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The Military Technology

Air Cannon Ties Pirates In Knots 770

Hugh Pickens writes "Numerous high-tech devices have been proposed to help ships cope with piracy on the high seas. Now a company has developed a ship-borne launching device that fires a net or coiled rope into the path of pirate vessels using compressed air with a range of up to a range of 400m. The payload net or rope, which has a parachute attached to the end, will unravel and lay out across the surface of the water so that as the pirate boat travels through the water its propeller shaft will pick up the line and become entangled. 'With the trials and testing we've done, it has taken us some 45 minutes to cut and disentangle the line from the propeller itself,' says Jonathan Delf. 'Within that time of course, the target ship is on its way and hopefully help has arrived in the form of naval forces or helicopter support.' The system can be fired up to five times off just a cylinder of air like a simple scuba tank." The video mentions that the device can also fire a payload of golf balls. The systems have recently been sold to "several large shipping companies that travel near the oil-rich Nigerian Delta, which, like the Somalian coast, is rife with piracy."
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Air Cannon Ties Pirates In Knots

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  • Nice idea. I absolutely hate it when crap gets stuck in the prop. Not sure how fast these things could be reloaded though and it would be easy to spoof using a water pressure (jet) lower end, although I doubt your random Somali hijacker is going to have the cash to upgrade their motors.

    I really like the golf balls though.... Totally mean spirited...
    • I doubt your random Somali hijacker is going to have the cash to upgrade their motors.

      These guys are in new(ish) boats with big engines, an arsenal of weapons and satellite phones. A successful hijacking is worth millions.

      When approached by military boats they toss everything into the water and pretend to be fishing. They then return to shore and restock. If they can afford that, I'd hazard a guess that they can afford new engines if these nets become the biggest obstacle to a successful hijacking.

      • Really? The videos that I've seen have the hijackers running around in what appear to be old open wooden boats between 20 and 30 feet long. Yes, they're dropped off from mother ships that are basically repurposed fishing vessels, but the actual attack boats are pretty basic.

        Maybe they could re engine them with jet props, but the golf balls would still be problematic. Of course, if they actually tried to run with 'real' military vessels neither approach would be very helpful. Then it's time for the ha
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:27PM (#30266506)

    Just shoot the fuckers already. Pretty soon there won't be any more of them.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:48PM (#30266682) Homepage

      Just shoot the fuckers already. Pretty soon there won't be any more of them.

      If it's always clear weather, and daytime, and all the boats have transponders so that you never make errors in identifying which boats are pirate and which aren't, that might be reasonable.

      If you are, say, reliable 99% of the time... and, say, one boat out of two hundred is a pirate-- you'll be shooting two innocent fishermen for every pirate.

      And it's always harder to identify the bad guys in the real world than it is in the movies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      If I were a navy commander, instead of shooting the bastard pirates, I would rather prefer keeping them alive and using them. As long as the pirates are alive and well, they can be manipulated to disrupt an enemy states transportation of vital material, gather intelligence, wreck panic and fear in an enemy state's civilians/government, etc.

      Who do you think are providing the coordinates of victim cargo ships to the poorly equipped pirates?

      The whole "pirate fighting" thing is a scam. Or rather, a game played

    • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:34AM (#30268938)

      Just shoot the fuckers already. Pretty soon there won't be any more of them.

      From now on, whenever you think "lethal weapons on civilian ships would stop piracy", I want you to consider that this is the same as "lots of armed Chinese marines in Los Angeles Harbor would stop piracy". Then put yourself in the shoes of a President trying to push some kind of international convention permitting that.

      Thank you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ckaminski ( 82854 )
        Don't think I'd worry about that. More guns in LA than you can fit Chinese marines in a cargo ship. I'd be more worried about that same cargo ship of Chinese Marines pulling into Portsmouth, NH or Boston. LA, though, man, you'd just get the gangs to stop shooting at each other for a few days.
  • Why not real guns? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:28PM (#30266518)

    I think the number of pirates would be reduced if the shipping vessels had small autocannons mounted on them. No jalopie fishing trawler can take a burst of 35mm AP shells for very long. Problem solved.

    • by Logic Worshipper ( 1518487 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:33PM (#30266548)

      And if you shot fishermen or other innocent people by accident?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you're in a small single-engine craft, in waters off the coast of Somalia, and you continue to approach any large commercial vehicle despite repeated auditory warnings, you deserve to be obliterated.

        Sometimes being the devil's advocate is quite a useless and stupid exercise.

      • by vvaduva ( 859950 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @12:01AM (#30266778)

        I'd say that if the people in a small boat are shooting Kalashnikovs at you, it would be safe to assume they are not innocent people.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      And how many of your average merchant shipping crews actually have the know-how to effectively use such a weapon? I'm sure the pirates would capture a small supply in short order.
      • I'm guessing it's about as many crews as would have the know-how to effectively use a fancy rope-launcher.

        • 1) Get target in sights.
              2) Pull trigger until ammunition is expended.
              3) Reload.
              4) Repeat.

              Ya, seems like pretty much the same drill regardless of which weapon is being used. :)

    • This happens in pretty much every discussion involving pirates. Simply said, there are a very large amounts of ports in the world that do that ships with weapons. Beyond that, I'm sure arming your ship will bring you into completely different categories of international and maritime law that could cause all sorts of problems. And this is before we even start thinking about insurance companies.
  • by Braintrust ( 449843 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:29PM (#30266526)

    Are we really that politically correct now that even killing a pirate is wrong?

    Pirates. Not a down-trodden minority.

    Kill them. All of them.

    It's the right thing to do.

    • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:37PM (#30266584) Journal

      Self defense its self is politically incorrect these days...

    • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:40PM (#30266620)

      No, but most countries aren't going to let your ship in their waters let alone to dock in their ports if it is loaded out with machine guns and torpedoes.

      And shooting fisherman whom you mistake for pirates in generally frowned upon.

    • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:47PM (#30266678) Homepage

      Before you attempt to kill them, you have to be certain that they are a pirate. Legally certain, not just Slashdot certain.

      Fouling their prop doesn't require quite such a high standard of proof, and gets the job done, at least till they get their hands on some jet boats.

      It's also not too smart for a pirate to escalate from a small disabled boat -- if someone on that ship had some means of firing back, that could only be deployed against proven pirates, well, you just gave them proof.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:11AM (#30267246) Journal

        Before you attempt to kill them, you have to be certain that they are a pirate. Legally certain, not just Slashdot certain.

        As a general rule of thumb, there are three things that need to happen before deadly force is justified:

        • Ability: The aggressor has the ability and means to do you serious bodily harm. This can be anything from an AK-47, to a knife, to the fists of a trained martial artist.
        • Opportunity: The aggressor has the opportunity to use the aforementioned ability. The martial artist isn't a threat if he's 100 yards away. The AK-47 isn't a threat if it's 10,000 yards away.
        • Jeopardy: The aggressor has demonstrated the intent to use the previous two items to do you harm. Your hunting buddy with the slung rifle has ability and opportunity, but obviously lacks intent.

        Pirates approaching a boat armed with AK-47s have met all three of those variables. They have the ability and opportunity to do the crew harm and have demonstrated an intent to do so. Under the laws of most nations you are entitled to respond with deadly force in such a scenario.

        Fouling their prop doesn't require quite such a high standard of proof, and gets the job done

        Yes it does. You can't just disable boats on the open ocean and leave their crews at the mercy of the sea and elements.

    • Ok. How about this. Your ship is not armed because it wants to be able to dock anywhere in the world. So you've been under attack and fighting them off with water cannons. You got some friendly navy on the radio and they send a chopper your way. So it's like... 10 minutes out when the dudes in the ship start turning tail. What the hell do you do? Fuck up their props. Just like how mace is used instead of guns in some cases, you'll use this device instead of guns in some cases.

      But yes. Just shooting them whe
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      That's a bad idea. Typically the pirates don't kill the crew. If you started having hostile crews using lethal force against pirates, you may see the pirates escalate their attack and use more deadly force. In the end everyone loses.
      • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:00AM (#30267176)
        I don't know about you, but being an American I would rather take my chances in a gun battle with the pirates (a rail mounted Browning M2 [] heavy machine gun would be very useful against pirates armed with AK-47s and RPGs fired from small skiffs) than be taken as a hostage back to Somalia where any Americans will almost certainly be turned over to the local Islamic militias and beheaded. In fact, after the incident with the Maersk Alabama the Somali pirates have already threatned to do just that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fluffy99 ( 870997 )

        That's a bad idea. Typically the pirates don't kill the crew. If you started having hostile crews using lethal force against pirates, you may see the pirates escalate their attack and use more deadly force. In the end everyone loses.

        On the other hand, escalating it so the pirates have the potential of a real consequence (death versus sent back to shore with a slap on the wrist) is exactly what needs to happen. It would discourage them from trying to make easy money by being pirates, and put pressure on the vritually non-exist govt of their contries to do something about the problem.

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @12:54AM (#30267140)

      Are we really that politically correct now that even killing a pirate is wrong?

      Oh you can kill them but there are a few things to consider first:

      • Most merchant ships cannot carry deadly weapons legally into most ports in the world. Certainly not any of the big ports. Jail time or worse can result from violating these laws.
      • Most merchant sailors are not trained in combat
      • Most merchant ships have a small crew and when pirates attack they normally significantly outnumber the crew.
      • The small crew of a merchant ship even armed with deadly weapons would be hard pressed to stop a determined pirate attack
      • Most pirates (with some notable exceptions) don't kill the crew - hard to ransom the crew if they are dead (in 2006, there were 239 attacks, 77 crew members were kidnapped and 188 taken hostage but only 15 of the pirate attacks resulted in murder.) []
      • Killing pirates likely will just piss off the aforementioned larger and better armed group of pirates.
      • Having a properly trained security force on or traveling with a merchant ship is VERY expensive
      • The odds of a pirate attack are extremely low even in high piracy areas
      • If you are in the territorial waters of a foreign country you are subject to their laws and some places take a fairly dim view of killing another person even in self defense. Especially if you are not a citizen of that country and the (alleged) pirate is a citizen.
      • There are very few modern laws [] against piracy.
      • You had better be DAMN SURE they actually are pirates before you kill them

      That said if you can shoot them dead, I'm pretty sure no one will mind. Provided you are in international waters AND you can prove your case that you didn't just murder someone AND you can explain why your ship is armed AND you can somehow figure out a way to kill a group of pirates that out numbers yours and is probably better armed.

  • Good enough to kill with even.

    Does this remind anyone of the machine gun on the Not For Hire from Phillip Jose' Farmers River World series? Sure, it shot plastic bullets, but close enough.

    • by Zerth ( 26112 )

      Reminds me more of an over-sized potato gun. Even looks like pipe, a valve or two, and maybe a discarding sabot.

  • Not all boats have propellers. This won't work against jet boats.

  • Golf balls at high speed will kill. Sounds like you're moving into real weapons now.

    It seems to me to board your ship, these pirates must pull up alongside. And your ship will be a lot taller than theirs. Why not fire or just plain drop a large cannonball (sphere of metal about a foot in diameter) through the deck and hull of their ship? It'll sink quickly and they'll be in a really bad way.

    You could even use a video camera to look down over the gunwale and aim so that you don't have to be in the line of fi

  • Wouldn't the pirates just go around the rope? I mean, if it's got a big parachute attached to it, it can't be that hard to see what the merchants are doing...
    • With that much forward inertia, a wide enough net cast close enough to the boat would be impossible to avoid. Kind of like trying to miss the deer that just ran out in front of you. Never mind coming to a stop; can you even get your foot on the brake pedal before impact?
  • To save money they should us "reload" or used golf balls. They could use the lowest A grade since they don't care about surface imperfections.
    •     I'd think if they're firing golfballs like a shotgun, they should be able to use just about anything. A good high velocity rain of rocks would probably be very satisfactory, and leave a less distinguishing mark. :)

          "Dunno what killed these guy, but there were a bunch of loose rocks on the deck. Must have been a meteor shower." :)

  • They only understand force.

    Arm the crew when they get into hostile waters. Put the arms under lock and key when they leave hostile waters.

    Announce before entering a port that you have weapons, but they are locked up. Let the harbor pilot have the key and verify weapons are secure before allowing the vessel into port. Then get the key back when existing the harbor.

    • I have read that one primary reason that the shipping companies don't allow weapons on board is that they fear they'll be used against their own ships. A non-trivial percentage of merchant crew members are bottom-of-the-barrel sailors, who might not be as trustworthy as desired. Give them easy access to weapons, and they might decide to do a little hijacking of their own - from within. Millions of dollars of ransom is a pretty powerful temptation.

      With that said, I'm all for arming them anyway - just give th

  • The group on Whale Wars should test this puppy out.. They can't seem to launch a proper prop fouler line for anything..
  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @12:08AM (#30266828)
    How difficult would it be to equip ships with Browning M2 [] .50 machine guns and man a watch for incoming pirate vessels. The Browning M2, with an maximum effective range of 1.2 miles, could turn those pirate skiffs into driftwood long before the pirates were in AK-47 or RPG range. Shoot em full of holes and leave them for the sharks; when word gets around the piracy doesn't pay, the pirates will forced to give up or be killed. From all appearances the pirates are in it for the money so they will give up if piracy doesn't pay; after all, dead men tell no tales and spend no money.
  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @12:28AM (#30266972)

    A cheap, simple, easily fabricated cage around the prop solves this for the pirates.

    Design it so the rope/net just slides below the prop. It'll add some drag, slowing them down a bit, which may help, but a larger engine solves that.

    Just another corp' making money from fear, while providing no real protection.

    • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:20AM (#30268640) Homepage Journal

      "Just another corp' making money from fear, while providing no real protection"

      when you stop thinking, and depend upon stereotypes of behavior to describe the world around you, you defeat your own ideology by making yourself look brainless. fact #1: prop fouling is a valid tactic that works, and you say as much in your own comment. fact #2: there are real threats in this world, such as pirates off somalia

      are pirates off somalia baseless fearmongering by big media to scare clueless fools... or real entities? then what the hell is "Just another corp' making money from fear" suppose to mean? pffft

  • Lunacy!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blindseer ( 891256 ) <(blindseer) (at) (> on Monday November 30, 2009 @12:40AM (#30267048)

    So they had water cannons, noise makers, and now a flippin' rope cannon? Give those ships real guns with real bullets already! These pirates mean business. Any resistance these pirates meet is often returned with lethal force. Giving in to them and paying ransom is just calling for more of the same. Pay the Danegeld and you don't get rid of the Dane.

    These ships need to have weapons that can match or surpass what the pirates have. Bolt a 25 mike mike to the deck if you must. Some little ship comes screaming up to your ship with guys carrying machine guns and rocket launchers shooting at you then its weapons free. They understand return fire. Make it too difficult to be worth their time and the piracy will stop.

    All of this less than lethal crap has got to end. Give those ships real guns with real bullets!

    Yep, I'm a bit perturbed over this. All this politically correct crap is getting people killed.

  • Wont do much good... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by marcushnk ( 90744 ) <> on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:16AM (#30267272) Journal

    You foul their props at 400m, they'll punch a hole in the side of your cargo vessel with an RPG at 400m easy as pie

    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:52AM (#30267750)

      You foul their props at 400m, they'll punch a hole in the side of your cargo vessel with an RPG at 400m easy as pie

      Considering that the RPG7 (very high tech for a Somali pirate) is not considered accurate after 100 metres, sure. Most of them will have the older Soviet rocket launchers (read: Ancient (Vietnam era) and made by the Chinese before they had today's high standards in manufacturing (hint: that's sarcasm)).

  • by xmundt ( 415364 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:37AM (#30267400)

    Greetings and Salutations...
              If all of you chicken hawks REALLY think that blasting pirates out of the water is the best option, I would suggest this:

              1) Band together (facebook is a good option).
              2) Pool your savings and buy a freighter (lots of them parked now, and available for cheap).
              3) Join the crew, and bring your biggest guns along.
              4) Cruise the Somolia coast a few times and have fun blasting the pirates.
              5) PROFIT!

       not be too surprised if, after the second or third time you blow a group of attacking pirates out of the water, you find yourself
    visited by support ships with RATHER larger guns.

              Pleasant Dreams
              Dave Mundt

  • by jda104 ( 1652769 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:37AM (#30267404) Homepage
    But fishing line is a big problem in protecting marine animals; it seems like intentionally stranding hundreds of yards of the stuff might have some negative impacts on the surrounding aquatic life.
  • golf balls? (Score:3, Funny)

    by zztong ( 36596 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:44AM (#30269332)

    Quote: "fire a payload of golf balls"

    Do you yell "fire" or "four" before you trigger this weapon?

    • Quote: "fire a payload of golf balls"

      Do you yell "fire" or "four" before you trigger this weapon?

      Fore [].

We cannot command nature except by obeying her. -- Sir Francis Bacon