Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Tales: The "Philadelphia Experiment"

The "Vanishing Ship" USS Eldridge
Lots of scary tales around the Navy but one classic is the alleged time-traveling USS Eldridge and the "Philadelphia Experiment". The story goes:
According to certain accounts, the actual results of the experiment involve occurrences far stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. The tests being conducted were an attempt to render a ship invisible to enemy radar. This was to be accomplished by wrapping an electromagnetic 'bottle' around the ship in question, absorbing or deflecting radar waves. The bottle was created by two (or four - accounts differ) massive Tesla coils which acted as electromagnetic generators; one was mounted forward and one was mounted aft. Other accounts state that a series of magnetic generators, called degaussers, were used. When activated, the electromagnetic field would extend out from the ship and divert radar waves around the ship, making the Eldridge invisible to radar receivers.

When the actual test was put into motion, a number of unexpected and bizarre side effects occurred. As the electromagnetic field increased in strength, it began to extend as far as 100 yards out from the ship in all directions, forming a large sphere. Within this field, the ship became fuzzy and indistinct, and a greenish haze formed around the vessel, obscuring it from view. Eventually, the only visible object was the outline of the hull of the Eldridge where it entered the water. Then, to the amazement of onlookers, the entire ship vanished from view.

It was at this point (the vanishing of the Eldridge) that the true power of the electromagnetic field that had been created was revealed. The Eldridge had not only vanished from the view of observers in Philadelphia, it had vanished from Philadelphia all together! The ship had been instantly transported several hundred miles - from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia. After a few minutes, the ship once again vanished, to return to Philadelphia.

To the Navy, the test had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Not only had they rendered a ship invisible to radar, they had made it optically invisible as well, not to mention causing the vessel to teleport hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes. For the crew, however, the trip had been a nightmare.

The test had managed to render the entire ship 'out of phase' with the surrounding universe,
which is why it was able to travel from Philadelphia to Norfolk instantly. This phasing effect had drastic effects on the crew members. During the experiment, crew members found they could walk through solid objects, and when the field was shut off, men were found embedded in the bulkheads, decks and railings of the ship. The results were gruesome enough that some men went mad. Afterwards, several crew members simply vanished. A few disappeared into thin air; one, eating dinner with his family, rose, walked through a wall and was never seen again. Some men entered into what was called the 'Freeze'. This is where a man faded from view; unable to move, speak or otherwise affect his surroundings. Initially, the Freeze effect lasted only a few minutes to a few hours. Interestingly enough, invisible crewmen were still visible to other sailors who had survived the original experiment. After a while, the Freeze effect lasted for days or months, and became known as the 'Deep Freeze' (other terms include 'Caught in the Flow', 'Caught in the Push', 'Get Stuck', 'Go Blank', 'Hell Incorporated' or 'Stuck in Molasses'). The Deep Freeze could drive a man insane in very short order, and was only able to be counteracted if other crewmen performed a 'Laying on of Hands' technique to give the victim strength and allow him to recover from his affliction. Unfortunately, two men burst into flames while Laying on of Hands, burning for 18 days despite all attempts to quench the fire.

Seeing the horrible after effects of the experiment, the Navy discontinued all further research into radar and optical invisibility. The surviving crewmen were discharged as mentally unfit for duty and many were placed in insane asylums. However, science was not quite done conducting research on electromagnetic fields or radar and its affects on the human mind. Project Rainbow may have been disbanded, but the Phoenix Project was just getting started.
Which made for one bad movie:

There's a web site for the "lone survivor" here, with a link to a synopsis of his tale here:
It was a project that evolved out of the Philadelphia Project. it was a project that the Navy did in the 1930's and 1940's in an attempt to make ships invisible. They threw the switch one eventful day and the ship went into hyperspace. They had all sorts of problems with the people on the boat. It was a huge success as well as a huge failure - then they shelved it.
What is the furthest anyone has traveled in the future?

10,000 AD.

So everything is locked in until 10.000AD?

Yes. It's a dreamlike reality. No one has picked up a tangible future beyond 2012 AD. There is a very abrupt wall there with nothing on the other side.

Prophecies speak of earth changes around then.

Curious, isn't it?
Curious indeed, here in 2013.

There is a Navy fact site on Philadelphia Experiment:
The ship involved in the experiment was supposedly the USS Eldridge. Operational Archives has reviewed the deck log and war diary from Eldridge's commissioning on 27 August 1943 at the New York Navy Yard through December 1943. The following description of Eldridge's activities are summarized from the ship's war diary. After commissioning, Eldridge remained in New York and in the Long Island Sound until 16 September when it sailed to Bermuda. From 18 September, the ship was in the vicinity of Bermuda undergoing training and sea trials until 15 October when Eldridge left in a convoy for New York where the convoy entered on 18 October. Eldridge remained in New York harbor until 1 November when it was part of the escort for Convoy UGS-23 (New York Section). On 2 November the convoy entered Naval Operating Base, Norfolk. On 3 November, Eldridge and Convoy UGS-23 left for Casablanca where it arrived on 22 November. On 29 November, Eldridge left as one of escorts for Convoy GUS-22 and arrived with the convoy on 17 December at New York harbor. Eldridge remained in New York on availability training and in Block Island Sound until 31 December when it steamed to Norfolk with four other ships. During this time frame, Eldridge was never in Philadelphia.
Supposedly, the crew of the civilian merchant ship SS Andrew Furuseth observed the arrival via teleportation of the Eldridge into the Norfolk area. Andrew Furuseth's movement report cards are in the Tenth Fleet records in the custody of the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Admnistration, (8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001), which also has custody of the action reports, war diaries and deck logs of all World War II Navy ships, including Eldridge. The movement report cards list the merchant ship's ports of call, the dates of the visit, and convoy designation, if any. The movement report card shows that Andrew Furuseth left Norfolk with Convoy UGS-15 on 16 August 1943 and arrived at Casablanca on 2 September. The ship left Casablanca on 19 September and arrived off Cape Henry on 4 October. Andrew Furuseth left Norfolk with Convoy UGS-22 on 25 October and arrived at Oran on 12 November. The ship remained in the Mediterranean until it returned with Convoy GUS-25 to Hampton Roads on 17 January 1944. The Archives has a letter from Lieutenant Junior Grade William S. Dodge, USNR, (Ret.), the Master of Andrew Furuseth in 1943, categorically denying that he or his crew observed any unusual event while in Norfolk. Eldridge and Andrew Furuseth were not even in Norfolk at the same time.
Oh, those pesky facts.

Unless, you know, those aren't the real facts . . .


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Piracy, Kidnapping or Something . . . an informative look

Nice video at The Maritime Executive's Maritime TV"Pirates Attack Oil Supply Vessel":
Dr. Captain John A.C. Cartner, a maritime piracy expert about possible scenarios surrounding this attack. He also addresses possible motivations for the attack ranging from robbery to mutiny.
As you will see, even the complications have complications . . .

Hat tip to Lee.

Update: A link to the gCaptain report suggesting something amiss with the vessel's track.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Somali Pirates: Yacht Warning Bulletin

The "International Naval Counter Piracy Forces" have put out a nice warning bulletin for the yachting crowd contemplating a transit across the Indian Ocean. This was found at the EU Maritime Security Centre (Horn of Africa) website:

Good advice for those who think it is now a safe passage through those troubled waters. And it has some excellent photos of the Somali skiff fleet.

EUNAVFOR Yachting Piracy Bulletin

Somali Pirates: Iran says, "Iran Navy saves cargo ship attacked by pirates"

The wondrous Iran forces of naval might have done it again!

Or, as Press TV (the state news mouthpiece) says, "Iran Navy saves cargo ship attacked by pirates":
An Iranian Navy commander says the country’s naval forces have successfully saved an Iranian merchant vessel which had come under attack by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Five boats with armed pirates on board approached and attacked the Iranian freighter on Monday, said Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Operations Rear Admiral Siavash Jarreh.

The commander stated that Iran’s 27th Naval Fleet - comprised of the Sabalan destroyer and Lark helicopter carrier - rushed to assist the cargo ship upon its distress call.

Iranian Navy marines managed to foil the pirate attack after getting engaged in a fire fight that lasted for several hours. No injuries were reported among the crew members of the Iranian ships. (emphasis added)
Let me deal with the second highlight first. Assuming that any of this nonsense is true, really - "fire fight that lasted for several hours?" Against 5 little boats with pirates who are mostly armed with AK-47s and an RPG or two?


The "destroyer" identified as "Sabalan" is not poorly armed for counter-piracy (assuming all the things work):
4 x C-802 anti-ship missiles
1 × 4.5 inch (114 mm) Mark 8 gun
1 x twin 35 mm AAA, 2 x single 20 mm AAA
2 × 81 mm mortars, 2 × 0.50cal machine guns, 1 x Limbo ASW mortar, 2 x triple 12.75 in torpedo tubes
IF it took "several hours" to deal with the pirates, someone was not doing something right.

Stern view of Kharg oiler, showing hangers for helicopters
The other interesting question deals with the first highlight above, referencing the "Lark helicopter carrier."

This is the first reference I've seen to that ship or a "helicopter carrier" in Iranian service.

Now, it may be that it is a simple mistake and what was meant was the Iranian oiler, Kharg - which can, in fact, carry two helicopters.

Or it may be the figment of some Press TV writer's over-active imagination.

Or Iranian assignment of labels that make no sense in a naval context.

Wonder never cease in the information wars.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Piracy and Kidnapping: A nice little primer

ABC News provides a nice little primer on Gulf of Guinea piracy and its kidnapping adjunct in "Before U.S. Kidnapping, 'Widespread' Trouble Off Nigeria Prompted Surviving Piracy How-To"
. . . {J}ust last month the International Maritime Organization sent a letter to all its members reiterating the "gravity of the issue of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea," where the American ship was when it came under attack, "and the extreme violence exhibited" there. Statistics showed that pirate attacks, while down the world over, have sharply jumped in the Gulf of Guinea this year -- assaults allegedly perpetrated by criminal gangs who are looking for cargo ships with commodities or seeking hostages to ransom.

The letter discussed kidnappings along with brazen thefts of large ships' cargo, in which vessels are hijacked for several days to facilitate the laborious transfer of cargo onto the pirate's ship.

"That sort of criminal activity takes effective planning and coordination, logistical organization, technical knowhow and material support on a scale that strongly argues for something higher than random chance piracy being in play," said a maritime security source at sea near where the Americans were kidnapped.

And, an interesting video comparing, in part, the Somali piracy problem with the Nigerian/GOG problem:

Sunday Ship History: Small Ship Firepower

A weapon system of rockets for inshore support - lots of firepower in inexpensive platforms:

Much more on the LCI variations Sunday Ship History: The Original LCSs A larger version of these "rocket ships" shown here:


British Pathe (click on image to go to video) That's USS Carronade (IFS-1) shown in the latter video. More about her here:
USS Carronade (IFS-1/LFR-1) was a ship of the United States Navy first commissioned in 1955. She is named after the carronade, a type of short barrelled cannon. As an Inshore Fire Support Ship (IFS), part of the so-called "brown-water navy", Carronade was built to provide direct naval gunfire support to amphibious landings or operations close to shore. Carronade was armed with two twin 40mm anti-aircraft mounts (mounted fore and aft of the superstructure), one dual-purpose 5" .38caliber naval cannon, and eight mk.105 twin automatic rocket launchers. Each launcher was capable of firing thirty spin-stabilized rockets per minute. *** During the Vietnam War, Carronade served as the Flagship of Inshore Fire Support Division 93 (IFSDIV93), working alongside the USS Clarion River (LSM(R)-409), USS St. Francis River (LSMR-525) and USS White River (LSMR-536). Shortly before decommissioning, all ships in IFSDIV93 were re-designated as LFR.
To a certain extent, Carronade and her companions were meant to satisfy US Marine Corps needs for amphibious gunfire support.

Updated to fix spelling.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Film: "Battle of Leyte Gulf"

From Archive.org, the Victory at Sea episode on the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the greatest series of sea battles ever:

October 23-26, 1944.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: "Pirates kidnap two U.S. sailors off Nigerian coast"

The old kidnap for ransom racket off Nigeria hits the U.S. (not for the first time, by the way, this has been going on for years) as reported in "Pirates kidnap two U.S. sailors off Nigerian coast":
Pirates attacked an oil supply vessel off the Nigerian coast and kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, both U.S. citizens, an American defense official and security sources said on Thursday.
The U.S.-flagged, C-Retriever, a 222-foot (67 meter) vessel owned by U.S. marine transport group Edison Chouest Offshore, was attacked early Wednesday, UK-based security firm AKE and two security sources said. The company was not immediately available for comment.

A U.S. defense official said the State Department and FBI were leading the American response to the incident. A second defense official said the U.S. Marine Corps has a small training unit in the region but it was not clear if it would get involved.
For a little history (back to 2006), see Wikipedia's Foreign hostages in Nigeria. I think the racket has been going on longer than that, though.

A report that says 26% of worldwide kidnapping happens in Nigeria can be found here.

What you pay for, you will get more of.

About 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates. The rest of the story from Plutarch:
Caesar . . . went down to the sea and sailed to King Nicomedes in Bithynia. With him he tarried a short time, and then, on his voyage back, was captured, near the island Pharmacusa, by pirates, who already at that time controlled the sea with large armaments and countless small vessels.

To begin with, then, when the pirates demanded twenty talents for his ransom, he laughed at them for not knowing who their captive was, and of his own accord agreed to give them fifty. In the next place, after he had sent various followers to various cities to procure the money and was left with one friend and two attendants among Cilicians, most murderous of men, he held them in such disdain that whenever he lay down to sleep he would send and order them to stop talking. For eight and thirty days, as if the men were not his watchers, but his royal body-guard, he shared in their sports and exercises with great unconcern. He also wrote poems and sundry speeches which he read aloud to them, and those who did not admire these he would call to their faces illiterate Barbarians, and often laughingly threatened to hang them all. The pirates were delighted at this, and attributed his boldness of speech to a certain simplicity and boyish mirth. But after his ransom had come from Miletus and he had paid it and was set free, he immediately manned vessels and put to sea from the harbour of Miletus against the robbers. He caught them, too, still lying at anchor off the island, and got most of them into his power. Their money he made his booty, but the men themselves he lodged in the prison at Pergamum, and then went in person to Junius, the governor of Asia, on the ground that it belonged to him, as praetor of the province, to punish the captives. But since the praetor cast longing eyes on their money, which was no small sum, and kept saying that he would consider the case of the captives at his leisure, Caesar left him to his own devices, went to Pergamum, took the robbers out of prison, and crucified them all, just as he had often warned them on the island that he would do, when they thought he was joking.
Rough justice. Old school, you might even say.

This is a criminal business enterprise in a country that is a nearly failed state.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Somali Pirates: "Suspected" pirates nabbed after attacks off Somalia

 The Independent reports "Suspected Somali pirates captured by Navy-led forces after attack on supertanker":

HMAS Melbourne on scene
A group of Somali pirates was stopped in its tracks by an international operation led by a British commander, the Royal Navy has announced.

The pirates were caught by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter piracy task force - Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 - in an operation involving ships from several nations, including Britain, after recent attacks on two vessels in the Indian Ocean.
Its counter piracy task force's operation was coordinated by Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria, which traditionally provides crucial supplies for Royal Navy and coalition warships east of Suez, and supported by Australian ship HMAS Melbourne; South Korean destroyer ROKS Wang Geon; European Union flagship HMLMS Johan de Witt, and a Seychelles-based maritime patrol aircraft from Luxembourg.

The task force, whose commander is Royal Navy Commodore Jeremy Blunden, had been searching for the pirates since they attacked and exchanged gunfire with the supertanker Island Splendor on October 11.

Three days later a Spanish fishing vessel was also attacked by what was suspected to be the same pirates.

The pirate skiffs were quickly traced and HMAS Melbourne's Seahawk helicopter was used to guide the warship to their precise location, around 500 nautical miles from the Somali coast.

HMAS Melbourne boarding team and suspects
HMAS Melbourne's armed boarding team boarded and searched the boats, apprehending nine pirates and later destroying two skiffs and their piracy equipment.
Another take (with an Aussie focus), from The Sydney Morning Herald, "Australian navy ship captures Somali pirates":
The HMAS Melbourne has scuttled two pirate boats and captured nine suspected Somali pirates as part of a multinational taskforce attack on rogue sea operators.

A Seahawk helicopter traced the skiffs and guided the Royal Australian Navy warship to them, 500 nautical miles from the Somali coast, a statement from the Combined Maritime Forces counter-piracy taskforce has said.
HMAS Melbourne's helicopter dispatches suspect skiff
And the Combined Maritime Forces version from here:
Commander Brian Schlegel, Royal Australian Navy, Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, said: “It is clear that there are still pirates out there determined to generate income from taking merchant ships hostage. Mariners have been served a timely reminder of the perils of transiting the Somali coastline.”
Photos from CMF.

Gulf of Guinea Piracy: Nigeria "Pirates kill policeman in Bayelsa"

Daily Post of Nigeria reports, "Pirates kill policeman in Bayelsa":
The Police Command in Bayelsa has confirmed that pirates killed a Mobile Policeman on waterways in Ikebiri, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
He said the dead policeman was escorting a barge to Koluama with his colleague when the pirates attacked them.

“Two policemen who were on escort duty on a barge from Port Harcourt to Koluama community in Bayelsa were attacked over the weekend by suspected pirates.

“One was shot dead while the other was badly injured. The policemen involved are not from Bayelsa command.
Reuters reports, "Pirate attacks by heavily armed gangs surge off Nigerian coast":
Unlike the dangerous waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa on the east coast of Africa, through which ships now speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor to do business off West African countries, with little protection.

This makes them a soft target for criminals and jacks up insurance costs.

"Pirates, often heavily armed and violent, are targeting vessels and their crews along the (Nigerian) coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters. In many cases, they ransack the vessels and steal the cargo, usually gas oil," the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported on Thursday.

Countries on the Gulf of Guinea, including Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, are major sources of oil and cocoa and increasingly metals for world markets.
Nigeria is getting assistance as reported in "Nigeria, UK, US in Joint Exercise Against Piracy, Crude Oil Theft":
A joint multi-national sea exercise tagged "African Winds" aimed at showing readiness to flush out sea pirates, terrorists and crude oil thieves in the Nigerian waters was held at the Lagos Takwa Bay Beach Friday.
The exercise which was jointly carried out by Spain, UK, US, Netherlands and Nigeria, was in line with the objectives of the African Partnership Station (APS) to stamp out maritime illegalities.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, while speaking to journalists at the event admitted that the Nigerian Armed Forces approached the war against insurgents on a wrong footing.

Though, he said some achievements had been recorded by the military in the war against insurgents, he added that the Nigerian Armed Forces is re-strategising with a view to tackling all security loopholes in the on-going war against terrorism, piracy, sea robbery and bunkering.
He said: "We went into the operation in the North East without joint deployment training. Nevertheless, I am impressed with level of cooperation so far.

"We have taken concrete measures to improve the level of effectiveness of the operation, such as ground-to-air communication to enable the Nigerian Army and Air force to communicate. This was not there before hand.

"Though, there has been limited success with the operation in the north east, but I hope there will be improvement soon."
Sooner, please.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trans-National Groups: Environmental Activists at Sea

Greenpeace photo © Will Rose / Greenpeace
Been keeping an eye on the Greenpeace "yacht" that carried activists who tried to board a Russian Arctic drilling rig. As you may recall, Russia has now charged "piracy".

Some background on the Greenpeace vessel at Maritime Professional here:
While Greenpeace refers to the Arctic Sunrise as a research icebreaker, it is registered with the Government of the Netherlands as a sea-going motor yacht, thus avoiding certain technicalities. It has berthing space for up to 28 persons. The ship has been used in a number of high-visibility environmental and ecological protests, some endangering navigation.
Despite the lack of government approval, Arctic Sunrise most recently entered Russian waters of the Barents Sea and protesters attempted to board the oil and gas platform Prirazlomnaya. A Russian Border Guard vessel fired a warning shot over the bow of the Arctic Sunrise after it refused to heave to. The Greenpeace vessel and its personnel are now under detention and federal criminal charges of piracy have been initiated.
As noted before, the UNCLOS definition of piracy is:
''Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).''
So, if the activists were just out to save the planet, how does that fall under the "committed for private ends" part of the definition? Isn't what they were doing a "public good" or at worst, trespassing?

Good question, and one that will have legal scholars arguing. As Maritime Law expert Eugene Kontorovich wrote at The Volokh Conspiracy,
The unusual piracy charges may well be inspired by a Ninth Circuit decision holding the Sea Shepherd’s “Whale Wars” against the Japanese whaling fleet could constitute piracy under the Alien Tort Statute, as OpinioJuris notes. I agreed with the Ninth Circuit in that case, against much protest. The question was whether piracy requires a motive to steal, and the Ninth Circuit held it does not. But the present matter is entirely different. Here it is Russia’s actions that violate international law.
The case cited by Professor Kontorovich is Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in which the Ninth Circuit overruled a U.S. District Court as the Ninth Circuit
"determined that 'private ends' should not be limited to individuals pursuing 'financial enrichment.' *** . . . the Ninth Circuit that 'private ends' includes those pursued on personal, moral or philosophical grounds." (from St.John's University School of Law Admiralty Practicum Summer 2013 edition)
Professor Kontorovich distinguishes the cases because (1) piracy requires an attack on a ship and an oil rig is not a ship and (2) no act of violence was performed by the Greenpeace activists.

Well, it will be up to a Russian court to sort all that out. However, it does point out that trans-national groups, even those allegedly having the best of intentions, may find themselves bumping against international law as well as the laws of sovereign states that they may not have fully comprehended.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace seeks support in setting "Free the Arctic 30". They also link to a number of legal "experts" who support their view here.

Perhaps they ought to be grateful that they didn't get the Russian "assistance" reportedly provided to suspected Somali pirates.

Note to St. John's Law - the link you cite to the Admiralty Practicum in your print publication is broken.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Strait of Malacca Piracy: Cargo Hijacked, Ship Released by Pirates

An oil tanker without oil is an . . . alleged victim of piracy, as set out in "Pirates release ship, minus cargo":
A Thai-flagged oil tanker that was missing for two days after being hijacked by pirates near Singapore has been released with its cargo missing, the International Maritime Bureau said on Wednesday.

The IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy centre said the vessel became uncontactable on Sunday after leaving Singapore four days earlier.

"The pirates stole its cargo and damaged the ship's communication equipment. All crew are safe," the centre said.

The ship, originally bound for Vietnam, will return to Singapore.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Somali Pirates: Belgians Talk "Stardom" But Only Star Turn for Pirate Leader Will Be in Court

Noted yesterday that a Somali pirate "king" had been arrested in Belgium (see here) - the best part is that the star turn the pirate expected will be at his trial on hijacking and kidnapping charges instead in the movies, as set out by BBC News in "Somali pirate leader 'Big Mouth' arrested in Belgium 'sting'"
Mohammed Abdi Hassan, also known as Afweyneh or Big Mouth, was detained at Brussels international airport on Saturday after a sting operation.

Undercover agents had persuaded the Somali and an associate that they wanted to make a documentary about their pirate exploits.

Mr Abdi Hassan now faces criminal charges, including hijacking.
When you go seeking fame, you sometimes get the wrong kind.

Monday, October 14, 2013

United States Navy Birthday: Now Starting Its 239th Year

Yesterday was the official U.S. Navy Birthday:
The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.

Go Navy!

Somali Pirates: "Reformed" Pirate Arrested in Belgium

Well, last week we had a little fun with his conversion from pirate to "counter-pirate" in Somali Pirates: Stranger than fiction. Now, the pirate whose nickname is "Big Mouth" finds himself under arrest, as the BBC reports in "Prominent Somali pirate 'arrested in Belgium'":

A man alleged to be one of Somalia's most influential pirate leaders has been arrested in Belgium, media reports say.

They said Mohammed Abdi Hassan, also known as Afweyneh (Big Mouth), was held at Brussels airport after arriving on a plane from Kenya.
***He is believed to have earned millions of dollars in ransom payments as a result of acts of piracy.

The suspect is said to have been arrested at the same time as another alleged pirate; it remains unclear what the two men were doing in Belgium.
Belgian vessels have in the past taken part in international missions against piracy on the high seas off Somalia.

In a UN report leaked last year, it was alleged that Afweyneh was "one of the most notorious and influential leaders of the Hobyo-Harardhere Piracy Network".
Unstated in the article. of course, is the degree of effectiveness of the Kenyan airport security screening which let this guy get on an airplane.

I figure about 15 years in jail, but if any of the captive sailors from the hijacked ships testify, it could get worse. While the Somalis keep them alive (for the most part), the conditions are often not pleasant. Perhaps a term trapped on a ship anchored off Somalia with no functioning a/c, etc would be just the ticket.

Probably too cruel under Belgium law.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


If you haven't been watching the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum live sessions then you have been missing some excellent discussion led by some talented young people - you ought to go to their Livecast! LIVECAST! | DEF2013. Video from the first day also available for later viewing.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On Midrats Sunday 13 Oct 13 - Episode 197: "Sea Swap & Small Unit Leadership"

Join us this Sunday, 13 Oct at 1700/5pm (Eastern U.S.) for Episode 197: Sea Swap & Small Unit Leadership :
While good ideas are often forgotten, bad ideas seem to pop up over an over again - especially the sexy ones that sound so good, but never seem to work well. The answer, of course, is to try again and hope for a better result.

Some would argue that sea swap is one of those sexy ideas that just isn't that practical in actual operation.

A good idea? One of the good ideas mostly forgotten is that of the Junior Officer in significant positions of authority. LTJG as XO? LT as Skipper? Sure... used to be common; now not so much outside the MIW and PC community.

What are the different challenges for the officer on a smaller warship? As JO command opportunities shrink, what is our Navy losing?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and anything else the squirrels deliver will be Lieutenant Matthew Hipple, USN.

We'll start the conversation from his article in the July 2013 Proceedings, Sea Swap - Its a Trap - then we'll be off to the races from there.

LT Hipple is a surface warfare officer who graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is Director of the NEXTWAR blog and hosts the Sea Control podcast. While his opinions may not reflect those of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or US Government, he wishes they did.
To join us live or listen to the show later, click here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Nigeria Really Does Step Up Efforts

Had a little fun yesterday with a report of Nigerian counter-piracy activity (here), but defenceWeb has a much better look at what Nigeria is up to at "Improved Nigerian maritime surveillance and response cuts crude oil theft and piracy":
Piracy, crude oil theft and other illegal operations in Nigeria’s maritime environment are a major source of revenue leakage and the Nigerian Navy (NN) has put measures in place to ensure this sector of the national economy is properly protected.

In the first seven months of this year it has seized 25 vessels suspected of involvement in crude oil theft and bunkering.

That the Nigerian military has to provide protection to more than 5 700 oil wells, 9 717 km of pipeline, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants and 126 floating platforms in the country’s maritime environment underscores the need for adequate maritime security a statement said.
The short piece goes on to explain the 3-pronged approach being used by the Nigerian Navy.

Such steps are encouraging. Good on the Nigerians for picking up the challenge.

Strait of Malacca Piracy: "Nooks and Crannies" make it "the most dangerous waters"

A look at the increases in sea robberies off the main path of the Malacca Strait, suggesting "alternative," theoretically safer, routes at Piracy in the Malacca Straits: Pirates likely to bring a quick end to historic trade route":
The number of attacks in the straits as a whole had dropped but it is the rising figures in Indonesia that has made the straits more dangerous than the waters off Somalia. Of the 138 piracy incidents recorded worldwide in the first six months of this year, 48 were in Indonesia. While global piracy had dropped substantially, down from 439 cases in 2011, the figures in Indonesia, however, was increasing. Most attacks happen in the waters around the Riau province, particularly around the ports in Dumai and Belawan.

New areas are emerging. One of them is around the island of Batam and nearby Belakang Island, which is close to Singapore. Batam is a low-cost manufacturing enclave and the products are exported via Singapore. Poor Indonesians who head for Batam for jobs and local fishermen battling with poor fishing yields are the prime targets of pirate mafias. The local mafias organise criminal activities alongside bigger syndicates.

These are low-level thefts in enclaves and areas that are hidden from the main route. They are not high-sea robberies that can be easily detected and crippled. Years ago, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore launched a campaign that aimed at curtailing piracy in the 960km long Malacca Straits. It has been successful in that the number of high-sea robberies has dropped and that the international shipping lane is much safer. But not the nooks and crannies.
Sorry, sounds like a solution in search of a problem. If Indonesia cleans up it own waters, this "problem" mostly goes away.

"Pirate mafias" attacking local workers and fishermen is not a reason to re-route large commercial shipping.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Somali Pirates: Stranger than fiction

Noted with only the comment in the header: Somali ex-pirate kingpin now leads anti-piracy fight:
According to the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia's 2012 report, Afweyne and his son Abdiqaadir were implicated in the hijackings of seven vessels between April 2009 and October 2012.

But after announcing in January that he was quitting his life of "gang activity" on the high seas, Afweyne has been engaged in efforts in the Mudug and Galgadud regions to reform more than 1,000 youths who have followed his lead and renounced piracy.

In an exclusive interview with Sabahi, Afweyne, now 60, denies having ever taken hostages or collected ransom money, but he says he regrets his past career and has put it behind him.
And a report about the EU, EU May Help Somalia Establish Coast Guard To Combat Piracy:
The European Union wants to help Somalia establish a coast guard service to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Hmmm. Follow the money.

UPDATE: Tales of the heroic Iranian Navy and its pirate stopping power here:
In relevant remarks late September, a senior Iranian Commander said that the Iranian fleets of warships deployed in the Gulf of Aden have escorted a total number of 1,538 cargo ships and oil tankers during their mission in the waterway.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's Navy has escorted 1,538 cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden so far," Commander of the Iranian Army's 4th Naval Zone Admiral Khordad Hakimi told FNA in the Northern port city of Anzali.

He also said that pirates' attempts to hijack 112 cargo ships and oil tankers in international waters have been aborted due to the timely action of the Iranian warships deployed in the region.

Hakimi referred to the presence of the Iranian Navy's 27th flotilla of warships in the high seas to protect the country's cargo ships and oil tankers against pirates, and said the flotilla which is comprised of the Khark helicopter carrier and Sabalan destroyer has berthed in Sudan.

He called the Iranian Navy as an influential force, and said, "The Navy enjoys effective power in safeguarding domestic and international interests."
Wait - based in Sudan?

Gulf of Guinea Piracy: Nigeria to do something

In what appears to be a Nigerian government push to gain some control over its
national water, it is threatening to "impound" ships that fail to register their arrival therein. Or something, as reported here:
The presidential adviser told journalists that the federal government was making arrangements to ensure that vessels no longer loiter on the local water. Rather they were taking measures to observe immediate anchorage.

"If a ship is coming to Nigeria, there is no point loitering on the waters, but should come to the anchorage which is being secured by the Nigerian Navy.

"The fight against piracy is beyond shooting guns," he said.

According to Oyewole, Nigeria has been having a sustained piracy records on tanker ships and none on cargo ships, pointing out that most of the affected tankers were not even captured in the list of ships that reported their arrival into the Nigerian waters in order to perpetrate oil theft and other criminal activities.
Well, okay then.

UPDATE: The South African Navy is venturing forth to do some "naval diplomacy" along the west coast of Africa, as reported here. Nigeria is on the visit list. SAN is also doing anti-piracy work off the east coast of Africa in patrolling the Mozambique Channel.

UPDATE2: Ghana's Navy gets training:
The Flag Officer Commanding the Western Naval Command, Commodore Godson Zowonoo says the rise in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times requires tactical approach to deal with.
Commodore Zowonoo said this at the closing of a two week multinational training programme for military personnel organize by the Dutch Marine Corp.

Commodore Zowonoo said the Ghana Armed Forces have the capability to deal with the threats, but was quick to add that more logistics are needed to counter the sophisticated trends in piracy.
UPDATE3: Article headline says it all, "The Steep Curve Ahead in Fighting Gulf of Guinea Piracy":
Unlike the Gulf of Aden, where US and European navy ships patrol to defend commercial shipping against Somali piracy, the Gulf of Guinea has little in the way of naval assets. Stretching from Senegal on Africa’s northwestern tip down to Congo in the south, the Gulf of Guinea spans more than a dozen countries and is a growing source of oil, cocoa and metals to the world’s markets.

While piracy has exceeded levels off Somalia’s coast, analysts say pirates have spotted a window of opportunity based on weak local maritime security structures and a rough coastline, the latter offering natural hideouts from which to mount attacks.

The Gulf of Guinea is already home to insurgency in the Niger Delta, where oil facilities are routinely attacked. Recent statistics have proven that attacks by gunmen operating in the mangrove-lined creeks of Nigeria’s Niger Delta have slashed Nigeria’s oil output by at least 20 percent and, according to specialists, driven the annual cost of oil services-related security there to US$3.5 billion.

Sixty percent of vessels that are attacked in the Gulf of Guinea do not report them to the authorities. Moreover, the fact that a distress call will not elicit a rescue by a Western warship is seen to dissuade many ship owners from reporting an attack, fearing the unwanted side-effect of seeing their insurance premiums rise or of being arrested themselves, as in the case with the MI flagged vessel and Togo.

Piracy in this particular part of the world has a far-reaching effect, deep into countries’ national territory, throughout West Africa, as well as on states and ports on the Gulf.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

On Midrats 6 Oct 13: Episode 196: RDML Kirby, USN, CHINFO

Please join us Sunday 6 Oct 13 for our Episode 196: RDML Kirby, USN, CHINFO:
From long-term issues like sequester, the strategic review, the QDR, to bolt-from-the-blue incidents like the murders at the Navy yard - how does the Navy communicate to the public and the press in an information starved culture?

When the race to being wrong first seems to be a standard, how do we maintain the standard of being a useful source of information, but in a timely manner? In some areas like the budget that wander in to the political arena - how do we stay inside the lines but still inform?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss the process, method and substance of explaining the an often perplexed world our Navy and those things that impact it will be Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN, the Chief of Information.
Join us live at 5pm Eastern U.S. or pick the show up later by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Ah, but what's in a word? Russia charges two Greenpeace activists with piracy

The alleged "pirate" ship. © Will Rose / Greenpeace
Well, it's a lesser charge than terrorism, I suppose, as Russia charges two activists with piracy:
Russian investigators on Wednesday formally charged two of 30 detained Greenpeace campaigners for piracy over an open-sea protest against Arctic oil drilling, an activist said.

"The first two activists have been charged with piracy," Mikhail Kreindlin, a representative of Greenpeace, told AFP. "These activists are from Brazil and Britain."

He did not provide further details. Piracy by an organised group carries a punishment of between 10 and 15 years.
I suspect there is time off for good behavior. Maybe.

Greenpeace throws itself on the mercy of the world court of opinion here:
Responding to the news, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest. Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable. It is utterly irrational, it is designed to intimidate and silence us, but we will not be cowed.
One person's peaceful protest is another person's . . .

The Anti-Access/Area Denial U.S. Army and the Air/Sea Battle

Some of you will know that CDR Salamander and I had as our guest on Midrats this past weekend a young Army officer who discussed his vision of a future role for the U.S. Army as the provider of a, well, "less threatening" (but ally re-assuring) presence capability as part of the announced strategic "Pacific Pivot" (listen to the show here).

His interesting suggestion is that, by deploying small packets of anti-air/missile units (and probably some sort of anti-surface system -which I would call artillery since you want it to be "defensive" and short-ranged), the U.S. has much to gain by offering its own A2/AD to countries looking for something less that the huge offensive load carried by U.S. Navy warships along with those same ships defensive capabilities. In other words, by going defensive we can present a less threatening posture to a regional big dog.

In short, if you thought "Air/Sea Battle" was the end all and be all of modern strategies, you might be mistaken, as the Army is not content to have a stake driven through its heart when it, too, can be player in the Pacific. Major Chamberlain is not alone in his suggestion that the Army's missile forces are important. Jim Thomas in May/June 2013 Foreign Affairs piece titled, "Why the U.S. Army Needs Missiles" writes:
The conventional wisdom, however, will prevail only if the army fails to adapt to its changing circumstances. Since the 1990s, the United States' rivals have dramatically increased their capacity to deny Washington the ability to project military power into critical regions. To date, the air force and the navy have led the U.S. response. But the army should also contribute to this effort, most critically with land-based missile forces that can defend U.S. allies and hinder adversaries from projecting power themselves. The army should thus shift its focus away from traditional ground expeditionary forces -- mechanized armor, infantry, and short-range artillery -- and toward land-based missile systems stationed in critical regions. By doing so, it can retain its relevance in U.S. defense strategy.
Taking a page from the playbooks of China and Iran, the U.S. Army should establish its own A2/AD systems to deny would-be regional hegemons the ability to project power. A distributed network of ground-based missile forces could act both as a shield, protecting air and naval forces as they entered the theater, and as a sword, striking the enemy directly from afar -- destroying aircraft, shooting down missiles, sinking ships, and attacking land targets. These forces would include new classes of mobile and fixed launchers that the army would have to develop and field. And like the U.S. Navy's vertical launching system, which can fire a variety of missiles, they should be capable of firing interchangeably antiship, antiaircraft, and land-attack missiles, as well as missile defense interceptors.

The army's new missile systems would prove especially useful in the western Pacific, where the army could construct antiship missile sites and conceal mobile missile launchers throughout the string of islands stretching from Japan to the South China Sea. These systems would help U.S. allies such as Japan and the Philippines defend themselves against potential Chinese aggression and limit the Chinese navy's freedom of maneuver during a crisis. Likewise, in the Persian Gulf, such forces based in Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates might serve as the core of a new regional defense posture. They could link together the missile defense capabilities of the Gulf Cooperation Council states and help deter Iran from launching missiles or attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Note that this Army role does not in any way diminish the roles of the Navy or Air Force in elimination of an A2/AD posture by the other side of a regional fracas. It does, however, provide a nice path to cinching together a regional defense package without throwing a couple of carriers and their escorts into a beginning-to-boil mess.

Yes, it's hard to believe, but some people might get excited when you show up with a couple of task forces. The Army's way ahead may just be to stick an extra riser in the escalation to conflict process.

Now, about those "anti-ship missile sites" . . .