The US & UK announced a cabin ban on electronics, from laptops to iPads, Kindles and Nintendo 3DS game consoles on commercial aircraft coming in from mostly Muslim countries yesterday. Such devices must now be put in the cargo hold, probably inside bomb proof containers. Now the words “bomb proof” must be read as “blast resistant” and not seen as bunker or something similar - the containers are lined with membranes made of highly classified material, probably Kevlar, to contain blasts. If you have seen, and you can look at YouTube, what an explosion inside an aircraft looks like, you will be too scared to fly. The best way is still to find the explosives before they get onboard and that also stays the problem, the ones protecting you are lowly paid virtually untrained security guards depending on dicey technology (X-rays) to scan the baggage. Yet, that is a topic for another day. I recently wrote and published a book on counter maritime terrorism, called Code Name Caribbean, the logical follow-up on a previous book called Code Name Willow Bay where a unique method of re-taking a ship, even a warship, was described. For many reasons the usual storming by fast rubber duck / semi-rigids and or helicopter fast roping will not work against a well-trained terrorist group or a warship (intelligence vessel protected by Special Forces). The assault teams will be murdered and that is why I called the recent River Thames Exercise “Mickey Mouse” in public, much to the aggro of a few liberals. Yet, let me be clear, I rate the British Royal Marine SBS much higher than the SAS when it comes to counter maritime terrorism, higher than the US Navy SEALs and Delta Detachment as I know them. In fact, in Code Name Willow Bay, we describe the SBS attack on an Argentine intelligence vessel, the ARA Narwal – let me quote the passage, it is interesting:
… “They are under control but you know how it is, we work in sections and this is a private affair. Foxtrot…” She waited to make eye contact with me “this is beyond Top Secret or Black Ops classification. I am planning a strategic intervention I am not talking about but I must be sure of my facts before presenting it to the Cabinet next year. I must know that it is doable and this jump is part of it and especially hijacking a ship at sea. I want to see for myself how it is done. That is if it even can be done as I am not too sure but history says it can be done. And because it is in planning stage it is a private affair.”
She sounded rather serious immediately making me worried about her safety. I knew then she would not back out, she was going to jump whether I liked it or not. I mentioned what I knew about such things, it falls under counter maritime terrorism or anti-piracy.
“It is damn easy to capture a ship at sea with Special Forces. It first happened during the Falklands War... members of the British Special Boat Squadron boarded an Argentine spy vessel from helicopters, they fast roped down on to the deck. The US Navy SEALs as well as the French Marine Commando Hubert are the leading experts at this. And so are South African Army Special Forces and many others. Even the British Special Air Service is able to do so via their Boat Troop and Air Troop although not nearly as well as the Special Boat Squadron lads. This is not new…it can be done and is done daily in the Persian Gulf in enforcing the oil embargo against Iran. Why do you need to prove a concept which is old news?”
“You are talking, except for the Argentine attack which was on the ARA Narwal, of counter maritime terrorism, Foxtrot. I mean a defended vessel which does not want to be boarded and have trained Special Forces operatives on board to prevent such an attack. Not civilian sailors unable to properly resist and unwilling to do so too. I need to understand if it can be done despite highly efficient operators guarding the target ship. I am not talking about taking a pondering oil tanker with perhaps twenty-five fat crew members on board.”
It was only years later which I fully understood her questions. She was planning an operation whereby the South Africans will find, trap, board and expose “mother ships” where MI6 held snatched radicals. The idea was that such political humiliation will lead to two things: (1) Extreme embarrassment for the Brits and their mates the Yanks and that they will then never attempt covert snatch operations near the Southern Africa coast again and (2) make South Africa the hero of every Muslim Radical in existence, in other words, their old mates. It would have protected the Radicals for many years and she came extremely close in succeeding. Only her defection stopped it with Egg Breaker assistance but we were very close in losing when she took command to undo her master plan (Code Name Pour Angelique). This is how that plan came into being and the methods used later in this book has never been revealed before or used by any other Special Forces Unit known to me.
She went on not waiting for me to think too much. “That attack on the ARA Narwal took place on 9 May 1982. British Sea Harriers from HMS Hermes, the baby carrier, first hit it with a thousand-pound bomb which did not explode. On the face of it it was released too low and too close and like the Argentine bombs failed to explode. Something we don’t hear about today, it is only the Argentine Air Force who are derided for pressing their attacks too purposely. Nonetheless the bomb still caused heavy damage and the trawler was then strafed by returning Sea Harriers. As the Royal Navy found out, none-exploding bombs can still sink a warship, they are not armoured in the sense of massive steel plates as they used to be up to the end of the Second World War. No modern warship is, including carriers, they are extremely vulnerable to any attack which gets through the layered defences.
The Harrier jets were coming back from an aborted bombing run and when they found her by chance and they opened up using their 30-mm cannon to good effect. She was defenceless, it must be said, but also equipped for ELINT purposes and shadowing the Royal Navy and so open for destruction. It was not a war crime as some idiot journalists in London of all places maintained for years afterwards. Then the next day two Sea King helicopters flew to it and the Special Boat Squadron fast roped down and by capturing the ship, made history. They got the crew rounded up and much valuable intelligence though I believe it was not nearly that valuable as said at the time. Overall it had no influence on the war and was a side show.”
I answered thinking back on the incident which made headline news. “Yeah, it was not much of a capture to be honest. The Royal Marines fast roping down would have landed in the icy water if an Argentine crew member did not grab the rope and held it for the Royal Marines to land on the heaving deck. He was probably thinking they are to be rescued, not attacked as this never happened before in that part of the world. In addition, not a shot was fired by either side so the ship was not defended. I know about the incident... we studied it at great lengths to see if we could improve on it. The 'first capture ever' statements were just propaganda by a patriotic press needing something to brag and write about. It was not a big deal at all in our world, tactically. However, the lads did not know that, that the Argies would not shoot at them and hence it took considerable guts for the pilots also. We have to give them credit.”
“And the next day the vessel sunk in heavy seas or so they say anyway. So, can you improve on it?” She asked in return still staring at me for more answers and detailed ones.
I kept silent for a few minutes before answering. “Retrospection is one hell of a thing, Mrs Dawson. The short answer is no and the boarding Marines were lucky in my view. The Argentines in effect assisted them and did not oppose the boarding at any stage. Helicopters can easily be shot down when at close range when without helicopter gunship support as they were in that incident. You simply cannot do that and get away with it. It will not work to use the same tactics against a vessel which is defended or a proper warship able to shoot at you. Even fast roping at night is problematic these days, the assaulters will be spotted and shot dead before they even hit the deck. Everyone now knows about that technique and it is entirely possible to rig other nasty surprises like claymores waiting for them and or to shore up the hatches etc. I am not sure if helicopter assaults without gunship support are possible. And then the two, the gunship and the helicopter, have to be reasonably close to launch and have no interference with enemy fighter jets or helicopter gunships. What happened with the Narwal was unique and unlikely to be repeated. Because it was the first such an attack it was pulled off. I doubt if it will happen again.” (Taken from Code Name Willow Bay.)
From the above came the Willow Bay Method on insertion but you can read the book yourself. During Code Name Caribbean, we took a good look at what happens when say a passenger liner is taken by terrorists, or a LNG ship, able to explode with the same power as 55 Hiroshima atomic bombs and quite a few things came out in the research. Let me quote again, from Code Name Caribbean:
… “Sir John, you do know that there was something special about the Taj Mahal attack?” Angelique asked directly, staring at the man. “Relating to Code Name Caribbean?”
“Please tell me, Mrs Dawson. We spoke to our counterparts in India after the attack, some of our citizens were trapped in the hotel and so we were interested. Not much came out of the meeting. They seemed more concerned about their long time running battle with Pakistan and China, oddly so, since both India and China are part of BRICS these days. You would have thought they kissed and made up for their own sake since China sorted them out in the 1960s. And I got the idea they dislike us. What did they tell you?”
The one nice thing about the BRICS Pact, long being dismissed by the rest of the world as nonsense, is that all intelligence is shared a lot more or less openly. Now if you look again at the world map on where the BRICS countries are, you will find them controlling to a large degree Africa via Angelique’s networks, the southern Americas with Brazil, India in the Sub-Continent and of course, Russia and China where they are and the West is not. This is not a small alliance in any sense of the word, really not, look again and read my briefing. The cosy liaison is something like the “special relationship” America has with their lapdog, the UK and entirely odd since none of these countries speak the same home language (so we all speak English when we meet, Angelique). Sir John, with his high-sounding title and BBC Hooligan accent and general f-you attitude towards his “lessors” would not have gone down well with the Indians, a proud nation.
Once again, racism plays a role here, you say “India” and everyone thinks “slums” and there it ends with perhaps a condescending view of Indian computer engineers settling in droves in the US. In fact, they have fairly good armed forces and always did, traditionally, including ten times more Gurkhas than what the British Army has left. Without the Indian Army, Montgomery would have lost the war in North Africa, and later General Mark Clark, in Italy. They have in their navy, a large navy, the ex-Royal Navy baby carriers and like the Chinese and Russians (BRICS nations) to big fleet carriers, good submarines including a nuclear powered one they bought from Russia, advanced fighter jets (mixture between Russia, France and home-grown) in their Air Force. You may add a large mechanised army to the above including paratroopers and good Special Forces Units. They are also nuclear armed and have the capability to deliver those bombs where they want to deliver them, accurately, unlike Pakistan that is still back in the 1940s with delivery systems. Yes, you would be foolish to dismiss that what you don’t understand or studied.
They lost the Sino-Indian War in 1962 against China quite badly as Sir John pointed out, it was fought at 14,000 feet in the Himalayas, probably the highest altitude war in history. After that, they learned to consider China as an aggressor nation, not a fellow anti-colonialist power. Many Indians say the war started because they granted asylum to the Dalai Lama when the 1959 Tibetan uprising ended, I believe that uncalled for interference played a major role in Chinese thinking. Years later, in 2014, the very same Dalai Lama wanted to visit South Africa to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates, he was here before without problems. This time the new lot refused him a visa, that is how far China is respected and even though the liberals cried and gnashed their teeth in a media furore, he stayed outside the country. I think that is when many realised what the new South Africa had become, luckily, we were long gone by then, the Egg Breaker War winding down in an uneasy truce they kept to, thus far.
More curiously for the student of military history, after the Chinese overran the Indians in the disputed territory, they moved back, withdrawing their forces, having proved their point. In 1979, they did the same by invading Cambodia and then a unified Vietnam, striking hard and withdrawing when the mission was accomplished. Here many Western analysts said they saw their arses, but that too is disputed, the fact is they did what they said they would do and moved back, not getting themselves sucked into a counter insurgency campaign and no one followed them to their home country like no one, up to now, followed the US home. We can learn from this and make some deductions - it seems that they wanted to punish those not willing to listen politely to suggestions. They also warned Vietnam’s chief ally, the Soviet Union, that if they wish to help Vietnam by invading China in the rear, a full scale conventional war will break out. The Soviets left Vietnam to its fate as China placed the entire Soviet border on a war footing. Today China is flexing its muscles, moving out and quietly taking over and their modus operandi has changed completely. They are now moving on to conquer. What they take, like Tibet decades before, they keep, they are expanding. Hitler did the same for years. We are in the Chinese Appeasement years currently. History is repeating and China is so much more powerful than Hitler ever was that they can afford to be arrogant, and, they have a worldwide safety block known as BRICS supporting them. These are not American liberals thinking next election the morning after being sworn in and damn their country, they are working slowly and methodically and will trouble the world in the future. Angelique went on to explain what the Indians told her. It was fascinating to see how she brought the pieces together. All good spymasters do so, they have brains like a tree full of owls and this one an entire forest, she never forgets. It can be maddening at times when she quotes you, word for word, twenty-nine years later, on what you said offhandedly three decades earlier.
“Yep, my Indian connections told me a couple of things of interest. As we often say counter terrorism is international, so is the terrorism. An American Pakistani, David Headley, made the first reconnaissance for the attackers, several times, he even took videos and got GPS references on where to attack. Because he held an American passport and his previous names were not reflected on it, he got into India rather easily. He was never a suspect under the then terrorism radars. Such radars are anyway crap, mostly wrong. Since then they stopped trusting American passports and you may say, so what, but that brought them closer to China. Exactly what the US does not want, another foreign affairs failure.”
“So what happened to him?” I asked curiously. “This Pakistani, born in America to be a Muslim terrorist?”
“He was arrested in the US and plead guilty to the terrorism charges, he broke easily and started talking, so he got a mere 35 years. India is still fuming, they want him extradited to be executed and all US passports changed to show prior names. I fully understand that aspect but it is highly unlikely to happen, human rights and all that crap, the right to forget, I suppose. Sadly, we know this aspect is abused, US passports, and you don’t read about it in the news, no, it is always the North African and Middle East variety which are looked at with such scepticism.” She looked straight at Sir John nursing his drink moodily. “Why is that Sir John? Tell me why your esteemed nephews across the pond don’t take anything seriously which we tell them?”
“Racist beliefs, narrow-mindedness and a lack of clarity from the liberal publishers controlling the internet and news agencies. If they publish anything else, they are seen as racists or sell-outs by the Johnny-do-good club. You cannot afford to be a conservative these days, you are automatically seen as a horrible person.” He waved his arms, clearly annoyed. “I am older than you two colonials, a generation before you I would say, in thinking. I see a new generation after you, the ‘entitlement generation’ as I call them. They are what they read in the newspapers and see on the internet. And what they read are totally distorted to bring about a social liberal revolution, sadly, it is working. Take for example gay sex, a very minute part of society you would think, on average 96.5% of the population is not gay. We used to look down on such things or at least kept such acts behind closed doors for decency sake if nothing else, but since the Internet arrived to stay, you can do a Google search and find 66 million hits in less than a second with an explanation that you can do with your body what you please. That is why our youth are confused, they are not cynical enough yet, it comes with age to be cynical, you need to be hurt because you trusted your leaders, first. And so young minds are formed by what they see and are exposed to, that is how the Muslim extremists get their recruits, people like this David Headley, a former heroin smuggler of all things. And the West just don’t get that there are new kids on the block, countries which became powerful in their own right in the last two decades. They believe their own propaganda and have a most definite agenda. By the time they receive your warnings, they dismiss them because of the above views, who cares what an African Agency says, we ‘know’ they cannot be any good!”
Angelique nodded, she held similar views and kept a very sharp eye on what our twins did on the Internet. Knowledge can be abused, what you see in porn is not real, or a loving relationship, it is acting and disgusting. It takes more than a few grunts to make a good marriage, it takes the presence of God in your house and a lifetime of commitment from all sides.
“Yes, true, my warnings are often ignored. But David Headley is not all what came out of the Taj Mahal attack investigations, it gets worse. Those men, the terrorists, were originally trained in marine warfare at a remote camp in the mountainous Muzaffarabad region, some say at the Mangla Dam reservoir. This included specialised commando tactics training and marine navigation. Why is that, Sir John?”
“Marine navigation? That includes ship handling, it is a broad concept, to take a seagoing ship, what else can it be. Why the hell did they not tell me? We always look for patterns, and we find them and then we see them recruiting former Merchant Marine officers. And I will tell you something else, Mrs Dawson, that particular terrorist group was trained by ‘retired’ personnel of the Pakistan Army, yes, fairly advanced weapons and explosives courses. And it will happen again, it is a matter of time.” He sounded grim and suddenly looked his age, about twenty years on us, a delightful sight, the old goat. (Taken from Code Name Caribbean.)
The above, it happened, shows that terrorists are now trained to take ships and you may wonder, seen in the light of the ban on the electronic goods, what explosives can do to an aircraft or a ship – let me explain, again by quoting from Code Name Caribbean”
… “She took her time answering. “Which is why we get on board and in control before they know we are there. To answer you, we looked at history, Sir John. We know that any ship will sink if uncontrollable flooding takes place, that is not what we envisage in this scenario, we wanted to know the least amount of explosives ever used sinking a large vessel. The amount you may expect to carry concealed aboard. I know military and commercial explosives. I am considered to be an artist with any type of explosives and so are most of us sitting here, we are all demolition experts. Yet, the answer, from history, stunned me and will surprise you.”
I observed the rest calmly, I knew what she was about to say and it would shock anyone. I was shaking my head and checked the research twice.
Angelique explained further, talking softly and intensely. “In addition, I am quite sure that we can smuggle explosives onto a cruise ship, easily. Cruise ship security in general sucks everywhere. As an example, we found that in the Philippines, their Coast Guard put two guardsmen on board each ferry after the Superferry 14 disaster, an incident we will talk about in great detail just now. One of those Coast Guard men got off and returned with a girlfriend. When the ship’s security told him to pay for her ticket, he went to his cabin for his firearm, returned and killed the ferry company's security man. Now why was his firearm in his damn cabin? And why did he want his whore with him when on duty? This is pitiable and yes, you may say ‘Third World’ as you always do and dismiss the lessons learned. Yet, worse things have happened in the so called First World countries where security is in general lax. We know, because we did so, that we can smuggle anything into any Western country almost at will. Ironically, you know much less about physical security than us for the reason that for many decades you had no need to worry about terrorism, you worried about crime only. You never had an enemy, a determined one, following you home after bombing and sort of fighting them in faraway places before withdrawing, leaving your allies to surrender. Since almost always, the US fought her wars at someone else’s property, now it has changed. They and you, are facing a domestic terrorism threat. Statistics show that the US will have a Muslim radical terrorist attack twice a year from sleeper agents inside the place, I think this will become the new normality. You have lone wolf attacks currently; it will escalate to wolf packs as more and more combine in causing greater damage. We, on the other hand, lived with terrorism as does Israel to this day, since we were born. You are only starting out, you have no clue even how to get to our standards and way of thinking, you also have too many liberals tying your hands down, weak police and wretched SWAT units. Innocents will pay for this, yes, they will. We are getting tired of not being listened to, Sir John, the day you have a 1,000 against 1 combat killing rate on terrorists and maintain that for two decades, that is when you are at our level in counter insurgency and terrorism. Until then, carry on dying needlessly.”
They stared at her fascinated but she got quiet, a sign that she was getting annoyed, you lean in to hear further and she smacks you. Truth to be told, we were getting fed up with the intrinsic racism which made our advice less than valuable. I took over. History, is something I love talking about. We can learn from history and here we learned a great deal, even if from the “Third World.”
“Maritime terrorism is not a major problem or never used to be and note, we are not talking piracy now, we are talking terrorism. The incidents are less than 1% of all terrorism but mark my words, that is about to change. They are waking up to the fact that 80-90% of the world’s trade is by ship, whoever controls the oceans, is the super power of the era. The Royal Navy, with its coaling stations and worldwide fleet, is the perfect example in history. When you still had a navy and an Empire, the preferred tactic you used, Sir John, with much success, was blockade. That was your standard answer to every problem in life when not murdering women and children in concentration camps or shooting at African tribesmen with Maxim machine guns. Almost 100,000 Germans starved to death after the November 11, 1918 Armistice because the Royal Navy did not lift the blockade until 17 January 1919.”
“Aide Toi, Et Dieu T'Aidera!” (French, God helps those who help themselves) I muttered to Angelique before continuing with the briefing, ironically, that was the slogan for the Confederate ship, the CSS Alabama, she did help herself to many prizes. “The smallest amount of explosives known to sink a large ship took place in 2004 in the Philippines, the ship was called SuperFerry 14, a 10,192-ton vessel. She sailed from Manila, fully loaded. As far as could be established, 8-pounds of explosives, hidden in a television set below decks, exploded. A fire then started, got out of control, and she sank in shallow waters, laying on her side. No less than 116 people died, Captain, making this attack the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea.”
“Eight pounds? And it sunk a 10,000-ton ferry? One equipped with modern firefighting apparatus? What type of explosives?” Captain Thomas inquired incredulously.
Sir John was way too angry yet to speak sense, our meetings often end like that, and so he silently and broodily stared into the air. Much to his regret he needed Angelique Dawson more than what she needed him, the extremists are in Africa, we see them, we identify them since they stick out. And no Western Intelligence Agency is functioning well here, they make fools of themselves every now and then. No matter how many insults were traded between us, he would be back, shrugging us off and carrying on in his superior way which is the only way he knows. That too shows rare professionalism, he did not let past affronts bother him for long. He knew, as did we, that history has more than one side to it, it really depends where you stand and he knew that what you are taught at school is often written to make a turd look good. As with all such arguments, both sides had good points and unless you know history well, you cannot possibly comprehend the value in it. Astonishing, very nearly 50% of Britons for instance do not know the Battle of the Somme took place in World War One. They do not even know the most basic history, military strategy or anything else except to collect their benefits checks.
“Type of explosives used? In the Superferry 14 incident they used commercial TNT, not military grade C-4 or Semtex as expected. Not that it matters, TNT is powerful enough and the standard against which the R.E. factor is measured. It is clear the ship did not go down because of the initial explosion, I mean it did not directly sink her, but the fire afterwards did, she was utterly burned out. Yet, this goes back to the bomb and what is worrying here, Captain, is that any cruise ship passenger carries more luggage than 8 pounds aboard. You would know that the average baggage load on cruise ships, officially allowed for each passenger, is 100 pounds spread in two large suitcases. That is slightly more than 12 times more than the 8-pound bomb that led to the sinking of SuperFerry 14. It can be smuggled aboard easily. And you do not use explosive sniffer dogs effectively when screening the bags, time constraints, turnaround times is more important. Nor are your dogs fully trained.”
The man was frowning, trying to follow me. Angelique clarified what I meant, smiling, she loves explosives and the science behind them. I don’t, I know how to operate them efficiently and that is it, I am a demolitions expert, she and Geelslang are also bomb disposal officers, you combine the two fields and you have artists with explosives and they do get the science (then why always cheating me out of demolitions on the Ukuthula Ranch, Angelique).
“Foxtrot, you are confusing the Captain, he is not an explosives expert like us. He was a Navigational officer in the Royal Navy, not a Gunnery officer. We measure the explosive's demolition power by the relative effectiveness factor, or R.E. factor against TNT. This means we start at a factor of 1 which is TNT at 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds. As an example, Black Powder would be 0.55 in R.E. terms, that translates to using almost double the same amount of Black Powder to get to what TNT will produce. Semtex is 1.35 and C-4 is 1.34, both are more powerful than TNT, with Semtex winning slightly. But, as my colleagues will now point out, with plastic explosives we can create shape charges, bringing the effectiveness of the explosion up by several factors. Today, Octanitrocubane (ONC) would be the most powerful chemical, non-nuclear explosives, at a 2.34 R.E. factor. It is simple mathematics really, to work out what will happen when it detonates.”
“You people are dangerous. I don’t want any explosives on my ship. Why was SuperFerry 14 not able to contain the fire? She must have been old or something!” Captain Thomas was politer in words than in thought, he clearly thought the crew screwed up in some way and he is not alone in that thought, many other do so also including me.
I admitted my own thoughts. “That ship was fully equipped to deal with fires, emergencies and the crew certified in all aspects, they worked for a decent company, not a fly-by-night outfit. Nevertheless, they only lost 2 crew members out of 155, that says a lot to me. I have to deduct that they fled first and did not try that hard to save the ship or the passengers. Certainly such accusations were made by the unimpressed survivors. No doubt the authorities also did not act quickly nor decisively, it took them months to get them to admit it was a terrorist attack and to recover bodies from the burned out hulk. In the end only 4 bodies were recovered from the ferry during the first week. As time went on they got another 63 bodies, 12 displayed clear signs of a bomb exploding close to them.”
“It would not have happened like that on a British ship!” Sir John finally muttered. “We will not let a fire destroy us just like that!”
Angelique responded directly to him. “Maybe not, Sir John, maybe not, I believe in British crews but this is what history tells us, an 8-pound TNT bomb led to a 10,000-ton ferry being sunk. Such a device can be carried aboard at any time by any passenger and as Foxtrot pointed out, your so called security measures at boarding sucks. The Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf terrorist group claimed responsibility, they planted the bomb because they were not paid protection money, they wanted $1 million from the owners. Technically, this makes it a crime, not terrorism as such but the fact remains, she sunk with what can be carried on board in hand luggage almost. I know I am repeating myself, but that is the problem we have. With the bad security measures when passengers board, and also the crew members, anyone can smuggle such explosive on board. Now, if a terrorist boards via fast rubber ducks without a ticket or even the most basic security screening done at port, you can bet your ass he will be able to carry more than that amount of explosives with him. So the cut off is 8-pounds of TNT, that can sink a ship.”
The naval officer, I found out later he was called “Maceo” which may be a nickname or not, I don’t know, joined the conversation, studiously ignoring Sir John. “It is the luck of the draw, Captain, if given half a chance, a good crew will fight the damage to their ship. We saw with the USS Cole attack in 2000, that they fought the fire and flooding for three days nonstop before they won through. Then you get what happened to the Pan Am flight, going down over Lockerbie in 1988… do you know how much Semtex was used to bring her down with 270 dead because of the tragedy? Two pounds or less, 32 ounces! There was nothing that the crew could do to save their aircraft and passengers, nothing. They fell to their deaths as did the passengers. The aircraft broke up, and they fell for several minutes, they did not die of the explosion. One airhostess was found alive on the ground, but died shortly after. The local pathologist report concluded that at least two first class passengers, still strapped to their seats in the nose section, laying on its side with the cockpit, would have lived if rescuers got to them quickly enough. It is a horrifying idea to their families (some reports say only two pounds of Semtex were used, Angelique).”
I was also ignoring Sir John, the old goat, focussing on Captain Thomas. “The USS Cole attack was, however, different than the Superferry 14 attack in many ways. The amount of explosives used was anything between 400 to 700 pounds of shaped charges, coming from the outside, not internally like SuperFerry 14. This was a genuine terrorist attack and the small boat carrying the explosives used as a torpedo or a fire ship if you wish to go back in naval history, same method. Two terrorists vaporised with the explosion, and 17 US Navy sailors died, 39 were injured. That she survived is a miracle almost, the explosives created a massive 40-foot hole in her side. The crew really did well. Likewise, the attack changed the rules of engagement, you approach a warship today with such a small craft, they will open fire on you to keep you away. But make no mistake, it happened afterwards again against commercial vessels, most oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, probably the most heavily defended piece of water on earth. Such an attack will get through, in my opinion, against a commercial ship. Of course, it is not as serious from a counter terrorism viewpoint when a commercial ship is attacked like that, there is no hostages, the ship will be damaged and sunk, or not, but we will not be involved.”
“We assisted them, the first naval ship on the scene was HMS Marlborough, a Type 23 frigate. She had full medical and damage control teams on board and they were offered to the USS Cole. When accepted, she did what she could.” Sir John remarked with a smirk.
Angelique gave us a quick warning glance as did “Lemon Balm.” HMS Marlborough was called after a famous ancestor of the Arch Liar, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, one John Churchill. These days HMS Marlborough serves with the Chilean Navy, they bought her and she is known as Almirante Condell. I reluctantly held back a nasty comment on the ship, she did good work, excellent in helping a comrade in need. I respect that as much as I detest Sir John, the old goat.
“Why would that not bother you? Surely if a terrorist attack by way of rubber ducks or small ski-boats against a commercial vessel takes place, you as a counter terrorism expert should be concerned?” Captain Thomas asked.
I looked toward Angelique as senior officer to explain and she did. “We are not overly concerned with a ship sinking offshore where no one except the crew and the terrorists die. I know this sounds harsh and it is harsh, but in my line of work we worry more about civilian casualties, hostages and serious damage caused to the innocents. Such a sinking will have almost zero propaganda impact for the terrorists. I am sorry to say, Captain Thomas, but we do consider some lives to be more important than others...”
“The major security problem we face today is stopping the USS Cole type of attack. There is nothing preventing such small boats circling a cruise ship and sinking it. This is not a hostage / hijacking scenario, this is murder, pure and simple. They want to sink the targeted ship, not capture and sail it to a harbour which is another concern. This is the difference between them and pirates, the pirate does not wish to sink the ship as such, he wants money for releasing it. The terrorist wants to use it as a weapon, either propaganda or of mass destruction or both. Mrs Dawson will brief you on that scenario, I am sure.”
I took a brief pause, before concluding. “And you mentioned ski-boats earlier, Captain Thomas, I am glad you did. We use ski-boats here, in this theatre instead of rubber ducks. We found that rubber ducks or zodiacs as they are called are close to useless in our oceans for Special Operations work. They have no range, are easily shot out, give no protection against the elements and will be swamped in our waves when launching or landing on a beach. The ski-boats, we have several in service ourselves and they can be found everywhere, can carry up to 5-tons of high grade military explosives at 40 plus knots. They have radar, sonar, long distance radios and other offensive equipment on board as standard. Using them in a terrorist role, I am tempted to guarantee you, if I was a terrorist, I would sink any US aircraft carrier with a couple of them, they will not stop me and with enough shaped charges that carrier will go down. This is not an idle threat, we worked out how to do so in great detail. The aircraft carriers are in no way geared for war, they last went to a shooting war, I am not talking of aircrew flying combat missions, but shooting against the vessel itself, in the Second World War. Their laxness can be seen how the ships are constructed, they are painted on the inside. When the Pacific War started, all the naval ships, including the aircraft carriers, removed tons and tons of paint to prevent fires. Today those lessons were forgotten and they are painted merrily to serve as a floating hotel almost. There is nothing dangerous on working on a flight deck either, just a daily job you are trained to do and get paid to do. It cannot begin to be the same as a grunt patrol in enemy territory.” (Taken from Code Name Caribbean.)
This is a long blog, I doubt if many will read it or read this far – the ban on electronics is long overdue in aircraft. Such a device, if filled with Semtex or C-4, will bring an aircraft down. The risk and threat is very real and the decision is applauded. If you cannot afford my books but want to read them to learn more, contact me, I will help you with electronic copies.
George M James is a pseudo name for the author and used for security reasons. He is an expert on counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in sub Saharan Africa, a military and war historian and published author of 43 books. His late wife was an American Patriot that served with the U.S. Navy. His books are widely read among military veterans of many nations.