Al-Qaeda Targets the Navy

While the Navy says it always asks its sailors to be vigilant, communications specialist Rick D. West elaborated on the Navy’s website:

"What we say and where we say it has never been more important," West wrote. "Operational Security [OPSEC] has to be stressed at every level and I'm going to make sure our Sailors understand that very clearly. ... If you have to wonder whether what you're about to type could be used against you or your shipmates and your family, you probably shouldn't say it.

While the Navy appears to be playing defense in this matter, it has also been playing offense elsewhere. Earlier this month, the Navy accepted delivery on its newest ship, the USS Independence. This is a ship unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It is “small and stealthy; fast and agile ... packed full of advanced technology sensors and communications systems, manned and unmanned vehicles and weapons systems,” writes Richard S. Lowry of OpFor. One look at it and you realize this ship is no easy target for a band of religious zealots in a skiff.

The USS Independence is what the Navy is calling a “new breed” of ships designed to play offense with terrorists and pirates. Classified a “littoral combat ship,” it has been designed to operate in the shallow waters of the world’s coastlines and built to fight conflicts that will mark the 21st century. “More often than not, our Navy will need to operate in dealing with cruise missile sites along the Iranian coast, chasing pirates off the lawless Somali coastline and weaving their way through the island nations of Indonesia and the Philippines,” writes Lowry, predicting that great naval battles of the 20th century are most likely a thing of the past.

In 2003, U.S. intelligence officials told Congress they believed that al-Qaeda controlled at least 15 cargo ships. "There were ships associated with bin Laden's organization [that moved] weapons, and also people," a defense official said. The fear was that al-Qaeda would use one of these ships to transport a dirty bomb into an American port. To date that has not happened. Instead, it seems al-Qaeda has been relegated to making threats around the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf.

Come February, they will have a formidable new nemesis in the USS Independence.