As this summer's Navy SEAL beatdown briefly brought to the world's attention, there's a festering piracy problem in the waters off the Horn of Africa. The pirates, in large part unchallenged, are growing bolder, striking in waters as far out as 1,000 nautical miles from Somali shores. Patrolling such large part swath of the Indian Ocean might be impossible if not for the tech the U.S. has recently rolled out to protect her maritime interests: unmanned Reaper drones armed with infrared eyes.
The remotely-piloted MQ 9 Reaper UAVs are similar to the ones seeking out (and destroying) targets in Eastern Afghanistan, and can stay aloft for 18 hours at a time -- good for patrolling massive stretches of ocean. When flying high, the Reaper is virtually invisible and its radar signature negligible, giving it the drop on any would-be hijackers. While Reapers can be armed with up to 14 Hellfire missiles, the UAVs patrolling the waters off Somalia aren't packing munitions. Instead, they are armed with cameras that can zoom in on suspected pirates from heights of up to 50,000 feet. Those high-powered optics, coupled with infrared sensors, could be the key to discouraging piracy in the long run.
One of the key problems with piracy off the Horn of Africa is the fact that it's hard for international authorities to build a case against even the most well-known, notorious swashbucklers. As the crimes unfold on the high seas, authorities almost never arrive at a crime in progress. Even when they do catch pirates after the fact, their weapons and booty are generally nowhere to be found, and authorities set them free for lack of evidence.
But the Reapers aim to change that, not only by helping authorities keep tabs on pirates during their peak business hours, but also by collecting photographic evidence of the crimes. If cases start mounting against pirates and more of them are land in Western prisons, it might serve as a deterrent to others practicing the craft.
And if the cameras don't work, they can always switch back to the missiles.
damn i wanna see a pirate ship getting blown up into peices soo badly..... they are gonna be prepared for snipers but not helfire
When, not if, they arm the drones with missles, by the time the pirates who are being targets know whats happening they will be shark bait. If they dive overboard they die of exposure or preditation. If they stay on board its chum.
Yes, that's right USA. Kill more people. That's what you are good at. Kill, kill, kill. Kill, kill, kill.
Boka, I'm not an American, but I am very thankful that the US and other countries are there in the Indian Ocean to help police the sea lanes and keep some semblance of order. Yes, mistakes have been made, but in general, the influence of the US and the West has been a positive one. When exorbitant shipping and insurance rates and mayhem on the high seas cause another collapse of the world economy I hope you and your family won't be among the billions affected.
I'm against having to build up a slow and steady legal case against the pirates. Declare that any private vessel directly observed packing AK-47s, RPGs and other high-powered weapons is a legitimate Reaper target and the problem will largely be solved. Those that are merely suspicious will be approached. If enough raiding parties have to throw their weapons overboard to avoid arrest that's a pretty good business case against piracy too.
Alternatively, perhaps the super rich economies of the world could face the facts that it is they who are causing extraordinary poverty and deprivation across the African continent, and consequently driving the rise in piracy, amongst other 'crimes'.
The first comment on this thread is typically appalling. Straight from the mouth of someone too young and naive to understand about war and death. I suspect (I may be wrong - it's happened before!) that the writer's knowledge on the subject of military interventions and global 'policing' by the US military, comes directly as a result of too many hours sat in front of an X-box playing COD.
So, have a think about it - whether you're talking about a US predator drone, or a gaming console - that technology was borne from minerals, metals and oil. All 'bought' at a criminally low rate from impoverished third world countries. Then these materials were turned into wires, circuits and plastics; all in impoverished third world countries. The only people who see any profits and economic improvement from the industries that provide our war supplies, flat screen TV's and X-boxes are a relatively tiny number of already super-rich industrialists (OK, maybe they pay their retail staff 50c above minimum wage, they're not all that bad really!) who are, coincidentally, the very same people who clamour for more conflict in the world. Strange, eh?
So please, think on before you launch another 'whoo! yeah!' comment about US imperialism. It makes you look like a right numpty.
Yes, that's right *humans*. Kill more people. That's what you are good at. Kill, kill, kill. Kill, kill, kill.
There, fixed that for ya.
@ Boka, you obviously didn't read the article because it clearly says that these drones are armed with nothing but CAMERAS-- not intended for killing whatsoever, but for collecting evidence against the pirates so that they can be prosecuted.
@ wilsontaylor99, how exactly is the US sending drones to protect its people against pirates "sticking its nose in places it doesn't belong?" pirates kidnapping/robbing ANYONE should be handled severely-- just because we happen to have the awesome spy drones to actually address the problem and choose not to do absolutely nothing like everyone else doesn't make us the bad guys here.
I hate getting dragged into this...
@Gusset, As intelligent as you may think you are and as "caring" as you make yourself sound, you've obviously bought a computer before, and possibly the one you typed your comment on. I'm sure you're not lining up to pay 5 times as much for the same thing. Furthermore, the U.S. Imports most of it's electronic components from China, Taiwan, and Japan, and for the most part they are assembled there as well. So if you have a problem with people paying "criminally" low prices for the materials to produce said machines, at least blame the countries that buy directly from the Africans.
Oh, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with African Dictators using the money for themselves and not spreading the wealth to the education and infrastructure of their countries.
@wilsontaylor99, The U.S. has business with 90% of the countries on this planet. We ship goods and services through those shipping lanes and our allies do to. Therefore it is our business, and last I checked there aren't any countries made up of water 1,000 miles off the coast of anywhere. It's called "Admiralty Law" and it is our right to protect our vessels, people, and cargo.
@therapist, I agree with your response to wilsontaylor99, although you can see the divide in camps clear as day.
I must agree however that it is better to use these drones in a productive manner such as surveillance. Basically they will be used not unlike onboard cameras on the ships, radar, sonar, etc. They are tools for defense, not offense.
Also, the countries that these ships are flagged; many European countries, are ALLIES of the U.S. They ask for our assistance to protect their citizens, their goods, and their prosperity. They return the favor.
Unfortunately the U.S. has garnered the image of a "global police force." The U.S. should not have that image but what are we to do? We have the capability, resources, know-how, and responsibility to protect our friends. Why wouldn't we? If the U.N. had some backbone and gusto they would be International Police, but they are so backwards with because the member countries all have different laws and views which need to be taken into account. Bickering and red-tape rule the U.N.
The argument over the rift between the rich western world and the poor 3rd world is that we get richer while they stay in the same level of poverty.
How did the west ever come to be so rich? Our policies, our openness for change and new ideas, our founding principles and moral attitude. African countries would not still be where they are if they posessed these core ideas. Rampant corruption, little to no infrastructure, poor governmental systems, lawlessness, and civil war among other things are major factors in their ever-evolving continent.
There is nothing wrong with protecting our interests, especially with cameras in international water. Dont worry, India and China will start patrolling these areas soon as well. That is where most of the ships are going to/ coming from.
OK hotheads, as satisfying as it might be, there are a couple of good reasons for not simply sinking suspected pirate vessels on sight. First, the pirates often use stolen ships for their pirate activities, and the real owners of these ships might actually like to have them back instead of sunk. Also, some of these stolen ships might still have hostages aboard. So having the drones lead naval forces to stop and seize the pirate ships would be preferable. Of course when it comes to the small speedboats the pirates use to actually attack and board ships, it should be open season on them, but they are very difficult to spot.
These drones can catch armed men in boats waiting to capture a ship. What good can someone be up to in a small speed boat surrounded with weapons. I'm all for arming these things but I think any attack should be done with great care; it might be hard to distinguish a small fishing boat from pirates. But if a speed boat with armed men was trailing a ship and the crew of that ship called for help. I see nothing eliminating a threat under such conditions.
@GTO: China and India are already partolling the waters, just not part of the taskforce.
If the countries of sub-saharan Africa got their stuff together, they would be incredibly wealthy. Africa has HUGE store of natural resources, but the people who take power squander and embezzle the monies paid to the countries for the raw materials.
Internation maritime law or "Admiralty" Law comes in to effect at 12 nautical miles from the coast of a country. If a speed boat with half a dozen guys equiped with AK-47s and RPG's is seen, you can be sure that they are not out on a leisurely fishing trip.
Correct me if im wrong, but i thought that predators were the surveillance drones and Reapers were the armed drones???
They both have the capability to carry munitions
First, why do we need such heavy arnament to destroy some pirates, as far as i know, they use inflatable rafts, disable the ship with an RPG and board it with 20ft long bamboo poles with a hook on one end.....there was an NG article bout this...its author paid about a 100 bucks for a somalian anonymous part time pirate to show em around the bussines...
NG authors really are fearless :D
Reapers are overkill, and since they cost quite a lot there im sure arnt enough of them to patrol even that small section of somalias coast, a simple machine gun would do. Plus, 50k feet elavation....against pirates?!!!
it seams like they are just showing of, damned beuracrats
It is just my guess but I would think they are using the MQ-9 (Reaper) instead of the MQ-1 (Predator) because it can travel 3 times the speed of the MQ-1. This would allow them to cover 3 times the area of the MQ-1 within the same time. If these crafts are traveling long distances, which is expected to patrol the ocean, then they need to cover a lot of area in their given flight time. They can't be in the air forever but still need to cover a large area.
I would think that using this method would be much cheaper than utilizing 3 Predators for ever Reaper they are using on this project. If each Predator is $4.5 million and each reaper is $10.5 million 3 x $4.5 million = $13.5 million. Not that they are manufacturing these units just for this use and they will probably be used later in combat, but I still think it works out to be cheaper to use a Reaper....just saying....
**KNOWLEDGE IS POWER**
stiiil....4.5 mill per UAV doesnt sound to good either
more like a publicity stunt...Ill bet the media will explode with hysteria when and if a pirate is shot down, drooling over the higher ratings theyll get if they air this story 58 hours a day
(some stations have multiple channels so a cummulative day for the station can be over 24 hours :P)
more to the point, there arn't enough battle UAV models. Period.
The true battle UAV shall be:
completely modular (put some faster jet engines here take some missiles of here and add a machine gun there kinda thing)
a single UAV can in short order be modified to any kind of mission...more this kinda thing, there would be mabye a single missle or machine gun....fast, low altitude engine and simple software that sends a warning to home base where a human can take over and make the rest of the decisions.
As I have already said thousands of feet in altitude is overkill here but adds at least a mill dollars, this would not be effective country to country warfare or other kinds of missions, modularity solves that issue again, a somalian pirate patrolled can be converted to a 32 target tracking, 2 dozen missle shootings machine gun rach emptieng monster in less than an hour
they also become more easily replacable, and fixed when modular.
ITS THE GOVERNMENT
ITS A PUBLICITY STUNT!!!
these UAV's were desighned by what beurocrats wanted then to look like!!!
I am so sick of "American Imperialism" being blamed for everyone's problems in the world.
We gave more money to Africa than any other country and yet we get blamed for their poverty.
Just so you know, what we pay for raw materials seems like peanuts to the overpaid developing nations, however, one dollar a day with the exchange rate in Zimbabwe is Billions. Don't blame us for their governments spending more money on AK47s than on food for their people.
Guess what, America does not make the AK47. Maybe you should spew your hate soemwhere it belongs.
I would love for America to step up to the microphone and shout:
"Effective immedietely all funding to other countries is supsended"
If we are causing all your problems, let's see how you survive without our money for a few years. Idiots like you would be begging us to start our Imperialism again. You all love our money but still blame us for your problems.
I guess it is better to just keep paying the pirates. Maybe it will be a relative of yours next time so your bleeding hart crap would change real quick. Then you would wish we had rockets rather than cameras, huh?
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Hellfire missiles are awesome. I'd rather see a bunch of pirate get blown up. If there are hostages, well, at least the UAV would have a camera to photo their faces when they wake up to see the Navy surrounding them with sniper rifles.
i just want to take this opportunity to thank MarcusM, tentacleTherapist, jds, GTO, and Voices1776 for being the sound of reason amongst the hippies.
I am heartily sick of the bleeding heart liberals that seek to excuse these criminals from Somalia. I am a mariner and they threaten me with lethal force and loss of my liberty.
People do what they are rewarded to do. Currently these criminals are earning millions with no risk other than being forced to dump a few hundred dollars worth of weapons over the side. If a thunderbolt from the sky (read Hellfire) changes their risk reward equation then I am all for it.
A few reassignments of high-def satellites could lend a big hand to drones by zeroing in on not only the pirate chase boats but the support boats and tracking them back to land bases of operations. If direct action needs to happen, from 50,000 ft up, why not just drop small lazer-guided concrete bombs? Seems from that high up that the kinetic energy alone would be enough to punch extra-big holes in boats. If they brought along floatation devices, they would have more time to think about their bad choices before the calvary shows up and if not, oh well! I'm all for administrating on-the-spot justice if a person or persons has deemed themselves as "bad guys" by their actions! No sense making it cost the civilized world more to protect our interests than necessary!