January 14, 2005
Upstart Saudi Al-Qaeda Leader's Threat Means Navy Supply Ships Don't Use Suez Canal
As a precautionary measure, the US Navy has diverted at least 12 massive supply ships from the Suez Canal and sent them around the Cape of Good Hope instead.
In the past few months, however, U.S. and British authorities have cautioned of threats to shipping in the Middle East. One U.S. warning in mid-December said significant attacks could take place in the Suez Canal and other "choke points" -- narrow channels where vulnerable ships, if damaged or sunk, would significantly disrupt commerce. Analysts took particular note of the recent rise of Saud Hamud al-Utaibi in al-Qaida's leadership. He is a maritime terror expert believed to have been responsible for the attacks on the USS Cole and the French supertanker MV Limburg. "Al-Utaibi is the new head of al-Qaida on the Arabian peninsula, and that heightens the threat to shipping certainly within that region," Dominic Armstrong, head of intelligence and research for Aegis Defense Services, an international consulting firm, said in a telephone interview from London.
UPDATE: The Close-In Weapons System, sporting two 20mm fully automated heavy machine guns, is an example of the type of self-defense weapon with which the supply ships are not equipped. More:
Phalanx is a point-defense, total-weapon system consisting of two 20mm gun mounts that provide a terminal defense against incoming air targets. CIWS, without assistance from other shipboard systems, will automatically engage incoming anti-ship missiles and high-speed, low-level aircraft that have penetrated the ship primary defense envelope. As a unitized system, CIWS automatically performs search, detecting, tracking, threat evaluation, firing, and kill assessments of targets while providing for manual override. Each gun mount houses a fire control assembly and a gun subsystem. The fire control assembly is composed of a search radar for surveillance and detection of hostile targets and a track radar for aiming the gun while tracking a target. The unique closed-loop fire control system that tracks both the incoming target and the stream of outgoing projectiles gives CIWS the capability to correct its aim to hit fast-moving targets, including ASMs.
Could this system be effective against speedboats as well? A question for you Navy readers out there.
Posted by Chester at January 14, 2005 4:45 PM
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