Carrier Escorts Need Escorts
The US Navy was caught off-guard with the 1999 attack on the USS Cole. (below) A tiny dingy loaded with explosives pulled up next to the mighty destroyer while it was in a harbor to refuel in Yemen. It blew a large hole in that ship and killed 17 sailors, but luckily didn't set off its missiles that would have sunk the ship. Ships are very vulnerable to attack when sailing close to shore among the variety of small craft found throughout the world. No matter what weapons are mounted topside, no matter what warnings are given over loudspeakers, small craft will approach Navy ships because they are curious or defiant. If a navy establishes a policy of blasting all suspicious boats, dozens of people will be killed every week and that navy's ships banned from every port and coastal waterway in the world.
Keeping ships away from shore seems like the solution. However, why deploy ships overseas to “show the flag” and intervene ashore if ships remain hidden at sea? Operating in the Persian Gulf and crossing through the Suez Canal expose Navy ships to shore attack, so will the US Navy withdraw from these areas? Blockade operations are especially dangerous since ships seek out suspicious boats, which may carry explosives or open fire at close range with heavy machine guns.
The only way to protect large ships from small boats is to launch small boats to serve as escorts. Every US Navy ship must carry at least one boat with machine guns mounted that can be hoisted over the side or launched from well decks of amphibious ships. Whenever a ship approaches a port or crowded coastal area these boats would be launched to intercept any approaching boats. Even boats presumed friendly are checked for explosives and credentials.
The US Navy can embark the Riverine craft (left) on deploying ships. These shallow draft boats are also valuable supporting special operations, shore evacuations, sea rescue, and amphibious operations. Small boat operations have never appealed to blue water navies. All navies with warships need to purchase small boats to protect them in port and in coastal areas. The attack on the USS Cole was not sophisticated yet the ship was almost sunk. It cost the US Navy almost as much to repair the ship as it costs to buy a new destroyer.
Whenever ships are in port these escort boats must remain manned and in the water on guard duty. It should not be possible for civilians in a small boat to pull alongside a Navy ship in Norfolk or San Diego and see nothing more than a sailor with a shotgun yelling to get away. These rows of ships should have rows of escort boats manned 24 hours a day to keep everything 100 meters away. The US Navy must not wait until trained commandos in scuba gear or a boat-bomber sinks a US warship. This is unnecessary if ships are properly berthed in protective hangars.