Armed merchant ships for the 21st century

This OpEd was on MarEx this morning and provides some wild ideas and food for thought in my opinion.

I for one would rather keep my merchant ship designation versus enemy combatant should a war requiring this kind of shenanigans ever touch off. Something like this, even implemented on a small scale, would have the potential to make every merchant ship under that flag an immediate target of interest. As it has been historically, the fleet would already be a target to stem the flow of supplies to the war zone but the presence of major weapons systems onboard would make the ship less of a target of opportunity and more of a target of necessity. The days of the liberty ships with deck guns to fight off surfaced submarines are over. The weapon that kills a ship nowadays will come with no warning at supersonic speeds from over the horizon on the surface or of such magnitude as a torpedoe below the surface to break the keel in half with one blow.

I also have trouble believing that any of the multinational shipping companies that currently charter to MSC would want their name or house flag associated with this. These aren’t American companies that are running ultra large container ships after all. Every ship painted robins egg blue would be grouped in the same basket and that’s a lot of ships.

I don’t want to do any more extra, useless drills. Arming merchant vessels would involve more required shore side training, endorsements & drills while at sea. Count me out.

But considering most of the US casualties from the Iraq & Afghanistan conflicts involved lone gunmen, suicide bombers & IEDs (improvised explosive devices) its not that far fetched to consider putting WW2 type gun turrets on merchant ships to fight off small suicide bomber boats similar to the one that put the USNS Cole out of action. How much does a drugged-up lunatic with a bomb loaded skiff cost compared to a missile & launch pad big enough to sink a ship? We had our asses kicked in Vietnam, Afghanistan & Iraq by idealists with small arms & RPG’s, it could be done at sea as well if we let ourselves be pulled into that type of conflict.

Who believed in what they were doing while (for the most part) fighting in their own country against foreigners who pay to be there.
We are fighting for jingoism, defense contractor profits, and campaign contributions.


Most European countries even restrict armed guards and guns on board merchant ships because that make them legitimate targets during a war.

That & because most European countries are ran by a bunch of pussies.

P.S, I’m sorry ombugge, no offense, I just couldn’t help myself.


I’ll have you know that we have some tough Ladies in charge around here. They know how to throw their weight around:


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Don’t fear, General Dynamics will develop an app for that - as soon as the check clears.

What else would we expect from the whussy Jesper Bergs. Europe needs more Erling Riisers.

There was a discussion on this subject on here some time ago.
I don’t see a return of armed merchantmen in the way the author suggests but armed merchant vessels already exist on a small scale when riding contractors shoot back. The next logical step in armament at that threat level would be Quad 50s. I could see it happening if the pirates up their game with decommissioned gunboats.

The author of the op-ed was suggesting containerized weapons systems such as guided missiles coupled with the large size and perceived survivability of ULCV’s could make them a viable option in what I can only assume is a ‘road warrior’ esque maritime environment.

I fully understand and condone the use of small arms and heavy machine guns for protection of a merchant vessel in dangerous areas of operation. Not so much with heavy weaponry, guided missile systems, and turning a cargo delivery vessel into a floating fortress. We had better be tail sliding toward an end of the fucking world type of war before considering something as dire as this.


The consolation is that they are not pussy grabbers.
PS> Sorry, I couldn’t resist either.

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FWIW, Steven Wills, under his nom de plume of Lazarus, is a major cheerleader for the LCS program. You can find him on USNI blog and CDR Salamander blog.

That’s putting it mildly; he’s an LCS sycophant. Of course he is a retired O-4 and hasn’t served on a warship since the years were numbered 19, which is about when his “strategic thinking” comes from.

We definitely don’t need to be arming box ships like the Q-ships of old, and modular weapons systems in LCS have proven to be a colossal failure. The true threat to ships (merchant or naval) isn’t the hypersonic cruise missile, it’s the torpedo. There is no modular sonar or torpedo system that you’re going to stick in a container to counter that threat.

A box ship or Montford Point type of vessel does offer some interesting possibilities for the long-argued for but never-pursued arsenal ship, which could be MSC-operated and then commissioned before use. This would free up Tomahawk cells in the rest of the fleet’s VLS launchers for anti-air, anti-sub, or one day even the long-promised anti-surface missiles. But it’s not sexy, so…


Oh my aching back…

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Mid term elections coming up, got to keep those campaign contributions rolling in from the yardbirds.

Yes I guess that’s correct but wouldnt’t they get more bang for the buck by having them build a million 20 foot ISO containers. I mean there both sort of inert steel structures but one is part of an effective logistics infrastructure.