US Navy seeks to zap pirates
Naval commanders in the Gulf have requested ray gun technology to disable pirates without triggering gunfights that could endanger hostages.
by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 8:08PM GMT 12 Nov 2008
US vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden and other waterways plagued by resurgent pirate gangs are to be fitted with "non-lethal people zappers," according to the DefenseNews publication.
Vice Admiral Bill Gortney has requested delivery of a range of systems for the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. The Active Denial system delivers a six foot wide ray over a range of 800 yards.
Anyone caught within the beam experiences an overwhelming sensation of burning skin, forcing a potentially hostile pirate to seek shelter "or even jump overboard."
A second system, the Long Range Acoustic Device targets a suspect with a 500 yard beam of excruciating noise. Sailors can attach the device to an Ipod or MP3 player to repel pirate boats with renditons such as Hells Bells by the heavy metal group AC:DC.
An explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia has jeopardised the crucial Suez Canal shipping route, leaving naval forces in the area scrambling to react. The US-led naval fleet in the Gulf has traditionally policed the area but has been unable to contain the scale of the challenge.
The EU has set up anti-piracy naval operation for the Gulf of Aden, headquartered at Northwood, Middlesex. The Kremlin despatched a frigate to patrol the area after a shipment of Russian armaments including tanks was captured by pirates last month.
A Russian newsagency report said Russia and British vessels had jointly repulsed a pirate attack in the region. "The activities of the pirates were thwarted through the joint efforts of the Russian warship and the British warship," a Russian navy statement said. "The pirates tried to shoot at the ship using assault rifles and carried out two hijacking attempts."
Heliocopters on HMS Cumberland and the Neustrashimy (Fearless) were despatched to defend the Danish ship, the Powerful.
The Pentagon has in the past turned down operational requests for such devices that disable rather than kill hostile elements, fearing future legal action by victims. A spokesman refused to confirm that Adm Gortney's request had been accepted.
Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by gangs off Somalia's 2,300-mile coastline in recent years, despite the presence of Western navies deployed in the region to fight terrorism.