Until recently, the Islamic States and their vile terrorist acts have been confined to the Middle East. The beheading of Coptic Christians in the failed state of Libya, however, has many governments worried about its spread.
“And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him.”
The distance from Libya to Italy is less than 300 miles. Tripoli lies on the southern shore of a natural choke point separating the eastern Mediterranean Sea from the western part. Every day, hundreds of ships cross through that 300 mile wide gateway. According to the United Nations, that is almost 15 percent of global shipping traveling within the reach of Islamic State terrorists.
“’Speed boats could attack fishing boats, cruise ships, small merchant ships, as well as coast guard in this case more to capture prisoners to exhibit in orange jumpsuits and a knife to the neck (and to ask for lucrative ransoms for them),” said a report in Italy’s defense magazine, Rivista Italiana Difesa.
The report looked at ways terrorists could threaten the Mediterranean area. It compared the current situation to the lawlessness that erupted in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen after the Somalia civil war in the 1980s and 90s destroyed the country’s ability to control piracy. Piracy is still a concern and has led to a decrease in shipping in the area and an ongoing international naval presence.
Former deputy undersecretary of the Navy, Seth Cropsey, addressed the concerns in the Wall Street Journal, and one of the major points he made was the idea of putting a carrier group back in the Med. During the Cold War, the Sixth Fleet kept a large presence in the Med, usually with a carrier and accompanying ships, but with the reduction of the Soviet threat, maritime strategy shifted eastward to the Persian Gulf.
The major problem with keeping a carrier group on station in the Med is overextending our naval power. The reduction in the number of carriers and support ships has made it harder for the U.S. Navy to maintain ‘tempo’ in areas we must have a presence.
Although the United States has more aircraft carriers than any other country, the Navy also has a larger area of operations than any other country. Projecting force into the Med, except when passing from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf or vice versa, would stretch our naval forces in unacceptable ways.
Although a stronger force is needed in the Med to protect Europe and our own interests from terrorist threats that could potentially be launched from Libya, I’m just not sure we have the means to do it. Not without weakening the fleet in other areas or pushing the tempo of operations into unacceptable levels.
Once the F-35B makes it to the fleet in 2018 – assuming, of course, it ever makes it to the fleet – the Amphibious Assault Groups will have some air-interdiction capabilities. However, neither the Wasp-class nor the America-class amphibious assault ships are ‘true’ carriers. The ships and crews cannot be expected to maintain the tempo of operations that the Nimitz-class do.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.