Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday Ship History: USS Enterprise (CV-6)

USS Enterprise (CV-6) was the seventh ship to bear that name in the United States Navy.

Few have served better.

The first Enterprise in the Navy was a British sloop, captured by "Col. B. Arnold ". The second was a schooner, as was the third. The third Enterprise fought privateers, pirates and captured or defeated Tripolitan ships, as well as seeing action in the War of 1812. Number Four was also a schooner, but had a quieter time than number Three. The fifth Enterprise, a bark-rigged screw sloop-of-war engaged in various surveys and showed the flag. The sixth was, well, "...a motorboat, serv[ing] in a noncommissioned status in the 2d Naval District during World War I."

But number seven? She was a biggie. Some background here:
USS Enterprise, a 19,800-ton Yorktown class aircraft carrier, was built at Newport News, Virginia. Commissioned in May 1938, she made a shakedown cruise to South America, then operated in the Caribbean. In April 1939, Enterprise was ordered to the Pacific, where she was to play an unparalleled role in the great sea war that began with Japan's 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

At the time of that raid, Enterprise was at sea. On 10 December, her planes sank a Japanese submarine, the first of many enemy ships that would fall victim to her air group. Later in December, she participated in the abortive Wake Island relief expedition. In February 1942, after escorting convoys to the South Pacific, Enterprise attacked Japanese positions in the Marshalls. During the following three months, she hit Wake and Marcus islands, covered the Doolittle raid on Japan and was en route to the South Pacific when the Battle of the Coral Sea took place in early May.

In June 1942, Enterprise played a vital role in the Battle of Midway, in which her planes sank or helped sink three Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser. She was next involved in the Solomons Campaign, including the Guadalcanal landings in early August, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons later in that month and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October. Badly hit by Japanese bombs in August and October, Enterprise was the only available fleet carrier in the area in November and, despite her damaged condition, launched her air group against enemy ships during the climactic Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Remaining in the Solomons area into the Spring of 1943, she received the Presidential Unit Citation for her exploits there.

In late 1943 and early 1944 Enterprise participated in the Gilberts and Marshalls invasions and in attacks on Japanese bases in the Central and Southern Pacific. In June and July, she took part in the Marianas operation and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. From August to December, her planes joined in more raids and again engaged enemy ships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in late October. At the end of 1944 Enterprise received a special night operations air group, with which she took part in the Luzon campaign, strikes in the South China Sea, the Iwo Jima invasion, raids on the Japanese home islands and the Okinawa campaign. She was repaired locally for bomb damage received on 13 March 1945 and Kamikaze damage on 11 April, but had to the return to the U.S. after being badly hit by another Kamikaze on 14 May.
CV-6 organization here:
Of the more than twenty major actions of the Pacific War, Enterprise engaged in all but two. Her planes and guns downed 911 enemy planes; her bombers sank 71 ships, and damaged or destroyed 192 more. Her presence inspired both pride and fear: pride in her still unmatched combat record, and fear in the knowledge that Enterprise and hard fighting were never far apart.

The most decorated ship of the Second World War, Enterprise changed the very course of a war she seemed to have been expressly created for.
More, concerning action in 1942:
In this first year of war, Enterprise and the other ships of the Pacific Fleet faced nearly overwhelming odds regularly. At Midway, Enterprise and her sister ships Hornet - which had never directly engaged the enemy before - and Yorktown - hastily patched up after being struck by an enemy bomb in the Coral Sea battle - squared off against four battle-hardened Japanese carriers ... and won. At Santa Cruz, Hornet and Enterprise - just two carriers now - again engaged four of the enemy's and inflicted such devastating losses on Japan's naval aviators that over a year would pass before Japan's carriers could once again challenge the American fleet.

Over the course of the year, the Big E was struck six times by Japanese bombs, and more than 300 of her men were killed or wounded as a result. Enterprise Air Group and Air Group Ten, flying from Enterprise's deck the first eighteen months of the war, suffered heavy losses as they faced the best of Japan's fighting forces. One by one, the other prewar carriers of the Pacific fleet were lost in battle, or damaged and forced to withdraw for repair. Lexington CV-2 was lost in May, and Yorktown less than a month later. On the last day of August, Saratoga CV-3 absorbed her second torpedo of the year and was forced to retire to Pearl Harbor. Wasp CV-7, struck by three torpedoes on September 16, was not so lucky.

Finally, on the morning of October 26, as Hornet burned just over the horizon, Enterprise became the last operational US carrier in the Pacific. A bold sign appeared in the hangar deck - "Enterprise vs. Japan" - reflecting both the desperate nature of the situation, and the resolve of Enterprise's men. Not until December 5, when the repaired Saratoga arrived at Noumea, would the men in Enterprise see another friendly flattop.
Offer up a salute to the brave crews of CV-6.

As discussions begin over the naming of a new aircraft carrier to be completed after the decommissioning of the current USS Enterprise (CVN-65), it is hard to imagine a prouder heritage than another generation of sailors crewing a new Enterprise.

Those pictures? From here and here. It's worth a visit to those sites, which tell the tale of the bomb exploding on the deck of Enterprise and much more. From the top:
Landing aircraft while supporting the Gilberts Operation, 22 November 1943.
A TBM "Avenger" torpedo plane is on the flight deck, aft, while another is flying overhead.
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942

U.S. Navy ships firing at attacking Japanese carrier aircraft during the battle, 26 October 1942. USS Enterprise (CV-6) is at left, with at least two enemy planes visible overhead. In the right center is USS South Dakota, firing her starboard 5"/38 secondary battery, as marked by the bright flash amidships.
Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942

A Japanese bomb exploding on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), just aft of the island, on 24 August 1942.
Note: According to the original photo caption, this explosion killed the photographer, Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Robert F. Read. However, Morison's "History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II" (volume 5, page 97) states that Read was killed by the bomb that had earlier hit the after starboard 5"/38 gun gallery, which can be seen burning in the upper left. Morison further states that the bomb seen here exploded with a low order detonation, inflicting only minor damage.
Naval Air Station, Alameda, California

Four aircraft carriers docked at the Air Station's piers, circa mid-September 1945. The ships are (from front to back):
USS Saratoga (CV-3);
USS Enterprise (CV-6);
USS Hornet (CV-12) and
USS San Jacinto (CVL-30).
Note PBY amphibians parked at the far left.
Awaiting disposal at the New York Naval Shipyard on 22 June 1958. She was sold for scrapping ten days later, on 2 July.
USS Independence (CVA-62) is fitting out on the opposite side of the pier.
Ships visible in the left foreground include (from front): USS DeLong (DE-684), USS Coates (DE-685) and USS Hoe (SS-258). Ten other destroyers are also present, as is a "Liberty" type ship.
The Schaefer brewery is visible in the center background.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ferry sinks off Indonesia - 600+ missing

A ferry has sunk in a violent storm off Indonesia, as reported here:
A crowded Indonesian ferry broke apart and sank in the Java Sea during a violent storm that sent towering waves over its deck, and the vast majority of the nearly 640 passengers were still missing a day later, officials said Saturday.

Raging seas hampered rescue efforts and about 14 hours after the disaster, just 66 survivors had been found, many drifting in lifeboats or clinging on to driftwood, officials said. No bodies had been recovered, leaving nearly 600 passengers unaccounted for.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Flightdeck Friday - Flying Boats and Fullbore Friday

For some history of a naval bent, you should visit both Steeljaw Scribe: Flightdeck Friday and CDR Salmander's Fullbore Friday.

Steeljaw has a post on flying boats and Salamander has the tale of HMS Glowworm featuring both courage and professionalism.

And come back here Sunday for "Sunday Ship History."


NC Bar brings charges

Reported here:
The North Carolina bar filed the ethics charges Thursday, accusing District Attorney Mike Nifong of violating four rules of professional conduct by making misleading and inflammatory comments about the athletes under suspicion.
The bar cited 41 quotations and eight paraphrased statements made to newspaper and TV reporters, saying many of them amounted to "improper commentary about the character, credibility and reputation of the accused."

Among them:

- Referring to the lacrosse players as "a bunch of hooligans."

- "I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir."

- "One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong."

Nifong also is charged with breaking a rule against "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used condoms.

According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use condoms.
Mr. Nifong is presumed innocent.

US: East African peacekeepers for Somalia

Here's a plan:
The United States said Thursday it continues to support a U.N. plan for an East African peacekeeping force for Somalia that would obviate the need for intervention by that country's neighbors. The U.N. plan, approved early this month, has stalled amid mounting violence in Somalia. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Efforts to implement the U.N. plan have bogged down amid the latest violence including Ethiopia's large-scale intervention.

However in a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said implementation of Security Council resolution 1725 remains an administration priority.

He said U.S. diplomats are in touch with key parties including the African Union, the Arab League, Kenya, and with Uganda, which has offered to provide the core of the regional force.

He said if the peacekeeping mission, to be assembled by the East African regional grouping IGAD, is deployed, Ethiopia and other outside parties could "reassess" their involvement.

"The idea, very specifically, in setting up this force is that it would not involve the immediate neighbors of Somalia," Casey said. "I think at this point we want to get that [force] to be stood up and established. And that will give everyone else an opportunity to then reassess their positions. But part of the reasoning behind the creation of that force, and part of the reasoning for not including Ethiopia's neighbors in its composition, was to make sure that none of the different players involved inside Somalia itself would see this as something that might potentially provide a conflict of interest for any of the parties that would be involved in the force."
This approach might take care of some of the concerns expressed in this piece:
The quick victory over the Islamists, analysts warn, leaves a dangerous vacuum in a country that has only recently seen calm. Without a political strategy for winning the peace, they say, Somalia risks becoming a quagmire that sucks in neighboring countries. If the Ethiopians keep their word and withdraw quickly, radical elements within the courts - such as the young fighters of the Shabbab, led by Afghanistan-trained Aden Hashi Ayro - might run a guerrilla campaign, drawing in foreign fighters.

"The risks are that if Ethiopia and Somalia are unable to politically consolidate their military victory, then we are back at square one with the conditions that gave rise to the courts in the first place," says Matt Bryden, a consultant to the International Crisis Group.
And something needs to be done to address this:
Convoys of Islamists' pickups mounted with antiaircraft guns or heavy machine guns were seen leaving the city on Wednesday night and heading towards Kismayo, an Indian Ocean port still held by the Union of Islamic Courts.
Humanitarian aid is being restarted:
Shortly after wresting control of Somalia's capital from Islamic militants, the U.N.-backed transitional government Thursday approved the immediate resumption of humanitarian flights.
Their airspace has been declared open, which means that we and others can fly in," said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, known as OCHA.

"The U.N. will first do a security assessment of the situation, which is standard procedure," she said. "Once we've done that _ and we don't yet know when that will be _ we will resume our flights if it's safe enough to do so."

The U.N. plan is to resume cargo and passenger flights to the southern port of Kismayo to reach flood-affected areas, and to other locations to quickly reach thousands displaced by the fighting, OCHA said.
Wait, Kismayo? Now where has that port's name popped up? Oh, yeah, that's where the UIC technicals were reportedly headed...

UN OCHA office news here:
OCHA also stated that with transport routes in southern Somalia having been cut by conflict and the recent floods, the prices for food and other commodities had risen in Bay region.

Thursday's clashes in Mogadishu were sparked by the breakdown of law and order after the UIC left on Wednesday.

According to an unnamed local journalist, the absence of militias on the streets, and the improving security situation, were a result of the presence of TFG and Ethiopian forces. "The militias are not sure what to expect so they are lying low until things become clearer," he said.

The government said it was continuing with its efforts to assert its authority and take full control of the city. "The situation is calm this morning. It is much better than yesterday [Thursday]," Abdirahman Dinari, government spokesman, told IRIN on Friday.

He said government security forces were moving into different parts of the city and "by this afternoon they should have the entire city under control".
UPDATE: Bill Rogio has more:
Ali Mohamad Gedi, the Prime Minister of Somalia, spoke 20 miles south of the capital, and declared there would be months of martial law in Somalia, secured with the help of the Ethiopians. “This country has experienced anarchy and in order to restore security we need a strong hand, especially with freelance militias... No clan will be allowed to possess weapons of any kind. We will deal with people who claim they seized grounds according to the government laws... The capital will be secured by our good friends, the Ethiopian troops and the Somali forces.” Gedi later entered Mogadishu in an armored column.

Shabelle reports Ethiopian Prime Minister Males Zenawi said his country's troops will withdraw "when the [Somali] government becomes able to handle its security and problems in the country." The hunt for Islamic Courts leaders and al-Qaeda operatives remains a major priority. “We are working with the international community that the radicals should not escape by sea or land”, said Zenawi.

Mohamed Dhere, a warlord that controlled the Middle Shabelle region, has indicated low level Islamic Courts fighters would be pardoned. "Only the members of the Shura Council of the courts will be brought to justice. Like Mohamed, government spokesman, Abdirahman Dinari, Prime Minister Ali Gedi and Colonel Abdi Qaybdid who controls lower Mudug and Galgudug provinces, all said they are not interested in revenge... The only wanted people are members of courts' ruling congress and foreign fighters," Somalinet reports.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Somali troops enter Mogadishu

Reported here, the collapse of the UIC forces and the return of the officially recognized goverrnment:
Government troops in Somalia have marched into parts of Mogadishu, hours after Islamist forces abandoned the capital they had held for six months.
"We are in Mogadishu," Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Ghedi said. "We are co-ordinating our forces to take control of Mogadishu."

Some residents cheered the troops, but others feared a return to lawlessness.

It was not clear whether Ethiopian troops, who had backed the government forces, were also entering the city.
Islamist fighters fled towards the port city of Kismayo, their last remaining stronghold, 500km (300 miles) to the south.

Senior UIC official Omar Idris told the BBC: "We know what happened in Iraq... I think this is very, very early to say that the Islamic Court forces were defeated."
UPDATE: Interesting comment at the end of this LA Times piece:
Somalian government officials said they had no immediate plans to use heavy force to take the capital, a campaign they said could inflict heavy civilian deaths on the city of 2 million people. Instead, Ethiopians and transitional government troops encircled Mogadishu, shut down the seaport and airport, and pressured Islamic leaders to give up.

"We are cutting off the roads and begging them to lay down their weapons," said Abdikarim Farah, the transitional government's ambassador to Ethiopia.

He said the United States was among the countries helping to seal off access along the Indian Ocean coastline. (emphasis added)
Which, if it is true that the U.S. Navy is doing its thing off Somalia, is a very good thing indeed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

U.S. troop deaths in Iraq way behind U.S. traffic deaths in 2005

As long as we are pointlessly comparing numbers, the 43,200 highway deaths in 2005 far exceed the 2,977 deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq, which exceeds the number of people killed during the 9/11 attacks.

The number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is still unknown, but I nominate Christopher Torchia of the AP as the pin head to be used for the counting.

I even have a book in mind for him.

Update: As usual, Lex got there first. Oh, well.

Somaliland joins with Ethiopia to fight UIC

Reported here:
The unrecognised de facto state of Somaliland, located in the northwest Somalia has entered the widening conflict between Somalia's Ethiopian backed transitional government and the Islamist Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) movement - on the side of the government, the Qatari state news agency reports. Somaliland soldiers are reported to be fighting alongside Ethiopian ones on the Galcayo area front.

The area is under the control of Somalia's neighbouring semi-autonomous Puntland region and former warlord Abdiqueybdid. Somaliland fighters and forces opposed to the UIC on Saturday took the city of Jalinsor, the second to fall to the anti-UIC military alliance after Bandiredley. The alliance is said to comprise Somali and Ethiopian government troops, as well as a loose alliance of Somali, Somaliland, and Punta warlords opposed to terrorism. Critics of the UIC allege it has links to the al-Qaeda terror network - claims the UIC denies.
Not everyone is happy with Ethiopia as a vehicle of action against the UIC, as set out here:
When it comes to the strong relationship between U.S. and the Meles Zenawi regime in Ethiopia, the U.S. government has never been honest to the rest of the world. First of all, Meles Zenawi is holding power by squashing opposition groups who won during the May 2005 election. The Ethiopian people have demonstrated their support to the opposition groups mainly to Coalition to Unity and Democracy(KINIJIT) by flooding the streets of Addis Ababa like Tsunami. Not a single African country has witnessed such human wave of support for political oppositions as it happened in Addis Ababa during May 2005. The opposition political leaders who now languish in Ethiopia were high profile scholars who have studied, worked and lived in U.S. for many years. They are academics who have been committed to build a democratic society and there is a great deal of resemblance between the incarcerated leaders and the American civil and political rights activists of the 1960's. While U.S. was aware of the fact that the Meles Zenawi regime was tyrannical and hold power by guns, the U.S. state department kept a blind eye and deaf ears for the call of Ethiopians to denounce and stop supporting the Meles Zenawi regime. Despite to the atrocities Meles Zenawi regime inflicted on peaceful citizens, the U.S. continued its strong ties under the pretext of "war on terror".
The African Union has supported Ethiopia's action:
The African Union (AU) said Tuesday Ethiopia has the right to intervene militarily in Somalia as it feels threatened by a fundamentalist militia operating there.

The African Union would not criticize Ethiopia as it had "given us ample warning that it feels threatened by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)," said Patrick Mazimhaka, deputy chairman of the AU Commission.

"It is up to every country to judge the measure of the threat to its own sovereignty," he said in a statement.

Mazimhaka said the international community had a responsibility to support the transitional government.
Some from the UN encourage a ceasefire.

Of course, the situation is a little odd:
"Unless a political settlement is reached through negotiations, Somalia, I am afraid, will face a period of deepening conflict and heightened instability, which would be disastrous for the long-suffering people of Somalia, and could also have serious consequences for the entire region," Fall said.

After Fall's briefing, council members met behind closed doors on Qatar's draft statement, focusing on how to address the issue of foreign forces. Ethiopia remains an especially tricky issue because its troops are there at the invitation of the U.N.-backed Somali government - a point emphasized by State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the statement should not focus on any country, calling the situation in Somalia very complex with the Council of Islamic Courts "expanding, threatening neighboring countries, abusing human rights."

"Ethiopia has been threatened itself. There are other forces inside the country, Eritrea in particular," Wolff said, although Eritrea denies it has troops in Somalia.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said "what is important is to have a cease-fire ... and to have a dialogue resuming."

"It's a war, so the risk of destabilizing the whole region is one concern, and the second one is there is a humanitarian situation, which is very bad," he said. "The only solution is a negotiated solution. Everybody has to work for it."

The Security Council has backed the transitional government, and on Dec. 6 it authorized an African force to protect the government's beleaguered leaders in the town of Baidoa against the increasingly powerful Islamic militia -but no country has yet offered troops for that force.
Seems like just another day in Somalia. And the UN is being forced to confront its past abandonment of the "long-suffering" people of Somalia.

UPDATE: I cited to it before - an excellent primer on the U.S. Army in Somalia here. Excerpt:
The Army began by assisting in relief operations in Somalia, but by December 1992 it was deeply engaged on the ground in Operation RESTORE HOPE in that chaotic African country. In the spring of the following year, the initial crisis of imminent starvation seemed to be over, and the U.S.-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) turned over the mission to the United Nations, leaving only a small logistical, aviation, and quick reaction force behind to assist. The American public seemed to forget about Somalia. That sense of "mission accomplished" made the evens of 3-4 October 1993 more startling, as Americans reacted to the spectacle of dead U.S. soldiers being dragged through the streets by cheering Somali mobs-the very people Americans thought they had rescued from starvation.

This brochure, prepared to honor the tenth anniversary of Operation RESTORE HOPE beginning on 8 December, places the events of the firefight of 3-4 October 1993 into the wider context of the U.S. humanitarian, political, and military operation to rescue a people and a state from anarchy and chaos. The dedication and sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers, airmen, and marines in that war-torn country provide a lesson in heroism that remains compelling a decade later.

Four of Kind

Blackfive points the way to Three Kings over at Chuck Ziegenfuss's place.

Read it and learn about four extraordinary young men.

And also see where some of that laptop money from Project Valour-IT is being used. Not too late, by the way, for a possible tax deduction by throwing a little more into the laptop fund to help out good people.

Four of a kind?

You know, Three Kings and a Chuck.

Sounds like a rock band...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The UIC mob, er, "militia" gets bumped back

Ethiopia's air force, tanks and artillery, being used to aid the interim government, has aided the Somali interim government loyalists in pushing back the Union of Islamic Court forces, as set out here:
Somalia's Islamist militia are reported to have withdrawn from frontlines after a sustained assault by government forces backed by Ethiopian troops.
Whether this a "retreat" or a tactical withdrawal seems to be up in the air. It should be noted that the UIC forces are not armor or artillery heavy, but relatively lightly armed infantry mounted, if at all, in "technicals" - those SUVs with large caliber machine guns or recoiless weapons mounted on them. See here.

Of course, that could change,
Islamist fighters are also reported to have withdrawn from other areas in central and southern Somalia.

But a leading UIC official, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, told reporters in Mogadishu that the retreat merely signalled a new phase in the war.

"Since Ethiopia started using air power and heavy artillery, we have changed our tactics and are getting ready for a long war," he said.
I wonder who might supply the UIC with tanks, artillery, etc?

You know, for the "long war."

More background here and here, both from the Council on Foreign Relations. And an earlier post here. UPDATE3: More here, along with reports on the fighting:
Ethiopia's prime minister announced Sunday night that he had sent troops into Somalia to fight international terrorists, defend Ethiopian interests and prop up the besieged U.N.-backed government, which only has a very small military force.

But Meles has said he does not intend to keep his forces in Somalia long, perhaps only a few weeks. He has told visiting dignitaries that his goal is to severely damage the Islamic movement's military capabilities and allow both sides to return to peace talks on even footing.

Meles said he would not send troops into Mogadishu, but instead encircle the city to contain the Islamic forces.
UPDATE: In fact, a UN approved embargo of ships and aircraft carrying heavy weapons to Somalia might be in order...

UPDATE2: "A Reckless U.S. Proxy War?" Doesn't seem all that reckless to me, considering what's at stake. And, no, I don't care if the UIC have made the trains run on time...(Updated thought: Why not "A Reckless al Qaeda Proxy War?" or fill the enemy of your choosing)

A "first report" here (take it for what it's worth). And famine concerns raised here:
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has warned of potentially "catastrophic" effects of all-out war in Somalia. In an emergency alert issued on Friday as the conflict began to escalate, the analysis service highlighted the food security threat to southern Somalia, where 1.1 million people are already facing a humanitarian crisis while half a million are seriously affected by floods.
War is rarely healthy for growing things, but I wonder if the luxury of food supplies being brought in from outside has allowed the UIC and other factions to get a little reckless in their actions? Just a thought.

UPDATE4: Photo of the "technical" is fom Liberia, but the concept is the same.
UPDATE5: Bill Roggio has more:
...Sheik Ahmed giving reasons to their retreat and lose [NB E1: loss?] of towns said. “Since we have no heavy weapons we would start endless hit and run fighting against the Ethiopian invaders... We are again telling the international community that we (ICU) have no links with Al-Qaeda and there are no terrorist members in our country, here we have Somalis who stoop up for restoring their peace and security nothing else,” said Sharif.

The Islamic Courts appears to be surprised by the quick advance and ferocity of attacks by the Ethiopian and TFG forces, as the hasty withdrawal from important towns, and abandoned critical weapons systems.
UPDATE6: UN having an emergency meeting on Somalia.

Maritime Monday 39 at Fred Fry International

Christmas edition of Fred Fry International: Maritime Monday 39.

Cute Beluga whale (if you like that sort of thing- not that there's anything wrong with that) and much more, including a guide to rescue at sea.

All free!

It was piracy, crew of ship "rescued" by Tamil Tigers say

As reported here:
The crew of a Jordanian ship that ran aground near the rebel-controlled territory off the island's coast, today accused the Tamil Tigers of forcing them to abandon the vessel carrying 14,000 tonnes of Indian rice and risking their lives.

The crew of the Farah III said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fired four times to force them out of the vessel after failing to explode it in choppy seas three days ago.

Skipper R Abdullah told reporters here after arriving from the rebel-held north of the island to speak of their harrowing experience at the hands of the Tigers who arrived in six boats and boarded the vessel.

"First they tried to set up a bomb and explode the anchor cable and when it failed they ordered us to weigh anchor," Abdullah told reporters here. He alleged the Tigers dismantled and removed all radio communication equipment and radar from the vessel.

He rejected Tiger claims that they were actually helping the crew who had developed engine trouble after setting from a South Indian port on 15 December.

"They did not try to help," Abdullah said. "But they opened fire four times to scare my crew and force us into smaller boats," he said.
Some background here, though I have left out most of the various efforts of the LTTE disinformation campaign to couch this thuggery as a "rescue."

North Korea Quarantine: Bring back the battleships?

A suggestion that a sea quarantine of the People' Republic of North Korea might be enhanced with a couple of battleships found here:
Although China's cooperation allows us to place carrier battle groups in the Sea of Japan and also the Yellow Sea's restricted waters without having to watch our backs, threats elsewhere make it less than prudent to lock carriers into this mission any longer than necessary. And, interestingly, these developments may provide added impetus to calls that the last two remaining battleships be reactivated.

There are arguments both for and against the use of battleships (only two remain, the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin) as more than simply museums. They are very firmly held by both proponents and detractors of the warships' effectiveness and viability, have been endlessly rehashed and, in specific contexts, both sides have made good sense...
As for arguments that the battleships are exceptionally manpower intensive, former Navy secretary John Lehman maintains: "We manned them in the 1980s with about 1,400 officers and men. By manning only two of the four engine rooms," says Lehman, "they still make 24 knots and save several hundred crew. With other sensible reductions made possible by newer technology they could be manned with fewer than 800." And, he adds, "At whatever manning, there simply is no substitute."

If a quarantine is established, reactivating the battleships would not only free-up carrier decks --- and strategic options --- years before the DDG-1000 and CG(X) become available, but would be seen in Asia and around the world as a clear visible statement of both restraint and a firm determination that the US will not allow the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorist entities.
I guess the multibillion dollar collection of cruisers and destroyers, filled with missiles doesn't do the job for Mr. Diangreco, though I am at a loss to see why they can't do the job, especially accompanied by the same level of support offered up in the article- including "an air element operating from an amphibious assault ship." In addition, Japan and South Korea are both pretty close to the scene and I wonder why they cannot be used as staging areas for a support force of a blockade.

In other words, while there is much to be appreciated about the battleships, their day is done. Gearing up the logistics train needed to support their operations would take money from other programs for what, in my view, is not all that much in the way of a useful asset.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunday Ship History: Christmas Drop

Flying over some remote Pacific islands in the years after WWII, some U. S. Air Force crews started the "The world's longest running humanitarian airdrop," becoming "Santa's helpers" along the way. As the Air Weather Reconnaisance Association's website tells the tale here:
For our December update we have to think Christmas. Now for myself and hundreds of other weather reconnaissance crew members, this means Christmas Drop. I'm still trying to find a definite source who was actually there, but the bulk of evidence says the tradition was started by a 54th WRS crew flying their WB-29 south of Guam around Christmas Day of 1952. They passed over the atoll of Kapingamarangi, a circular group of islands about 600 miles south of Guam. As they flew over one Island, they spotted a group of islanders waving at them, and the holiday spirit took over. The crew gathered up food and other items they had on the plane, and placed them in a container (possibly the box that held a dropsonde) and attached a small dropsonde parachute. They circled back around and dropped the makeshift gift to the islanders. A wonderful tradition was born that continues to this day. The 54 WRS, along with other military and civilian organizations, coordinated the collection of needed items and dropped them to remote islands every year until the squadron was deactivated in 1987. Since then, the 374th Airlift Wing has taken over, sending a TDY crew and C-130 aircraft to Guam to pick up and deliver hundreds of boxes each year. I've always wondered if it's true that the folks on Kapingamarangi actually built a B-29 out of palm fronds to try and lure that first plane to come back? Probably not, but it made a great reconnaissance legend....
More recently, a listing of things to go in the boxes to be dropped and where it goes:
Items being solicited are first-aid kits, garden tools, school supplies, toys, fishing gear, snorkeling equipment, hygiene products, canned and non-perishable foods and used clothing.

The islands selected for the drop are the most remote, said Bruce Best, manager of the University of Guam’s PEACESAT Network center, a satellite communications hub for Micronesia that’s helped coordinate the Christmas Drop for more than 20 years.

“There are no drops in any of the district centers,” he said. “They don’t have any drops where Continental [Airlines] goes … If it has a school or a dispensary we try to make sure it gets a drop.”

During the past two years typhoons and other mission priorities have prevented the group from dropping to all the targeted islands.

Some islands have seen their food supplies destroyed by typhoons, and some “haven’t had a boat in five months because of price of fuel and lack of maintenance on boats,” Best said. “So the Christmas Drop is big time. I’m hoping that some of the ones that are real needy get a drop.”
The islanders especially appreciate fishing gear, masks, fins and snorkels, so they can have the tools needed to feed themselves, he said.

“That makes a lot of food throughout the year,” Best said. “And you just can’t get fishing hooks… out there.”

While 1952 is the commonly accepted year of the first Christmas Drop, John Treiber, 36th Air Expeditionary Wing historian, isn’t so sure.
A story Andersen’s newspaper published in 1957 states the drop began in 1947, when wives of 514th Recon Squadron crewmembers put together packages of clothes, books and other goodies to drop to islanders their husbands had reported seeing on flights over the vast region.

Since 1952, however, the drop has taken place every year — even during the height of the Vietnam War — except for 1973, when it was canceled due to a global oil crisis.
Rotary Clubs on Guam pitch in:
Under the direction of Rotary Club of Guam President Diane Keller, in the spirit of "Leading The Way", we have organized all Guam Clubs (Northern, Sunrise, Tumon Bay) and the Saipan Club in a joint effort to support this mission under one banner "Pacific Basin Rotary Clubs". Total donations collected were $9,600. With these generous contributions we were able to purchase (at wholesale prices) medical supplies that act as a first defense to basic medical needs. First Aid kits, pain and fever reducers, bandages, and dental supplies.

Representative members from Rotary Clubs gathered to divide and pack 100 boxes of supplies to be included in 100 larger boxes to be air lifted to 26 of the Marianas islands. The enthusiastic support of neighboring Clubs is a true testament of "Service Above Self". It is our hope to maintain our united effort of Pacific Basin Clubs as a continuing legacy of this humanitarian service."
This year the effort got a push:
The world's longest running humanitarian airdrop had its first "Push" ceremony at Andersen Air Force Base Saturday commemorating the 54th Annual Operation Christmas Drop that reached more than 50 remote Pacific islands.
Gen. Douglas H. Owens, 36th Wing commander, led the ceremony that included words of thanks and encouragement from a native of Eauripik, an Outer Yap island, who is now a Petty Officer in the Navy.

"We have no airstrips or major ports on our remote islands," said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Taibemal. "It's a year-long wait for these items, and for most of us it's the only way to obtain new clothes and Christmas gifts."

Operation Christmas Drop is truly a team effort, bringing together volunteers from across Team Andersen, including the 734th Air Mobility Squadron here, crews and aircraft from the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and spirited members of the Guam community.

"This is a wonderful event to be a part of," said Patty Arroyo, Guam radio personality. "Not only are we helping families and communities that really appreciate the assistance, but we show how well the civilian and military communities can work together."

Since 1952, the Christmas Drop operations have delivered more than 800,000 pounds of supplies, according to organizational data.

This year the operation delivered 140 boxes to 59 islands. Boxes included new or serviceable clothes, fishing and snorkeling equipment, non-battery operated toys and non-perishable foods among other items.
As noted, a sailor is involved in this year's effort, '06 Christmas Drop extra-special for Yapese sailor. Video of Push here.

It's a great tradition:
Operation Christmas Drop has gone through a number of iterations since it was started in 1952 by the U.S. Air Force's 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The mission angelically drops 400-pound crates of much-needed supplies from the heavens to families in the region's impoverished islands and territories, and was at one time a private venture, eventually returned to military control. For those involved, it makes for one of the proudest, most fulfilling missions they'll fly.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to share goodwill between the military here and our island friends is just a tremendous thing. And being able to be part of such a long and storied history and tradition that accompanies Operation Christmas Drop is terrific," said Brigadier General Douglas Owens, the commander of the 36th Air Wing at Andersen Air Force Base. And even though the mission has been undertaken for generations at Andersen, for the new commander at the Yigo base, this is his first exposure to it. So while not a combat sortie or assignment that puts his pilots, flight crew, and their fellow airmen directly in harm's way, General Owens says the importance of the mission can't be understated.

"These are training missions for these crews that fly, so they will gain valuable Air Force training as part of their effort," he explained. "In doing so, they'll be able to reach out to those islands that would not otherwise be able to receive the goodwill that we're providing. So in their minds, this is very much a people-helping-people effort, and that's precisely the way we all approach it."
The Drop aircraft now come from Japan: Japan:
Air Force aircraft flying from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, are dropping more than 20 tons of donated items to Pacific Islanders throughout Micronesia during the 53rd annual Operation Christmas Drop through Dec. 22.

The mission involves three C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron based at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Well done, all of you involved in Christmas Drop!

Merry Chistmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Read The Fourth Rail

I keep a few links to blogs I read on the right side. I've recently been shifting them around but they are still not in any order that my Third Grade teacher would be proud of. You may note in the next few days that Bill Roggio's The Fourth Rail will be moved closer to the top. I encourage you to read Bill's fine work, especially now that he is back as an embed in Iraq.

In addition to his excellent embed posts, I also commend his work on the accelerating crisis in Somalia, including this post.

I don't know Bill, though I have exchanged couple of emails with Bill and someday I hope to meet him in person. In the meantime, keep reading him. I know I will be.

Sri Lanka: Tamil "Sea Tigers" turning to piracy?

Reported here:
A maritime distress message released by a Jordon merchant vessel "Faraha III" this morning indicated that the ship is under an armed pirate attack in Mulaithiuvu Sea, the naval sources said.

The message originally received by the Maritime Rescuing Coordinating Centre, Falmouth in UK , said that a group of armed pirates had got onboard the ship around 3.30a.m (Saturday the 23rd of December) and began marauding the ship's cargo.

The Naval sources added that these "armed pirates" mentioned by the ship's crew must be none other than the LTTE terrorists since the ship had drifted towards the LTTE dominated coast in North- Eastern Sri Lanka. The present location of the ship is 3 Nautical miles east of Mulaithivu.
The Tigers deny it is piracy and report the "rescue" of the crew see here:
Tamil Tiger rebels say they have rescued 25 sailors from a crippled Jordanian ship off Sri Lanka's north-eastern coast, dismissing government accusations that they staged a "pirate attack".

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan says the seamen are being taken to safety despite rough seas.

"We noticed a ship drifting in our waters and we also saw suspicious activity of the Sri Lankan Navy [and] we boarded the ship to rescue the crew," he said.

But Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry says a distress message indicating that the vessel was "under armed pirate attack" was received by the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre in Britain, which conveyed it to the Sri Lankan naval authorities.
UPDATE: An explanation of "territorial waters" here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Home for the holidays

The outside lights are up. The tree is in the house.

The clan begins to check in.

One flew in with tales of nights spent in airports due to the storms across the country. Others will drive in tonight or tomorrow. Some will be away from us for this year but will be together with their loved ones and will call in to report on their holiday doings.

Some will be with us in memory only for the first time. We pray they can gather with those who went before and enjoy the evolving family as we enjoy the traditions they passed down to us as well as new ones added by new daughters and sons.

After years of being travelers headed "home," it is odd to live at the home where the holiday lights are on and door always open for family. To be the place where absent members are remembered and missed and some lights seem to twinkle a little brighter as tales of how Grandmother and Graddad said this or did that...

Ah, the doorbell rings - bringing young faces home again. And in the background plays this
Oh, there’s no place like
home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine
Of a friendly face
For the holidays, you can’t beat
Home, sweet home
And, if you can't be home in person, then know we are with you in spirit whereever you may be.

Home is, after all, where the heart is.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Maritime "dirty bomb" insurance

Something for everyone's last minute gift list! Maritime "dirty bomb" insurance as set out here:
The TT Club says it will offer nuclear and bio-chemical terrorism cover, starting from January 1, 2007.

Cover will be available for physical loss, business interruption and liabilities, and will be applicable in incidents involving both actual damage caused by an incident or device and when an incident occurs or a device is discovered causing significant trade disruption but no physical damage.

The club is offering cover for both direct and indirect business interruption, for example, members with goods delayed due to the closure of a third-party facility as a result of a nuclear or bio-chemical terrorism incident anywhere in the world.

Limit options will provide cover up to a maximum of $25 million for any one incident per member while indirect business interruption losses will be available for limits up to a maximum of $5 million, any one incident, per member. A pool aggregate limit for all claims in any one year of US$100m is expected to be achieved.
Ain't commerce wonderful?

Policy image from The Trickery.

Stowaways try a swim to get access to US

Reported here:
Three stowaways aboard a freighter jumped into the Delaware River Wednesday and tried to swim to shore. The would-be immigrants were apprehended by federal agents before reaching land. They were not identified and remained on the container ship Sea Board Rio Haina Wednesday night, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Bill Anthony.
Eddystone is in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

Somali Islamists at "war" with Ethiopia

I guess the world had a shortage of wars this year, so the Somali Islamists have stepped forward to help boost the numbers by declaring a state of war with Ethiopia, as set out here:
The leader of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls much of southern Somalia, says the country is in a state of war with Ethiopia.

"All Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia," Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said from Mogadishu.
Both sides have blamed each other for the fighting.

The UIC has introduced law and order to the capital and much of southern Somalia for the first time in 15 years and denies links to al-Qaeda.

Ethiopia has admitted to having some military trainers in Somalia, but our correspondent says that as he drove to the airport in Baidoa on Wednesday, he was stopped by a huge convoy of Ethiopian military armour.

The United Nations estimates as many as 8,000 Ethiopian troops may be in the country backing the government while regional rival Eritrea has deployed some 2,000 troops in support of the Islamic group.
More here:
Experts nevertheless warn that renewed war in Somalia remains a risk and fighting could draw in its neighbors, including Eritrea and Kenya. A recent U.N.-commissioned study said that numerous nations already were sending fighters and guns to fuel the conflict.

"Everyone who knows something about Somalia knows that a real fight could easily spread to the region," said Mario Raffaelli, Italy's special envoy for Somalia.

Ethiopian and U.S. officials accuse the Islamists in Somalia of having links to terrorism and say the courts union seeks to install a Taliban-style regime. In her most blunt assessment yet, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer last week accused the Islamic union of being controlled by "East Africa Al Qaeda cell individuals."

Islamists dismiss such allegations as Western propaganda, though some concede that the union is struggling to strike a balance between its moderate and fundamentalist factions. One extremist sect is accused of masterminding the September killing of an Italian nun in Mogadishu.
Nothing like regional war just in time for the holidays.

It is worth remembering that the Somali UIC doesn't speak for Puntland or Somaliland, nor for some portion of the clans of the south of Somalia. On the other hand, piracy off the coast of Somalia seems to be way down.

I suspect Kenya, Somalia's southern neighbor, is looking at gearing up just in case. The EU is gathering funds for Somali refugees:
The European Commission has allocated €2 million in humanitarian aid to support the rising number of Somali refugees in Kenya.

Since the beginning of 2006, Kenya has seen a steadily increasing refugee influx from Somalia.
Each day around 1,200 Somali refugees arrive currently in Kenya. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has so far registered 32,000 new arrivals this year on top of the 126,000 Somalis already living in refugee camps in Kenya. The aim of the Commission's assistance is to support activities covering the basic needs of the new Somali refugees (shelter, food, basic health services, sanitation).
And the UN is trying to stop the rush to war:
A European Union envoy plans to fly to Somalia to promote peace talks after weeks of saber rattling by the besieged government and an advancing Islamic movement.

But with troops on the move, suspected terrorists emerging as leaders and foreign fighters pouring into the country, only masterful diplomacy and some arm twisting will get both sides to back away from the brink of war for very long.

Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development and aid, will try to get the two sides to stop fighting and commit to high-level peace talks, according to an EU statement released Tuesday.

The government, supported by troops from neighboring Ethiopia, holds only a small area around the central town of Baidoa. The Islamic militias control the capital, Mogadishu, but have also fanned out across most of southern Somalia.

The U.N.-backed secular government has rejected religious rule for Somalia, while the Muslim leaders have insisted on an Islamic government.
UPDATE: Foreign Policy interviews an "expert:"
FP: How much of the country is controlled by the Council of Islamic Courts versus the Transitional Federal Government?

KM: The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) controls almost no territory. It holds the provisional capital of Baidoa, barely, and some of the hinterland between Baidoa and Ethiopia. The Courts now control all of Southern Somalia, from the Kenyan border to Mogadishu up to the central Somali town of Galcaio. North of that, the nonsecessionist semiautonomous state of Puntland has yet to join the Courts. So if you include the secessionist state of Somaliland in the northwest, the Courts control more than 50 percent of Somali territory.

FP: Are the Courts controlled by al Qaeda?

KM: No. Absolutely not. There is a legitimate debate over whether a small number of leaders in the Islamic Courts have linkages with a small number of leaders from al Qaeda. That’s not the same as saying that the two are in a deeply intrinsic partnership. The problem that the Courts face is that they are not by any stretch a unified movement. It’s an umbrella group that includes moderates, hard-line salafists, and jihadists. And a small number of jihadists can do an enormous amount of damage and can bring in elements from outside that create a whole new level of security problems. FP: How serious of a humanitarian crisis would ensue if war broke out, something along the scale of Darfur?

KM: There’s already a very serious humanitarian crisis in Somalia and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya due to the heavy flooding that has occurred there. In Somalia alone, there are 500,000 people displaced due to the flooding. The humanitarian agencies are facing the perfect storm right now in southern Somalia—impassable roads due to the flooding, armed conflict breaking out between Somalia and Ethiopia which will ground U.N. helicopters once the war starts, and the unspecified threat of jihadist violence directed at any United Nations, Western, or American agency, emanating from Mogadishu. It’s different from Darfur, but the scale is very large. Darfur is a manmade crisis, and it’s an ongoing one that is incredibly difficult to access. In Somalia, for the moment, the biggest crisis is a natural disaster, the flooding. The problem is that access to those in need is complicated by the imminent threat of war, in which humanitarian workers could become the principal targets for small groups of jihadists. So the immediate threat to the 500,000 people who’ve been displaced by the flooding is very serious.

FP: How is involvement by Eritrea and Ethiopia feeding the conflict?

KM: Somalia has become a proxy war in the region. Eritrea is using the Islamic Courts to try to bog Ethiopia down in a quagmire. They have provided arms and training to the Courts. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is involved in Somalia and has troops there, in large part because it views the rise of the Courts as a very dangerous security threat on a number of levels. One is the prospect of having a radical Islamist movement controlling Somalia. Ethiopia is country which splits roughly 50-50 between Muslims and Christians and doesn’t want a radical Islamist movement on its borders. More immediately, the Courts have made claims to Somali-inhabited territory in eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. This is unacceptable to Ethiopia. As long as the Courts are making these claims, Ethiopia will view their ascendance to power as a security threat.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iragi Army captures IED cell leader

From CentCom Press Release:
8th Iraqi Army division forces, with coalition advisers, captured a suspected improvised explosive device cell leader Dec. 18 during operations in Al Kut.

The suspect, reported to be a leader within the Office of the Martyr Sadr in An Nasiriyah, is allegedly linked to illegal armed groups in the area and conducts and facilitates IED attacks specifically targeting Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces throughout Wasit Province.
I suppose I'd let him ride in various vehicles traveling the roads of IED land pending his trial...sort of putting him on "point" if you get my drift.

Idea whose time has come? Boat operator licenses

Like licensing car drivers, but as a security assist for keeping tabs on recreational boaters, as set forth here:
Guard Commandant Thad Allen said the potential for a terrorist attack launched from small boats means that states and the Coast Guard must cooperate better to watch who is on America's waterways. Though he doesn't yet have details or formal recommendations for how a national permit system would work, he said he'd like to see boating licenses be similar to motor vehicle driver's licenses.

Forty-four states now require some kind of mandatory education before boaters can get on the water, but just one - Alabama - oversees boaters with the same rigor it applies to motorists, according to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) of Lexington, Ky.
errorism experts point to other ways small boats potentially could assist in attacks - for example, a speedboat could deposit saboteurs at the outlet pipes of a nuclear power plant, or hijackers aboard a cruise ship. In a nightmare scenario, suicide bombers in a crowded harbor could use small watercraft to detonate a tanker carrying ultra-volatile liquefied natural gas, causing a powerful explosion that could kill thousands.

"As good as we get at surveillance, as good as we get at patrolling and creating deterrence out there, sooner or later we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that we need to know to a greater certainty who are operating boats out there, what boats are out there," Allen said.
The opposition to the idea says:
"Mandatory education is one thing. We're not opposed to having people take a course. But we wouldn't want to see it turn into a license that could be restricted or taken away," said Chris Edmonston, director of boating safety for the Boat Owners Association of The United States, commonly known as Boat U.S, based in Alexandria, Va. The driver's license analogy was not a good start, he said.

"Driving a car is considered a privilege conferred by the state, but boating is considered a right. It gets back to that 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' sort of thing," Edmonston said.
Boating is a right? Must be in an Amendment to the Constitution that I have forgotten about.

And, given some of the drunken louts I have observed "operating" speed boats and personal watercraft, a license that can be taken away strikes me as a great idea.

Sea robbers captured in Philippine waters

Engine theives caught as reported here:
ust when piracy seemed to be all about CDs, VCDs and DVDs, Samar police seize two (2) sea pirates in Brgy. Labangbaybay, Tagapul-an town.

The suspects, according to operatives, were caught taking engines off boats in the waters of Catbalogan. A joint team of Tagapul-an Police and Provincial PNP collared the suspects committing the crime.

Malacca Strait: Sovereignty and security

Imagine you own the road in front of your property.

People are free to use the road at no charge. You set up a lemonade stand, hoping to capture some business benefit from your location. But only a few stop by the stand, and the revenue generated does not cover the cost of any lane markers, road repair, or security services you provide.

The security service is needed because there is a small group of people who sit in fast cars on your neighbor's property and occasionally race onto your part of the road and rob passersby. These robbers then skedaddle back to your neighbor's property where, by agreement among all the neighbors, you are not allowed to do anything to them.

As the flow of traffic on your section of road increases, so does the intrusion by these robbers, and the users of the road begin complaining and urging you to take more action to stop the robberies. Some even threaten, though politely, to station their own security force on your property to help "keep the peace."

These same people, on the other hand, are unwilling to allow you to charge the road users for the use of the road.

Among the users, most just pass through without much fuss. On the other hand, some abuse the privilege by tossing trash out the window as they drive by, polluting your property.

Welcome to the world of the nations sitting on the Malacca Strait.

As noted in this, there is a tension between the sovereign rights of the states in the Malacca Strait littoral and the countries that use the Strait as a sea lane. The users seek security and safety, the states seek control and would like to gain some benefit from their efforts at making the Strait safer.

The states bordering the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (the Straits states -- Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore) and the extraregional maritime powers that depend heavily on the Straits for transit of commercial and naval vessels have divergent interests. More than 70 percent of vessels using the Straits do not call at any Straits state port and thus the Straits states receive no direct benefit from their passage.

Yet the Straits states have been bearing the brunt of the burden of maintaining the safety and security of navigation and the environment there. Consequently, the Straits states have been trying to forge an agreement with the user states to assure that they contribute to Straits safety and security.
Malaysia and Indonesia are primarily concerned with both their conceptual and practical sovereignty in the Malacca Strait, i.e., control, and keeping the Strait free from pollution, as well as preventing piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing. Singapore and the user states are much more concerned with the safety and security of navigation. The United States in particular is interested in preventing possible terrorist attacks on its vessels and in interdiction of vessels carrying weapons of mass destruction.
The Straits states' long-standing hope that the user states would finally begin to significantly share the burden remains largely unfulfilled. Such assistance could take the form of contributions to projects identified and agreed with the littoral states either in the form of direct financial contributions or in-kind technical assistance or equipment.

However, such contributions remain voluntary and other than long-term contributor Japan, the only other user state offering such assistance is China. Moreover the agreement does not define user states or the direct and indirect beneficiaries of Straits use such as shippers, shipping companies and consumers of oil and goods that transit the Straits.
Of course, it's not realistic that Indonesia or Malaysia could, by force of arms, shut down their portion of the Strait. Instead, they will have to suffer along with whatever is offered to them that doesn't threaten their legal rights over that portion of their territorial waters that just happens to lie within one of the major ocean trade choke points.

On one hand, it appears that the U.S. and other beneficiaries of this "free ride" need to step up to the plate and offer up some financial assistance to the littoral states to assist them in helping themselves and keeping the sea lane open.

On the other hand, from the Strait users point of view, there must be a concern that any precedent set in assisting the states along the Malacca Strait might open up claims from other nations that sit on sea lanes like Iran and Oman on the Strait of Hormuz, Bosphorus or the countries along the Red Sea/ Bab el-Mandab.

A delicate balancing act for all concerned. Meanwhile, the ships continue to sail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Surprise, surprise: NY, NJ ports may be "vulnerable to terror attack"

Reported here, the not too surprising conclusion that the Port of New York and New Jersy "is vulnerable to attack." Nor is it surprsing that the recommendaions to fix the problems tend to involve nationalizing the port security issue and having more federal dollars involved.
The Port Security Task Force released a 22-page report Monday with five recommendations that would reduce the vulnerabilities and security risks at all of the nation's ports, officials said.

The recommendations, some of which may require congressional approval, include establishing a per-container port-user fee to pay for security and appointing a national port and cargo security director.
Other recommendations from the 20-member task force, which was made up of business executives and Port Authority members, included:

- Establishing response and recovery plans in the event of a port attack.

- Adopting federal regulations requiring maritime facilities and the Coast Guard to establish a comprehensive risk management plan.

- Promoting further development and deployment of non-intrusive inspection equipment.
Maye just a little hype involved, too:
To drive home the point, Richard Canas, the state's homeland security director, pointed to a ship at the seaport that was unloading containers.

"We don't know what's in any of those containers," he told reporters.
Oh, I'll bet there's a manifest lying around somewhere.

Some boats should never go to sea

Death boat 'inherently unstable':
Instability, poor safety equipment and an unqualified crew led to nine Britons being killed when a pleasure boat capsized in Bahrain, a court has heard.

Fifteen Britons were among the 58 killed when the Al Dana dhow capsized in March...
The coroner, Alison Thompson, cited a report into the disaster which found the boat had been "dramatically altered" with a superstructure built on to the traditional dhow, destabilising it.

Air conditioning units, a kitchen, fridges and a generator had all been added.

She said the 130 people on board to celebrate the end of some work on a major building project had contributed to the boat's instability.

The inquest also heard escape doors on the lower deck were locked and lifebuoys were tied to handrails with nylon ropes.
And the understated conclusion:
"It is now clear that this vessel should never have left the quayside."

Initial reports from March 30, 2006 here

Some Love for the Littoral Combat Ship

Someone sees a use for the Littoral Combat Ship as a "force integrator" (buzz, buzz) here:
If the Littoral Combat Ship attains the ambitious capabilities imagined by Cebrowski and its other designers, it may well be the ship best-suited to defeating the threats that face U.S. security partners along the Asia littoral. The
ship was designed, after all, to fight in what U.S. planners call the littoral, anti-access environment against the very challenges Asian countries face.f the Littoral Combat Ship attains the ambitious capabilities imagined by Cebrowski and its other designers, it may well be the ship best-suited to defeating the threats that face U.S. security partners along the Asia littoral. The ship was designed, after all, to fight in what U.S. planners call the littoral, anti-access environment against the very challenges Asian countries face.
The article also notes that the 3000 ton LCS started out in concept as a 400 ton "Streetfighter," which may be some indication of why Navy procurement is way out of whack. The LCS promises something for everyone and that's a hard promise to make good.

In other words, this guy may be right, but there are a whole lotta "ifs" in the mix.

And one must wonder how different things would be if the late Admiral Cebrowski and Capt. Wayne Hughes had been really listened to and somebody with the ability to say "No" to expensive add-ons had been in charge of the LCS project...

Some notes on the original "Streetfighter" concept here:
The Streetfighter would be a smaller, very fast ship (part of the more general Streetfighter concept), that could compete successfully with the enemy for control of coasts and littoral waters. These ships are envisioned as costing less than 10% as much as current Battle Force ships, while comprising more than 25% of the total number of surface combatants [that is at least 25 but no more than 50 units].

The President of the Naval War College, Admiral Art Cebrowski, and others such as Capt. Wayne P. Hughes, have advocated the deployment of larger numbers of smaller ships to operate in “harm’s way” in littoral waters. Cebrowski and Hughes talk of “tactical instability,” where a navy is unwilling to risk its ships because the fleet is constituted principally of small numbers of expensive ships.
Why, yes, using a bunch of $90 million ships does make sense when your average destroyer now runs $350 million+, or so it seems to me. And I seriously doubt, as I have said over the years, that the CO of a Billion dollar cruiser is going to want to close the beach for Naval Fire Support missions.

More at MarineLog which suggested the Swedish Visby as a model. Has the money quote: "We've put all our eggs into a few, expensive baskets."

A comparison of the LCS with the Visby here.

And, CDR Salamander has been all over this for a long time. See here and here.

Radar for Yemen’s Coast

As reported here, the French and the Italians are at work on the Yemen coast:
The French Navy began setting up radar networks on Yemeni coasts in the past few weeks. The network stretches from the Al-Khokhah coasts on the Red Sea to the Shabwah coasts on the Arabian Sea, said media sources. The network will connect all of the checkpoints of the Yemeni coastguards, as protection against any terrorist attacks and spying operations via marine routes.

Italy is also funding and executing a radar network to protect Yemeni coasts, covering 500 kilometers, said an anonymous source in the coastguard.
Having a radar network connecting Yemen coasts will help monitor all marine entrances, which are a source of worry for Yemeni security.
Wait - spying operations? What the heck does that mean?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Task Force 38 and the Typhoon

December 18, 1944 and 790 U.S. sailors die in a raging storm, well covered at Castle Argghhh!.

Ship reports here. Sample:

Shortly before noon, steering control went out on the bridge, but was regained in the steering motor room in a few minutes. The engine telegraphs went out for awhile, but were also reported operating satisfactorily in a few minutes. The chief engineer . . . . reported at this time that the forward fireroom blowers had stopped because of heavy amounts of water being taken down the intakes, The after fire room was reported as having taken over, and it is believed that all bells were properly answered...

At this tine the ship took several deep rolls because of high velocity wind gusts. I estimated the rolls to have been about 70 degrees. At one time the Junior Officer of the Deck was catapulted from the port side of the pilot house completely through the air to the upper portion of the starboard side of the pilot house...

Shortly after twelve 'o'clock the ship withstood what I estimated to be the worst punishment any storm could offer. She had rolled about 70 degrees and righted herself just as soon as the wind gust reduced a bit . . . . Just at this point the wind velocity increased to an unbelievable high point which I estimated at 110 knots. The force of this wind laid the ship steadily over on her starboard side, and held her down in the water until the seas came flowing into the pilot house itself. The ship remained over on her side (starboard) at an angle of 80 degrees or more as the water flooded into her upper structures. I remained on the port wing of the bridge until the water flooded up to me, and I stepped off into the water as the ship rolled over on her way down. The suction effect of the hull was felt, but it was not very strong. Shortly after, I felt the concussion of the boilers exploding under water. The effect was not very strong, and caused me no ill effects. I concentrated my efforts thereafter to trying to keep alive in the mountainous seas which pounded us."

Maritime Monday 38 at Fred Fry International

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Looking for ship things and such?

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Cougar Ace follow up

Vehicles From Cougar Ace to Be Scrapped.

Probably a good idea, but I would have bid on one on eBay.

Burma's arms

From Asia Sentinel:
Burma is one of the world’s poorest countries yet it has an army four times larger than that fielded by Britain, the world’s fifth richest country. Shouldering all those rifles and manning armored vehicles are at least 400,000 Burmese troops, double the size of neighboring Thailand’s army.
The arms purchases suggest a grave external threat. Yet what that might be is hard to fathom. The state-controlled press has in recent years warned of an American invasion, ordering troops, militia and the public to take heart from Iraq and prepare for guerrilla resistance.
Highlights include 1,000 BTR-3U infantry fighting vehicles based on an old Soviet design, which Burma ordered from Ukraine in 2003. Their capabilities are roughly equal to the American Bradleys or British Warriors now on duty in Iraq.

Supporting those troop transports are 139 Soviet-designed T-72 main battle tanks, packing a hefty 125mm cannon. Less capable are around 600 Chinese copies of earlier Soviet tanks. These tanks and fighting vehicles are backed up by a few hundred 155mm long-range heavy artillery guns, plus thousands of light guns, mortars, rockets and anti-aircraft missiles.

Burma’s navy is also expanding, buying small combat vessels from China to complement ships being built in yards near Rangoon. Electronics and weapons come from the usual scrum of suppliers based in China, Russia, North Korea, India, Israel, and say some reports, Italy.

Above those ships and tanks Burma’s air force flies at least a dozen Russian MiG 29s, among the world’s best combat aircraft, along with dozens of older make-do Chinese fighters, plus dozens of simple but tough Polish and Russian multi-purpose helicopters adept at moving troops or attacking with machine guns and rockets.
And, of course, oil and gas are in the mix:
China’s official media reported in April that preparations were underway for a $2 billion gas pipeline from Sittwe, where offshore oil and gas is brought ashore, to Kunming in Yunnan, which followed an understanding reached between PetroChina and Rangoon in December 2005.

That pipeline will run through parts of the Shan State that have in the past been controlled by rebel armies and are still within striking distance of groups pressed up against the Thai border. A parallel oil pipeline is a distinct possibility. China is also negotiating transit rights for trade across Burma via road, rail and river that will run along the same corridor as the pipelines to Andaman Sea ports.

Protecting and patrolling this lucrative infrastructure is one mission where fighting vehicles and even tanks could be useful in deterring fading guerrillas and reassuring China. They may also provide security for onshore oil fields, which seem set to expand on the back of exploration wells drilled by Chinese firms.

It is a similar story offshore where Burmese, Chinese, Korean and Indian firms are investing heavily in substantial oil and gas fields. Their security, principally against pirates, requires warships and surveillance aircraft, but that alone cannot justify the ongoing naval expansion.

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