Recently rescued by Spanish Navy crews patrolling the Gulf of Aden, East African, mostly Somali pirates, are now coming literally face to face with Western technology. Powerful laser rays are being used to dazzle attacking pirates; each trigger a flash in the plan to thwart even the toughest of East Africa’s would be buccaneers.
Wherever pirates lurk the laser guns being used to combat them are now on the ‘open market’. Those snapping them up are merchant ship owners as well as the world’s fighting ships.
The new laser weaponry is part of the hi-tech arsenal being brought to bear against those who use the high seas for less than legitimate purpose. This includes illicit arms, contraband, drugs, and people smugglers.
NOT SO JOLLY BOATS
The lasers can incapacitate sea-borne rogues up to an impressive 1,000 metres away leaving the victims helpless but unharmed. Try steering a high speed launch with lasers trained on the steersman.
In the first six months of this year there were 130 attempted hijackings by Somali pirates; a speck in the ocean when set against growing worldwide piracy.
The Laser Dazzle System (LDS) is having considerable success. Military vessels have been armed with laser technology for years. Now cruise liners and tankers are taking the war to the waters surrounding the Horn of Africa. As it is only a matter of time before resourceful pirates adopt the same methods the race is on to ensure high seas piracy is dead in the water before tit-for-tat takes hold.
Currently being unveiled at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in London, radar that can detect a rubber dinghy from fifteen kilometres away; another device that can disable an oncoming craft’s engine remotely is being made available.
Dick Olver, Chairman of BAE Systems says: “We can put radar on the ships which looks over the horizon and can see a rubber boat. When it gets a bit nearer we can turn its engine off.”
“Piracy is on the rise,” adds Nick Stoppard, the firm’s director of solutions development. “Attacks in 2008 were double those of the previous year. There is a compelling need for better methods to help ships identify and evade the pirates before attacks occur.”
An EU fleet of hi-tech naval ships, including those of the Spanish Navy, now patrol the gateways to the Indian and Pacific Oceans where pirates infest the great shipping lanes link East to West.