Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA March April 2010 Contents 46 > DefenceReviewAsia
The US has deployed a high-altitude, high-speed Reaper drone capable
of conducting 14 hour surveillance missions from its Seychelles base in
an effort to increase the detection of pirate activity within the area; and a
similar non-military UAV could perform the same role for commercial and
IS ARMAMENT THE ANSWER?
While early detection and convoy systems are a vital element of combating
piracy, adding to the sense of security for vessels in high-risk areas, the
problem with these options remains that they still require the assistance
of armed military vessels in order to be effective; and more self-contained
solutions need to be found.
The issue of arming civilian crews, however, is deeply complex and much
debated. Armed vessels are unable to dock at many ports around the world,
and the danger of having potentially inadequately-trained crews firing
high-powered weapons is perhaps not a logical step towards the safety of
those crews themselves. Also making matters difficult are vessels that carry
dangerous and explosive cargo, such as oil and gas, which would be ill-
advised to carry and fire live ammunition. Finally, armed resistance may only
serve to lead pirates to employ even more violent means of attaining their
end than they currently do, to the detriment of crew and passenger safety.
Among the non-violent deterrents currently being considered for non-
military vessels are a number of new technologies, as well as the new
application of existing technology, including slippery foam, high intensity
sound devices, and water cannons.
Swedish company Unifire are developing a system of advanced high-
pressure, remote-control water cannons, known as the Unifire Control
System (UCS), which are looking like a highly appealing self-protection
measure for civilian vessels.
The system uses stainless steel pipes networked together and controlled
by a remotely-located console, which also controls valves, cameras, lights
and other peripheral devices, allowing the operator to stay out of aggressor
fire. The Force 80 Water Cannon is also being developed, that uses a three
inch nozzle capable of sending 1,400 gallons a minute 100 yards in any
direction, giving good protection against the light fishing vessels usually
used by pirates. Unifire is developing the system in conjunction with
Raytheon to integrate the system with a system that uses the ship’s radar for
early identification of hostile vessels.
Other options being investigated include the Mobility Denial System that
makes any surface sprayed with it impossible to walk on or gain any traction
on; making the access routes onboard target vessels impassable. The non-toxic
foam was originally developed for crowd control for the US Marine Corps,
but may come to have a suitable anti-piracy application, assuming crews have
sufficient warning of a potential attack in order to deploy the foam.
Another existing technology that may have an anti-piracy application is
the use of Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) which are a high-powered
loudspeaker-type device that can be used to hail suspicious vessels over
a mile away to determine their friend-or-foe status, and to alert pirates to
the fact they have been spotted while still some distance away. Developers
believe the system, which also sounds a high-intensity alarm capable of
causing pain and permanent hearing damage to those within range, may be
utilised as a deterrent, even if only by reducing pirates’ element of surprise.
One such device developed by American Technology Corporation is claimed
to have led to the thwarting of an attack on a Singaporean Tanker when
employed by a Japanese Destroyer.
Although a blanket solution to the international threat of piracy is yet
to be found, the defence manufacturing industry, governments, naval
forces, and the commercial shipping industry are determined to meet the
challenges head on.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that can be
launched from the deck of a ship and carry out
surveillance missions may also come to play a role
in the early detection and deterrence of piracy.
The coming decade is expected to see dramatic
growth in the production of technology that can
deal with the evolving requirements of maritime
transport both effectively and economically.
Crewman and 25MM chain gun aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87)
during anti-piracy operations. Credit: USN / Michael R. McCormick
Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class Scott D. Amberger aims a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)
at an incoming small craft off the starboard bridge wing of amphibious command ship USS
Blue Ridge (LCC 19) (US Navy)
DRA MARCH KAT V2.indd 46
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