A Canadian view of things to come here
The Canadian navy needs to learn how to fight terrorists and pirates, says the top commander.
As the army has been forced to fight a brutal counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan, Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson says the navy must prepare itself for conflicts where "threats are whatever your imagination can conceive."
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Robertson said an attack on an Israeli warship last year was the wake-up call.
Most of the 80 crew members of the Israeli corvette Ahi-Hanit were having dinner below deck on a sweltering, sleepy Friday evening 14 months ago when - seemingly out of nowhere - a Chinese-designed sea-hugging missile slammed into the warship's helicopter deck.
The explosion and fire killed four sailors, but the shock waves of the surprise attack by Hezbollah could be felt well beyond the waters of Lebanon.
It was the nightmare scenario that had kept commanders in established navies all over the world awake at nights.
"Here we have a group that's not a nation, armed with mach-(speed), sea-skimming missiles," said Robertson.
"A year ago, no one had foreseen the idea that weapons of that kind could have proliferated to a non-state actor."
Sophisticated armaments in the hands of violent militias and even terrorist organizations represent the biggest emerging threat not only to 21st century navies, but to merchant shipping as well, say experts in maritime warfare.
Hezbollah fired three radar-guided shore-to-sea C-802 missiles that day. One exploded just after takeoff, the second struck the Ahi-Hanit and the third exploded and sank a Cambodian-flagged cargo ship. The high-tech weapons, with a range of 120 kilometres, were apparently supplied by Iran.
In case anyone believed the July 14, 2006, missile strike was a fluke, or even a lucky shot in the dark, U.S. intelligence agencies recently reported that the Shiite militia in Lebanon was boasting openly that it had tripled its store of Iranian-built C-802 missiles.
Rob Huebert, a defence analyst, says Hezbollah's landmark attack heralded a new and more dangerous age of maritime warfare.
"Most of the anti-missile capability our frigates and destroyers have is predicated on shots being taken at them by enemies who are over the horizon. But what happens when you get small vessels within sight - or even disguised?" he said.
"I'm thinking of a scenario where you've got all of these little Iranian speedboats and all of a sudden everyone on cue stands up and lets loose with small, cheap missiles. Can you overwhelm the system with numbers?"
Huebert said defence planners will have to pay more attention to so-called close-in weapons systems.
UPDATE: CDR Salamander and I are fishing in the same waters, judging by this
, but he has a great quote from the Canadian Admiral, which I missed, but with which I am in total agreement:
A series of well-timed precise attacks on container ships in crowded shipping lanes could lead to economic chaos in countries, such as Canada, that depend on maritime trade.
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