In the war on terror, the force protection and maritime interdiction missions are becoming more important—and more dangerous. Every ship needs a well-armed tactical team trained to successfully and safely handle these missions.
Imagine a scenario in which intelligence sources have uncovered a plot to use a merchant ship packed with explosives to destroy the Panama Canal. Although the source is deemed credible, the ship's name, description, flag, and port of origin are unknown. The worldwide economic impact makes closing the canal impossible. When confronted with the threat's magnitude, the Panamanian government officially requests U.S. assistance. More than 12,000 ships transit the canal in a year, on average more than 35 a day. 1 There simply are not enough naval special warfare assets available to board that number of ships. Fortunately, there is a tool available to narrow the search: in our scenario, Navy surface combatants have augmented both force protection and maritime interdiction capabilities. Each ship has a shipboard integrated tactical team (SITT) that protects the ship against a variety of threats while in port, but also is trained to conduct maritime interdiction and to extract itself if a low-threat boarding turns ugly. Second and Third Fleets immediately dispatch ships to the canal zone.