DETERRENCE AT SEA
An article in the NYT over the weekend noted that the number of successful attacks by pirates on merchant marine traffic off Africa’s eastern coast has declined in the past year. Right now Somali pirates are holding fewer vessels for ransom than they have in a long time. There are several reasons for this. One of them is visible in the video above — the increased use of armed security teams on merchant vessels transiting the region.
The gentlemen on the stern are members of one such team. They appear to be equipped with relatively late model Kalashnikovs (either something from the Russian AK-74 series or derivatives) and a weapon that commands much more attention: what looks to be a NSV* 12.7-millimeter machine gun.
Know your weapons. The NSV was a Soviet update on the much more widely known and distributed DShK line. It was worked out by the designers Grigory I. Nikitin, Yuri M. Sokolov and Vladimir I. Volkov (thus the designation NSV) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and has been manufactured since in several countries. It has since itself been updated, by the Kord. It’s not as common a sight as the DShK (colloquially referred to as a “Dushka”) but as you can see here that its lineage is still out there. That’s no surprise, given the ready availability of 12.7mm ammunition, and the general quality of Russian military arms.
One does wonder who sold this particular weapon, and at what price. But let’s look past the weapon now at how it is employed. What is perhaps also not a surprise is how badly the gunner here fires. Watch the impact of those 12.7mm rounds. The man is all over the place. That probably has something to do with how this “training” is being run. It’s also related to the mount he has chosen. You still would not want to rush this merchant vessel in a skiff — not as long as these guys are up there on the stern, behind razor wire, with this machine gun. But if you were the owner of, or an officer on, this vessel, you might ask these guys a few questions. For starters: You didn’t bring a fixed mount? And you brought this instead? Really? (Then you might ask about that rope retention line. Think: lanyard for the stern. At one point the gunner almost tangles his foot in it. These guys are an accident waiting to happen. That this gentleman carries on as he does tells us that whatever firm he works for might think of hiring a few solid former NCOs, both to sharpen the firm’s training and fix its kit.)
All of the above said, these contractors still present a pretty convincing deterrent. And that leads back to the first point: One obvious solution to the piracy problem had always been self-defense. When vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars can be hijacked and diverted to the beach by a handful of men with rifles and skiffs, this immediate fix — defend the vessels — seems not especially hard to grasp.
No one can say for certain where the piracy trend will head next. Naval officers worry that pirates are shifting on a larger scale toward kidnapping for ransom. But certainly the pirates’ job is more difficult, and riskier, than it used to be.
*Note: I’ve never assembled/disassembled a NSV or a Kord, so I have less familiarity with these than with many more widespread systems like the DShK and a host of Western .50 cals. So my ID here is tentative, based on looking briefly at what this grainy video allowed, and checking it against a few pubs here in the shed (including Bolotin’s Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition). If anyone has a good ID guide or set of easy pointers for telling the different variants of NSV’s from the Kord line, based off exterior features alone, please send to email@example.com.