A simple solution to piracy
Reader Scott Sterling emails what seems to be a simple, easy, and cheap solution to piracy. I would just add that I doubt an AK is a 300-400 yard weapon in Somalian hands. Videos I've seen of their land fighting suggests their firing stance is: hold gun sideways, or overhead, dance around and pull trigger while taunting foes. A good fellow with a .50 would (or two teams, for each side) would take them apart in complete safety. (An ad in Soldier of Fortune would produce more volunteers than are needed, too). Here's his idea:
From all accounts, small groups of pirates are successfully attacking and hijacking ships in the waters within 100 miles of the Somali coast. Many fancy ideas have been suggested to solve this problem. There is one answer that could be used to great effect that needs consideration: the use of 2-man teams with .50 cal rifles. This plan would not put any weapons on ships in any ports.
Since the area where ships are threatened is limited, the rifle teams could board ships at each end of the major sea-lane that passes along the Somali coast. When a ship is about to enter the lane a team
would board, when the boat gets safely to the other end of the lane the team would disembark. A midsize ship stationed at each end on the sea-lane would act as home base for the rifle teams. These ships could be naval vessels or civilian ships that only dock at ports friendly to the shipping protection program. All weapons would stay on the base ships after the cargo ships leave the danger zone,
therefore no weapons would be aboard ships entering ports that prohibit weapons.
The U.S. Marines and Army have an inventory of M82 and M107 .50 Cal rifles that would be ideal for this use. The rifles are also available commercially. The key to why this system would work is the
range of these rifles and their anti-materiel capability. With an effective range over 1500 meters and the ability to disable the engines of speedboats, the rifle teams could engage and disable the
speedboats long before they enter the AK-47 range of 300-400 meters. Also, the rifle teams would be attacking a large target (speed boat) from a relatively stable platform (large ship) and the pirates would have to make almost impossible shots at a tiny target (the rifleman), at long range, from a boat bouncing in the waves.
The rifle teams could also use armor and shields, to minimize the chance of any harm to them. Due to the lopsided nature of the target dynamic, there is no way for the pirates to "escalate" this situation. Even if they had exactly the same rifles as the rifle teams, the shots they would have to make are almost impossible, before the speedboat is disabled and the ship sails out of range. The .50 cal cartridge can penetrate over 1 inch of armor plate, so attempts to armor the speedboats would not work. There is no other weapons system available to anyone that could change this no matter how much money the pirates have.
Once the pirate boat is disabled, the rifle team would radio a navy ship in the area to come pick up the pirates and return them to shore, without their boat and weapons. Once a few pirate boats are
left floating offshore and the pirate business stops being profitable, pirates will be forced to move on to other endeavors. Once they know the ships have effective defenses, only a percentage of ships will need to carry rifle teams in the future, the possibility a team is aboard will provide protection for all ships.
Rotating Rifle teams armed with M82 or M107 Rifles on ships as they pass through the danger areas would provide protection and deterrence effectively stopping pirate attacks at sea.
UPDATE:(THese are Dave Hardy thoughts) the pirates' ability to armor is going to be quite limited. I think .50 AP can go thru 3/4" of steel armor, so figure 1" is minimal protection. (And the steel available may not be of this grade). Steel weighs, if I remember, 440 lb per cubic foot. So it takes that to provide 12 square feet of 1" thick. Probably need twice that to protect crew and engine (and that only on a straight-in run). That's adding nearly 900 lb to a small boat that has to chase down another, and still leaves much of the hull exposed to punctures that'd allow slow flooding. And they have to turn at some point if they're going to fire or board.
Ditto with mother ships pursuing. The whole purpose of the speed boats is to pursue a fleeing merchantman. Mother ships are, I gather, third world fishing trawlers, and unlikely to chase down a tanker. RPGs, or 20mms--the merchantmen are mostly HUGE vessels, and could shrug off hits.
And for close in work, a bit of experimentation should show what part of a stick of dynamite can go off near a merchantman hull without damage.... but with enough waterhammer effect to crush a speedboat's hull. Tie some to weights, and as soon as they pull alongside, light fuse and drop. Assuming that they aren't crushed as well, nor sucked into the propellers, wave good bye. For added fun, don't tell anyone. All the pirates will know is that their ships keep vanishing.
Comment posting is apt to be delayed since Somalia, etc., contain Soma, which is on the "hold the comment until I approve it" list. It's some sorta drug that spammers promote via blog comments.