Suicide Boats: A Force Multiplier in Unconventional Warfare

by Defencewire

(December, 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The LTTE are the only guerilla cum insurgent cum terrorist organization with a naval capability in the world today. The Palestinians during their heyday in Lebanon had a small naval contingent mostly for infiltration and they too carried out a couple of suicide attacks using boats, with little success. Al-Qaeda executed a successful suicide mission on USS Cole in Yemen. The Sea Tigers evolved from the time honored tradition that existed of smuggling contraband from Sri Lanka to India and illegal immigrants.

Black Sea Tiger suicide boats operate in small numbers–taking cover amongst large numbers of fishing craft, or with other Sea Tiger craft or in a ‘pack’ of suicide boats with or without other Sea Tiger craft. They have been most effective when they operate as a flotilla of mixed craft – fast attack craft and suicide boats. They are used for Force Multiplication purposes in the Sea and also as deterrence. Many large Sea Tiger crafts like the Muraj often evade engaging the Powerful Dvora FAC/FPC MK. II and keep their distance, allowing small boats to take on the attack/pursuit. The Muraj usually acts as a Command Ship. The Idian fiberglass beat has a stealth-like design with possible iron-ball paint to reduce radar detection. They usually have detonation cones at the front. To keep the Navy guessing, Sea Tigers camouflage their stealth boats as fishing boats and change the number of passengers/suicide cadres. They are also known to use disabled persons as suicide bombers at sea. Despite these tactics, Navy FACs have managed to evade a large number of these attacks. But some have fallen prey to cunning Sea Tiger tactics like the use of suicide fishing boats.

Picture 1 and 2 shows the result of the suicide attack on the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) on October 12, 2000. Suicide boats are effective for attacking large slow-moving ships especially near docks. Sri Lanka Navy does not have large warships like the US but have Offshore Patrol Vessels and Fast Missile Cruisers that could become prime targets. The Jetliner fast transport ship is another target, which, to date, has evaded several Sea Tiger attacks due to its high speed.

The following table is presented in order to grasp the cost-benefit ratio of suicide tactics. Table 1 (Click to it) compares the ships, the known attacking methods and the Sea Tiger’s tactic in the last row.