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Multinational naval forces offer unique capabilities to United Nations operations and often provide the only lifeline to forces ashore.
Rear Admiral Vijaya Kumar stood in the operations center of his flagship, the USS Jamestown, surrounded by his military staff and civilian advisors. The situation was deteriorating and demanded quick and resolute decisions—the consequences of which would be rninutely examined, by not only his own masters in New ^°rk but also the world’s hungry press.
T° sit out there 12 miles from the coast a°d do nothing was not an option; to 5|eam in, guns blazing and battle ensigns "ying, was equally out of the question— although his military mind found much avor with the latter. The situation required a firm but gentle hand, a combination of Trfiitary competence and diplomacy— a°t easy bedfellows, but these were the ecfiock of the strategic and tactical deci- Sl°ns he was called upon to make as the c°mmander of the United Nations Mar- 'fime Task Force.
The staff officers were well prepared
°r his questions: Would the new mission
rtleet with any resistance? Were the lati J
1 rules of engagement adequate to en- tSare the safety of his ships? What did , e latest intelligence reports indicate?
leigh Burke (DDG-51)-class destroyer, modern, fast, and equipped with state-of-the-art technology, weapon systems, and sensors. The Jamestown also had a communications suite that enabled the admiral to speak on secure satellite circuits to stations worldwide. Opposite the flagship was a Nigerian Erin’mi-class corvette, the Abuja. Though operationally efficient and well-handled by her young captain, the Abuja was limited to line-of-sight communications on unsecure circuits. The other three warships of the group fell somewhere in between: a Royal Navy Type-42 destroyer, Chichester, a French A-69-class frigate, Commandant Poirot', and a Brazilian lnhauma- class frigate, Santo Andre.'
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a jlity of the five ships in his task group? hat casualties or maintenance problems ere they suffering? How much fuel did they have left? hat was their maximum speed? What medical teams I ere on board? Were there any equipment incompatibil- e'es between individual units that would hamper the op- a,1°n? What media coverage could be expected?
^ A hundred admirals before him had asked their staffs e same questions, but this occasion held several com- Cations which few before had faced. The composition
°f the ■hirap
The mission for his small task force was most unusual. The operation for which the admiral’s ships were deployed was neither an exercise that had taken months to plan nor a carefully laid down sequence of events designed to test specific aspects of maritime operations. They were not on station to fight a war for which the majority of their military training had been directed. On the contrary. Admiral Kumar’s mission was to act as an agent for a distant organization that represented the wishes of the world s governments, a task which placed him with not a single
ber>1 r0ceedings / September 1993
master but 183.2 Of course, only 15 of them had directly sanctioned the resolution which he was now implementing, and only five of these had special powers to authorize or prohibit the master plan, but in the eyes of this experienced, professional seaman, even five bosses were four too many.
Logistic support for the group was more complex than with usual naval operations. Initially, his ships enjoyed the port facilities of JoJo for fuel and supplies.3 The increased tension ashore in the last week, however, made the port an unsafe maintenance and resupply base, and having lost this lifeline, the group came to rely on support ships diverted into their area for “one off” replenishments. Even this was becoming precarious as nations were showing great reluctance to divert any additional units of their diminishing fleets to the operation. The admiral was only too aware that the lack of a dedicated refueling source jeopardized the continuing presence of his force. Fortunately, at the eleventh hour, South Africa offered the use of a tanker, which was due to arrive with the group by the end of the week.4
This operation differed from the many other missions the admiral had conducted. The most important difference was in command and control; this operation was under the day-to-day control of a Norwegian general ashore. The admiral and general had met and taken an instant liking to each other, but both expected the weeks and months ahead to be highly challenging. The general’s line of authority went directly to the U.N. Secretary-General in New York, a link not made any easier by the seven-hour time difference. All were aware that the U.N. headquarters in New York and the maritime and land commanders in theater needed to be fully conversant with one another’s thought processes to ensure the success of the operation. In order to maintain the chain of command, both military leaders relied on the round-the-clock watchkeeping organization in the New York headquarters; each hoped the newly established situation room would help resolve many of their coordination problems.
There were initial difficulties with communications and intelligence which seemed to be without any immediate solution. Nevertheless, the loan of portable satellite transmitters and receivers from the German government went a long way in keeping essential information flowing between participants.5 The admiral and the general also would have liked a collective intelligence architecture, but the lack of compatible computer equipment and release sensitivities resulted in the establishment of a second rate, ad hoc infrastructure.
One month after the warships made their first rendezvous off the coast of Nardia, the task force had learned a great deal. The admiral instigated a punishing routine of training designed to work the ships as a group, and— to everyone’s surprise—initial rivalries and prejudices were cast aside. The common knowledge that any one ship’s survival might depend one day upon the efficiency of another fueled a fervent desire to find out how each ship operated. Every aspect of interoperability was exercised, and surprisingly few unresolvable conflicts remained. Standard operating procedures were established to meet a number
of contingencies, broadly based on well-established NA tactics with which many were already conversant exercises—such as cross-deck operations between the tj helicopters in the force, boat transfers, and light jackst( exercises—served the dual purposes of giving each shi[ command team an opportunity to visit others to disci concepts and to see one another’s strengths and weakness at first hand.6
The directive that brought the multinational group ships together tasked them to monitor the flow of trai into and out of the port of JoJo.7 Part of that included shj ments of material in support of the U.N. operation asho and the task of ensuring its safe passage on the last leg' its journey fell to the task group.8 Additionally, the phas< array radar of the Jamestown was ideally suited to tr: the many air movements in the vicinity, and a useful woj ing relationship was established with local air-traffjl control authorities.9 1
A stalemate ashore and irrefutable evidence from telligence sources that both agressors were contini to receive munitions by land and by sea prompted U.N. Security Council to pass a new resolution, gi’ the naval task group the right to stop and search ves bound for Narnia.10 The embarked helicopters pro themselves a godsend for the subsequent boarding o ations, supplementing their valuable surveillance ro Their flexibility was also amply demonstrated just a v before when a civilian aircraft, chartered by the U.h transport equipment into the country, crash-landec miles from the capital, and both helicopters were the rescue units on the scene, delivering immediate med aid to the injured and pinpointing the crashed aircr; position for the rescue teams on the ground.12
Up to this point, 30 boardings had been conducted,1 no illegal cargo discovered. The admiral hoped that was evidence of a deterrent effect on would-be smuggl' rather than the inherent inefficiency in necessarily sh) and superficial searches of merchant vessels by untrai sailors. In either case, reports from the beach sugges1 that the embargo was beginning to take effect. The si] ation ashore was becoming more and more unstable, pi because of a stemming of the flow of arms and pa1 because the rival factions had become increasingly sk tical of the U.N.’s ability to broker a peaceful settlefl1] to their dispute. Frustration had been vented from b1 sides on the middlemen—the observers and troops ing blue helmets. One soldier was killed, and several servers narrowly escaped with their lives when a moi round landed in their outpost. Each party leader blai the other, but both admitted they could no longer vo1 for the peacekeepers’ safety.
The Secretary-General made the decision to pull out force; however, the safety of flights into and out of only serviceable airport could not be guaranteed, and land border was more than 300 miles away through tentially hostile territory. The only remaining cours' action was the one now capturing the attention of the miral’s staff: a seaborne evacuation.13
Fiction? Yes, but each event in this scenario is b on actual maritime operations conducted under the
Proceedings / SeptembC
This fictional scenario has a real-life antecedent—here, Canadian and Cambodian observers, in a Soviet-made ship, patrol the Gulf of Siam for the United Nations.
of the receiving nation. Once a transport aircraft has landed its passengers, it can provide them with no further support. Naval vessels, however, can remain on station for long periods and can offer a wide range of additional capabilities in very short order. Should the need arise to withdraw forces from an area in a situation of rising tension, airlift from a hostile environment might not be possible, leaving the only way out by land or sea.
In full acceptance of the argument that the final success or failure of an operation hinges on the conduct of business beyond the high-water mark, the historically based scenario clearly illustrates that naval forces enjoy unique capabilities and have an important role to play in the increasingly complex operations demanded in the execution of a U.N. resolution.
Is free from any need to seek the agreement from
Pices of the United Nations over the last 40 years. Though a wide variety of maritime capabilities are represented, Pc list is not comprehensive. For example, national naval °rces have not only flown the U.N. flag but also have een placed under the operational control of a foreign ?aval officer.14 Indeed, on two occasions to date, vessels ave been handed over to the direct control of the U.N., rcquiring their hulls to be painted white.15 Naval forces so have been directly involved in humanitarian opera, °ns> provision of medical support,16 mine clearance,17 each landing, embarkation training,18 and even, on one °Ccasion, as neutral headquarters for a truce commis- ^°n'9—with the majority of occasions supporting United ahons resolutions. The participating nations repre- 0 nted in the scenario, however, are purely illustrative and not suggest that such governments would necessarily ntribute ships and equipment to a U.N. operation.
I he argument that maritime forces play no part in the js6 . ra of U.N. operations currently underway worldwide ^disputable. There are three inherent characteristics of rces at sea that are not enjoyed by their shore-based fQUnterParts: mobility, flexibility, and autonomy. A task e^Ce is limited in movement only by the speed of its slowly S^’ en(durance of its equipment and crew, and enC0lT|pliance with the limits of territorial waters. Its pres- ae’ therefore, is unduly limited in neither time nor space
Hither nation over its area of operations while deployed. ! er^re^0re’ sovereignty is not infringed, and sustained op- lQns can be supported over long periods. lUj n 0fder to deploy a force ashore, support it while in htie ^ anc^ w*thdraw it at the end of its mission, a life- IaCcls required. Much of the force’s transportation can be I lies0tllPhshed speedily and efficiently by air, but this re- !pre °n k°th the availability of sufficient airlift and the Sence of good will and adequate facilities on the part
The following historical events are examples of circumstances comparable to those described in the scenario.
'Multinational naval forces have been involved in a number of U.N. operations, most notably in the Korean War and Gulf War.
2For a full list of occasions when the U.S. military has contributed to U.N. operations, see Joint Publication 3-07.3, JTTP for Peacekeeping Operations.
The numbers of examples are relevant, for example, the use of Haifa during the UNTSO operation.
“Logistic interoperability was well illustrated during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The author personally undertook replenishments from support ships of four nations during the operations, two being non-NATO.
'Additional communications support from a “non-participating nation” has been given to a number of U.N. operations, notably by Canada and India.
6A large number of bilateral and multilateral maritime exercises take place annually worldwide, but none are currently under the auspices of the United Nations. ’Argentinian patrol boats undertook this and other missions in support of the ONUCA operation between 1990 and 1992.
"In 1962, Dutch warships carried out this task to support the U.N. Security Force in West Iran.
This is routinely the case in maritime operations.
'The Royal Navy’s Beira patrol between 1966 and 1973 operated under a similar resolution.
"A number of nations’ helicopters performed similarly during Operation Desert Shield.
i:Helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) were sent ashore to assist in the rescue mission after an Italian aicraft carrying relief supplies to Sarajevo was shot down in September 1992.
l3In July 1948, the USS Palau (CVE-122) and others assisted in the evacuation of U.N. observers and troops from Haifa. Ably demonstrating the flexibility of maritime forces, they stood offshore for two weeks while a new truce was fashioned before returning to Haifa and disembarking the passengers and material. I4A British admiral flew his flag in a U.S. aircraft carrier and commanded a multinational force during the Korean War.
I5A number of Argentinian patrol craft which currently are allocated to ONUCA for operations in the Gulf of Fonseca and a Cambodian craft undertook coastal and riverine patrols in support of UNTAC.
l6For one account of seaborne humanitarian assistance, see Lieutenant General H.C. Stackpole III, USMC, “Angels from the Sea,” Proceedings, May 1992.
’’After the November 1956 cease-fire in the Suez Crisis, the Secretary-General accepted the responsibility for organizing the “task of clearing the Suez Canal . . . to reestablish free and secure transit.”
I8A Landing Ship Tank (LST) was allocated to UNEF I to give practice to troops in loading and unloading personnel and vehicles from beaches.
Tn 1947, the USS Renville (APA-227) was the headquarters ship for the U.N. Truce Commission negotiating the terms of a settlement between Dutch colonialists and Indonesian nationalists.
Commander Forsyth, currently the United Kingdom Research Fellow at the U.S. Naval War College, has commanded HMS Manchester, during the Gulf War, and HMS Gloucester.