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Gadhafi Using “Floating Booby Traps” Against NATO

by John Reed on May 17, 2011

It looks like the Libyan rebels aren’t the only ones relying on jerry-rigged battle tech in the civil war there. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces launched a sea-borne UAV of sorts made up of a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) crewed by mannequins and loaded with one ton of plastic explosive.

Apparently, two RHIBs were sailing toward the rebel-held port of Misurata, one crewed by live sailors, the other by two dummies. NATO officials think it was an effort to lure allied maritime forces close to the boat, after which it would be blown up remotely.

Said NATO spokesman Wing Commander Mike Braken:

This can only be interpreted as a crude attempt to get mariners to come close to the RHIB, thinking there might be people in distress only then to set off the explosives with a potentially devastating effect. One ton of explosives is a huge amount, this is nothing less than a floating booby trap meant to kill people or sink ships.

He went on to note that this is the third naval action executed by Gadhafi’s regime since NATO operations against it began. On April 29, Gadhafi’s forces tried to mine Misurata harbor and last week two (manned) RHIBs were intercepted by NATO as they approached the city:

This series of incidents is a serious change of tactics by the pro-Gadhafi forces and clearly demonstrates their intent to use their naval assets and their naval knowledge to bring even more harm to innocent civilians. It also demonstrates that pro-Gadhafi forces have the will and desire to strike NATO vessels.


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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

J4rh34d May 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Jury rigged - classic nautical term for temporary rigging
Jerry built - shoddy workmanship
Which is it?


FormerDirtDart May 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

It's jerry-rigged:
organized or constructed in a crude or improvised manner <a jerry–rigged plan>

probably blend of jerry-built and jury-rigged
First Known Use: 1959


Jayson May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I heard it was a term from WW1 when they referred to the Germans as Jerry in regards to the shoddy workmanship of their equipment and on the spot changes to have them work.

I haven't found the source to quote unfortunately.


anon May 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I find that amusing, since German workmanship back then was probably pretty good (at least early on). The Imperial Army and Navy were built up materially during peacetime at peacetime standards. WW2 by comparison, was a war with prototypes, non-standardization, corrupt labor practices, the use of slave labor, which produced generally less-than-robust machines; which didn't stop them from doing pretty well as it was.


anon May 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm

"Improvised Sea-Borne-Explosive Device" or "Sea-Side Bomb" will suffice.


coolhand77 May 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Hey, don't the upgraded Phalanx systems have surface engagement capability and built in thermal optics? Scan the boat, if theres nobody on board, zip it with a burst, enjoy fireworks at a safe distance.
Wait, those are only on US ships, arn't they?


anon May 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Whatever happened to deck mounted machineguns: you know, the ones that you would use to sink suicide rafts? They've been around since before the USS Cole incident and such. Why is a upgraded Phalanx required for this kind of thing?


SJE May 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Chain guns firing explosive 25mm rounds are on many allied ships. That should do the trick.


JSCS May 18, 2011 at 10:04 am

How quickly could we get an Iowa class BB ready for a Libyan "port call"?


hella V May 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

if there are US Crusiers out there the 25mm Mod-2 works great for that. Went to school for it…….


SJE May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Sure. You could probably sink it with a 50cal.

Since it is remote detonated, can't they trigger or block detonation electronically?


bbmn May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

not the place to have that convo


anon May 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

It may or may not be a capability that is part of the American response to IED attacks in Iraq. However, it may or may not be something that has yet to be ported over to the Navy. Up until now, suicide attacks have all been with manned boats, and the "unmanned booby trap" craze has been up until now confined to land attacks. The classified truth may vary.

Don't know if the Navy has gotten into the IED jamming business, but considering dolphins can be trained to carry equipment…perhaps they've already gone the extra mile to design IED-jamming equipment for dolphins to carry; or train them to deal with com-det rafts.

All civilian armchair speculation at this point.


CBD May 18, 2011 at 10:48 am

Actually, that's entirely wrong. Mk 38 Mod 2 (aka the Israeli Typhoon RWS re-branded for USN consumption by BAE) is a remotely operated, stabilized 25mm chain gun with advanced electro-optical & IR sensors and a laser range finder. They're effective out to almost 2,500m. And they're on many USN vessels already.

These are specifically suited for small vessel interdiction. The contracts on these go back to mid-2009 and are due to be installed in full numbers on all USN vessels by 2015. Most USN vessels are slated to receive 2, 3 for LHA/LHD type amphibs.

The USS Ashland used such a system back in 2010 to shoot the engine of a pirate skiff that unwisely tried to attack it…without killing/injuring any of the 6 pirates on board (impressive accuracy at range and with significant target movement.

USN vessels also still have the old (manually operated) Mk38 as well as numerous small MG mounts. No cuts to sentries, as you presume. No cuts to the defense of ships.



anon May 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

So we're assuming that we will need precision fires capability to snipe these boats at the long ranges this kind of system calls for? It sounds like moving beyond defense against suicide rafts, where the target can be shredded well before it moves into effective range.

I guess if we want to be in the immobilizing-of-skiffs business, it sounds like the way to go. However, the better alternative would be expanding the Navy's small-boat capabilities (and no, this does not refer to LCS), to presumably engage these skiffs well before they can wander into range of expensive LHA/LHDs, and without the use of endurance-limited helicopters. However, would be open to a stabilized cannon mount for UAVs.


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