Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Pirate Catcher: The U.S.S. Independence

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Meet the USS Independence.

Pirate catcher
Form and function combine to produce this beauty, a “littoral combat ship” (LCS). Andrea Shea King calls it “the pirate catcher”; that name will do quite nicely. Notice that amazingly tight turn! This is an amphibious race car, surely?

And just as surely John Paul Jones and Alfred Thayer Mahan are smiling down on this sight even now. Ms. King's reader, SG, the person who sent her the photos and captions, echoed my own feeling when he said:

Ironic that with all that high tech built in, the ship reminds us of the Merrimac ironclad from Civil War days.

In addition to a number of profesional images of the ship, SG supplied plenty of information about her. Here's one caption from Ms. King's post:

Littoral means close to shore, and that’s where these very ships will operate. They’re tailor-made for launching helicopters and armored vehicles, sweeping mines and firing all manner of torpedoes, missiles and machine guns.

These ships are also relatively inexpensive. This one’s a bargain at $208 million, and the Navy plans to build 55 of them.

This tri-maran is the first of a new fire breathing breed, ready to scoot out of dry dock at a rumored 60 knots. It’s like a speedy and heavily armed aircraft carrier for helicopters.

Wouldn’t our early government have loved to possess even one of these tri-marans? Imagine the fear the LCS would have engendered in the hearts of Barbary pirate governments, Muslims who were parasites on other countries, demanding tribute and enslaving anyone they managed to capture on the Mediterranean.

These purpose-built “pirate-catchers” will be an excellent deterrent to the chronic pestilence of Somali parasites who have captured so many ships and made the cost of doing business both dangerous and expensive. Following in the steps of their forebears, they contribute nothing, they create nothing (unless you count fear and mayhem), and they refuse to abide by any system of law.

What is puzzling — and I hope knowledgeable readers will give us some information on this issue — is why there hasn’t been a concerted effort by various governments, working in cooperation with one another to bring these pirates to justice. I realize that some of them, like the suicidal British, have rules in place that prevent them from effectively addressing the problem, i.e., captured pirates are returned to their home countries rather than made to walk the plank — or whatever is the modern equivalent of deep-sixing these thieving murderers.

But what about China? They pay the ransom for their ship, its cargo and crew. How Chinese is that?

For Christmas, the future Baron gave me a most readable account of America’s early experience with the Barbary pirates. Unlike Europe, whose countries cynically paid the heavy tribute to these thieves, the United States chafed under the injustice. Now freed from England, our new nation no longer had the protection of her estranged mother country. In addition, when Napoleon successfully overthrew the monarchy, he broke France's diplomatic ties with America. We’d sided with the royals, after all, so we were another enemy.

Tripoli: The United States’ First War on Terrorism is a good rendition of our early experience with the Barbary pirates…
- - - - - - - - -
In a way, our conflict with these jackals served us well since it permitted the early building of our Navy (and those soldiers of the seas, the Marine Corps). Had necessity not intervened via the depredations visited on our merchant shipping off the coast of North Africa, we might have twiddled our thumbs for a generation or so while the State Department attempted to call all the shots.

Parallels abound between our first encounter with the Barbary pirates and this one. For example, there doesn't appear to be any concerted cooperation among the many countries who suffer financial loss and endangerment to their citizens due to the interference of the pirates. Why is that? After all this time, why do the pirates continue to succeed? Why is there no military offensive against them?

In the introduction to Tripoli author David Smethurst says:

Because the United States lacks a strong army and navy, President Adams appoints four consuls [to North Africa’s pirate governments -D] to maintain the fragile peace. One of them is William Eaton, a thirty-four-year-old soldier-diplomat and the personification of the young country — independent-minded and aggressive. This is his story.

Notice his use of the present tense here, a good indication his acccount will be a story, not just another history book. Smethurst decision to focus on Eaton's experiences works admirably to give both one person's view while also permitting the author to step back and pan his camera over the larger events that by turns propel Eaton into action or complicate his efforts to bring an end to the criminal activities of the Barbary states and to foster America’s position. He faces off against the perfidious French and the lying, wily Dey of Tunis.

Eaton was sent by President Adams with a specific mission: to buy the peace in order to maintain the flow of American commerce. Eaton understood this pragmatism, but he didn’t like it. When Thomas Jefferson was George Washington’s Secretary of State he’d pushed Congress to “repel force with force”, but instead they bought the peace by paying ever-increasing tribute and lavishing “presents” (ordered by each Dey) on the pirate governments. In turn, the Barbary states competed with one another for the ‘best’ gifts, often making outlandish, unattainable demands on a cash-strapped America.

If you want to see history come full circle, or to glimpse how Muslim countries view “diplomacy”, then you’re going to enjoy Tripoli. It’s well-researched and the bibliographic sources give you many opportunities to delve further. Smelthurst also went the extra step, following the fortunes of the main players after they returned to America.

Be sure to visit Andrea Shea King’ post about these littoral combat ships to see many more photos of the USS Independence accompanied by knowledgeable captions from Ms. King’s reader, SG.

Also see this site for information about the commissioning service on January 16th. If you live near Mobile Alabama, you can write for an invitation. The public is welcome.

This page says:

submit a request in writing to:

USS Commissioning Committee
Mobile Council Navy League
P.O. Box 81204
Mobile, AL 36689

Given the late date, however, you might want to try this contact:

Previous posts about the Somali pirates:

2005 Nov 5 Barbary Pirates Redux
    8 Update on the Somali Pirates
    14 The Mother Ship
2006 Mar 24 The Jamaica-Somalia Connection
  Apr 8 The Taliban, Somali-Style
  Jul 5 Pirates in the Strait
2007 Jun 5 Somali Pirates Take Danish Hostages
    6 The Territorial Waters of a Failed State
    8 Q-Ships for the Somali Coast?
    11 Pirates Demand Ransom for Danish Seamen
    13 Q-Ships, Pirates, and the Waters off Somalia
    25 The Danica White Runs Out of Food and Water
  Jul 11 Gossip-Mongers in Denmark
    21 The Danica White: Eight Weeks and Counting
  Aug 22 The Danica White Has Been Released
  Nov 24 Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Snaps
2008 Apr 21 A Spanish Danica White?
    29 Reputed $1.2 Million Paid to Free Spanish Hostages...
  May 2 A No-Pursuit Policy for Pirates
  Aug 23 Targeting the Somali Pirates
    23 More on Task Force 150
  Sep 8 Danish Ship Averts Pirate Attacks
    11 Those Undeterred Somali Pirates
    26 The Russians are Chasing the Somali Pirates
    26 A Quarrel Among Pirates
  Oct 1 Somali Government Asks for Russian Help Against Pirates
    3 Taking Kickbacks From Pirates
    9 Those Wascally Pirates
    9 Paying the Ransom
    15 Pirates Back Down
  Nov 17 The Oil Pirates
2009 Jan 10 Davy Jones Claims 6 Pirates — And $300 Grand


Charles Martel said...

Our problem is not hardware. It is software. We don't have the will to eliminate the problem. We could stop piracy in less than 2 months if we had the will.

Heisenbug said...

She's a shiny ship - I wouldn't mind going for a spin. As Mr Martel says, though, the problem isn't the hardware. It really needs someone in the White House who isn't a treasonous piece of filth, who is prepared to say that all incursions on legal shipping will be immediately met with lethal force. The pirate scum won't stop until they get the message that resorting to piracy will get them killed.



Zenster said...

One single visit to the pirate villages by an AC-130 Specter would cost a lot less, achieve quicker results and assure a near-zero rate of recidivism.

Professor L said...

Your little comment that this ship was a sea-going race car reminded me of Jeremy Clarkson's review of the Bentley Brooklands.

'This isn't driving; this is naval warfare.What you do is turn in, make smoke, and then turn to face the enemy. Hehaa! You see, you weren't ready for that!'

And she probably wouldn't even need to shoot the pirates. Washing them out or running them over would work just as well. With Jeremy Clarkson at the wheel.

I wish the world were so awesome.

A Jacksonian said...

Piracy is an ancient scourge with the name of 'pirate' being a description of those fighting Private War upon Nations without sanction of any Nation. When we look into history we see pirates, freebooters, armies of thieves, banditti, and buccaneers used interchangeably for their offense to use war against peoples and Nations markst them all with the same, red sign.

That is something Jefferson clearly knew as did Lincoln, who codified that into his General Orders for the forces of the Union:
Art. 82.

Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities, whether by fighting, or inroads for destruction or plunder, or by raids of any kind, without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers - such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and, therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates.

Note that the category is the same for the offense involved, and not differentiated in any way to single out sea-based attacks from land-based ones. The description of the offense is what we, today, call terrorism.

Strange we don't treat it like this any more.

Skyler said...

There's a failure to explain what makes this a "pirate catcher."

Pirates don't really have sophisticated radar, so why would this pirate catcher need to be stealthy? It is an incredible waste of money to use multimillion dollar missiles against pirates in inflatable rubber boats or other small craft. A simple .50 cal machine gun is just as effective for the purpose and saves hundreds of millions of dollars.

The "pirate catcher" nick name is just a cynical attempt to get more attention to the navy's newest ships. Sure, the navy needs new ships but combatting piracy requires presence, large numbers to cover more area, and most importantly national and international will to combat pirates.

There's some myth going around that international law doesn't allow nations to fight piracy anymore, but this is just a convenient excuse for nations who fail to show backbone regarding this problem.

Just as with the Barbary pirates, it's cheaper in the short run to pay the tribute and most shipping companies will do so rather than fight and risk losing ships and worth much more than is being demanded.

We needed high tech ships to fight the Soviets. We need large numbers to fight pirates. But low tech doesn't get lobbyists to pay off the politicans as much.

X said...

Actually, Skyler, there are good reasons why this could be called a pirate catcher. It's a ship that can bring a great deal more firepower close in to shore than a regular frigate or destroyer, which has to operate in much deeper water. The stealth thing is just something the navy wanted to add on - you can bet most ships built from now on will have it in some form.

The point is, rather than intercepting pirates in their rubber dinghies in deep water (which you may be surprised to learn is actually very difficult largely due to the tiny size of those dinghies), it will be able to trace pirates back to their home port and then move in close and blow it up, in simple terms. And being a trimiran it will be able to maintain higher speeds in rough sea, which will allow it to pursue so-called motherships in weathers that would hinder conventional hulls.

Whether the political will exists to use that capability is, of course, another question, but the fact that the capability now exists is at least a step in the right direction.

Can you imagine how quickly piracy would drop if a few of these ships were loitering right off the shore of known pirate bases?

In terms of cost it is less expensive than more conventional alternatives, and more capable to boot. I wish the Royal Navy had invested in something similar, instead of blowing all its money on the type 42 missile escort, for which the missiles haven't even been built, and the boondoggle carriers, which may not even have planes when they're finished.

Diggs said...

A ship built for littoral duties needs to be stealthy because of the ability of an enemy to fire fairly cheap radar guided anti-ship missiles or even cheaper radar guided artillery. Just because the enemy this minute happens to be pirates, doesn't mean that an enemy next week won't be more sophisticated. For example, Silkworm missiles are cheap, easy to use, and available from the Chinese to anyone with cash. The Navy would be stupid to build a littoral ship, expected to be in the inventory for 30 years or more, based on what a Somali pirate now possesses for weaponry. The fact that right now the ship's speed and weaponry will make it a good match for the pirates is irrelevant to what the ship was designed to do. A smart Congress doesn't provide weaponry to it's armed forces based on the slowest, weakest, most poorly armed threat. At least not a Congress that isn't run by Leftards. And a nation would be stupid to decide foreign policy based on what is "cheapest" to do, instead of what is in the best interests of the nation, regardless of cost.

Skyler said...

Littoral does not equal anti-piracy. Pirates are where the ship isn't. The coast of Somalia s not shallow and does not require extreme low draft.

The anti-pirate moniker is nothing more than marketing and in marketing you often make the sale by hyping what is not the product's strong point (i.e., Porsche calls the cayenne a sports car, and not an suv).

Why is this ship better than an old PT boat for catching pirates? So far the only good point mentioned is cost, but for a shallow draft fast boat made to fight pirates it still is way too expensive.

Unknown said...

"These ships are also relatively inexpensive. This one’s a bargain at $208 million,"

Somebody needs to read more ...

For the two built so far, Freedom and Independance, Freedom’s total bill has climbed to $637 million, while the price tag for Independence has risen to $704 million.

Henrik Ræder said...

The pirate catcher

I don't get it..? Catching is something we do with useful things - fish, octopus etc. But pirates - what use are they?

Want I want to know is:

Will this nice ship shoot?

Diggs said...

Skyler, the old M1 Garand was able to kill an enemy soldier dead. Using your logic ("why not PT boats?"), the Army never should have moved on to the M14, the M16 or the M4, all of which are far more expensive than the M1 Garand.
I'm pretty glad you aren't making any acquisition decisions for my soldiers. You seem to be stuck on cost savings, which is a terrible priority in deciding what to go to war with.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"It is an incredible waste of money to use multimillion dollar missiles against pirates in inflatable rubber boats or other small craft."

Which is why it has a four inch gun on the nose.

"Why is this ship better than an old PT boat for catching pirates?"

Among other things, the LCS is two to three times as fast as a PT boat, a more stable gun platform, and has multimission capabilities so it can perform roles that the PT boats never could. It also can launch helicopters which significantly increases it's effective engagement range.

Oh and the higher price tag for the two current LCS ships is because they're the first of their classes and so have higher costs for everything.

Skyler said...

Diggs you misunderstand my point. I'm not saying these are ships we shouldn't have. I'm saying that calling them pirate catchers is mere marketing.

Anonymous said...

This is a political will problem. If I was a president/prime minister, I'd issue an ultimatum to the Somali government and tell them that from now on, piracy is considered an act of war and my country will act as such. When the next ship is taken hostage, I will move troops on Somali soil and rescue the crew then bombard any Somali settlement on the coast until there's nothing left but rubble.

This is simple. The purpose of my government would be mainly the protection of the rights and lives of my citizens by any means. The purpose of this war would be to totally crush the will of the people who started it through piracy(and believe me, this piracy issue is too big to not have support from at least a large number of Somali, just like terrorism wouldn't work if they wouldn't have a large number of Muslims supporting them). Considering I didn't initiate the war, I'd have the moral right to fight piracy and employ any devastating military action to oust the leaders and prominent supporters and to make examples out of them to gain the surrender of others. And inflicting suffering to complicit civilians who enable this would be a non-issue. Just like I'd bring the war on terror to the civilian population. For example, in Iraq I'd have the message that those who help the terrorists will not have homes, schools or mosques unless they withdraw their support.

Unknown said...

I'm saying that calling them pirate catchers is mere marketing.

Which might be why the US Navy calls it an LCS.

ZZMike said...

The test, of course, is whether we send one of these ships to the Indian Ocean, and what orders the Captain has to abide by.

I remember that one of the previous captures, the Captain made the decision to fire only after he believed that the hostages or his crew were in imminent danger.

Skyler: "We needed high tech ships to fight the Soviets. We need large numbers to fight pirates. But low tech doesn't get lobbyists to pay off the politicans as much."

It's a pretty good way of getting ready for the Russians without attracting their attention.

More than that, in this age of long-range bombers and missiles, is there any chance of a naval war?

A more reasonable approach would be to assumen that the presence of a pirate ship anywhere in sight represents an imminent danger to someone, and that ship should be sunk.

In WW II, fighting ships were disguised as unarmed cargo ships. When the enemy approached, the false sides went down and the guns went off.

Today, however, that seems to be contrary to some stupid international law.

Jum said...

I agree absolutely with Charles Martel: 55 new fast runners are nothing more than a chained dog barking unless we reverse course, ignore the shrieks of those who fervently wish our demise, and treat pirates as pirates. Sink a dozen warlord scows, and the pirates will find softer targets inland. Only a civilization with a death wish does not protect itself and its values.

I love your site! I'm one of the "Instalanche", and I'm excited to find you. I am often near despair over how most Western leaders are willfully blind and deaf to the threat posed by the war-to-the-death against us which Islam has revived. When will we see and hear what is plainly upon us? Thanks for your voice crying in the wilderness.

In Hoc Signo Vinces† said...

Looks like this maybe a coastal defense and interceptor ship for U.S. territorial waters, a fast hull that somebody thought would be a good idea to put a fighting platform on, an idea that could be a classic or a complete flop.

Dymphna said...


There's a failure to explain what makes this a "pirate catcher"...

well, let me clear up that failure right now:

No one but I and Andrea Shea King(whose original post was responsible for my putting this one up) has called the new LCS a "pirate catcher".

Neither of us has any military background, we're just gurrl bloggers, both enjoying very much the aesthetics of this new ship.

My motivation for linking to Andrea's post and including one of the photos was simple. I'd just finished the book on William Eaton, which was subtitled (as you can see in the post), the United States First War on Terrorism. As I'm sure you're aware, any book dealing with the Barbary pirates discusses the ships involved.

This one is no exception; the information the author provides about the USS Philadelphia, Vixen, Enterprise, President, Essex, et al, was fascinating, especially for someone who doesn't know the difference between a frigate and a schooner, much less what a lateen-rigging might be.

We used a term which seems to have offended you deeply. Had I known of the effect ahead of time, I'd never have mentioned the "p.c." nickname at all. Sheesh.

It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.
It's an LCS, not a pirate catcher.

So mea darn culpa, Skyler. In fact, mea maxima culpa all the way down to the briny bottom.

Now, would you please reload your musket and take aim elsewhere?


Dymphna said...

rebellious vanilla, as he or she often does, has nailed it:

This is simple. The purpose of my government would be mainly the protection of the rights and lives of my citizens by any means.

But the U.S. was failing to do that from the get-go, as Tripoli so ably demonstrates. A number of Americans were held captive for long periods of time by the Barbary barbarians. So were many Europeans. Our cynical governments did not act with integrity back then and they still don't.

As r.v. says, it's a matter of "political will". We ain't got much...

@ Jum--

I'm glad you found us. Hope you come back to visit again.

Your metaphor about us being "a voice crying in the wilderness" is apt. As a result of our banishment to the wildnerness for purported racism, hatred, yadda yadda, we are much freer to say what we believe to be true.

Evanston2 said...

I don't believe Mahan would be "smiling down" at this particular vessel: while he is most definitely associated with power projection, this was regarding a "blue water Navy" -- not small craft on the littorals. That said, no doubt he would be pleased at the potential applications of this warship.

The Pundit said...


I must admit to a bit of Aussie pride in the Littoral Combat Ship. In fact, West Australian pride - as the company that designs and builds these "little beauties" is Austal Shipping - from here in back of nowhere Perth.

Austal have their US shipyard at Mobile Alabama where the US Navy LCS are built. It's great to see that Aussies are doing their bit for the Western edge in military technology over Mohammed's horde of parasitic raiders.