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14 March 2008

A glimpse of a future naval special operations mission

Thanks to the jesters at the futurist court’s table over at io9, we note a most interesting concept in circulation for new urban development project – at sea. The environment will be a tailored cross between luxury resort, cruise ship, and a small city. Throw in a casino and conventional center, and you have an interesting playground for what the designers presumably hope will be the rich and famous.

Should such a vessel ever be constructed, however, one can imagine its prominence as a target for maritime terrorism and piracy. And while authoring that threat assessment would be quite interesting, we are not sure we would want to be in the company directors’ shoes when briefing those results to an insurer such as Lloyds of London.

More interestingly yet, this inevitable threat raises the distinct possibility that a future naval special operations mission would be required to respond to a potential incident aboard. With anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 souls on board, and what will likely be an internal architecture quite different from other maritime vessels, such a mission would no doubt be taxing in the extreme for even the most capable unit. Even the barge-like hull structure and high rise type construction envisioned by the ship’s builders would impose its own complications on such an operation.

While the concept itself looks slick enough, it is far from certain whether it would ever be ready for primetime. However, the idea does provide interesting fodder for intelligence professionals seeking to explore future scenarios for unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. And one cannot beat that back to the 80’s feel of the whole endeavor, even if one should include the more modern elements of Somali pirates and radical Islamist terrorist actors in the scenario itself. After all, it has been some time since considering the response to a vessel hijacking incident has been new enough to occasion comment.

For those future operators which may one day be tasked with this kind of mission, at least there is some solace to know that it will likely occur in a pleasant climate. After all, the rich do not generally favour less hospitable weather – which makes this a far cry from the typical oil rig takedown.

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