Thursday, April 09, 2009

Piracy and Technology

The highjacking yesterday of a U.S.-flagged freighter in the Gulf of Aden raises some interesting questions about our military technology. Experts are saying that there is no way for us, or for a consortium of nations, to put together enough ships to stop the piracy in the Gulf and the nearby Indian Ocean. This is not encouraging news.

On the one hand, there are plenty of military supporters who cry out for the next generation of technology - technology to keep us safe, they say. On the other hand, there are plenty of experts who say that technology can't give us a winning edge over our enemies. Recent developments give the weight of evidence to the latter group. Unconventional warfare is very difficult to fight.

You'd think that radar, satellite and unmanned drones could give us the ability to monitor huge swathes of water and detect pirates. You'd think that aircraft could be scrambled to intercept the pirates soon after they were detected. But, the subject freighter apparently had been followed by pirates for many hours before it was attacked, yet could not get any help. Why not?

The U.S. has spent uncounted billions on F-22 Raptor jet fighters ($160 million each) that have an uncertain mission. One F-22 costs the same as perhaps 35 small patrol ships that could be in the Gulf of Aden right now. Are our strategists really that smart, or are they mainly concerned with spending money rather than getting results?


Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem like it would be too difficult to organize the ships into convoys and escort them. It worked in WWII, and the Germans were much better armed than the Somalians.

Lifehiker said...

Gee, Thomas, perhaps you should email the navy. I'm not kidding. Your suggestion is obvious, but perhaps it has not been considered because it doesn't require billions in new spending.