates operated with near impunity and seized nearly 60 ships for around $1 million ransom each, the international community is finally taking action by assembling a sophisticated naval force to fight back.

The fate of the Faina remains to be seen, with its captain already dead and a $20-million ransom in negotiations as the would-be rescue ships awaited orders and continued to monitor the situation. But two high-tech and highly successful engagements so far this year—in addition to several others loaded with robotic arsenals—might provide an attack plan that could finally begin to shut down the reinforced band of pirates.

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