As a man who spent some time in uniform, I have been intrigued by the fact that modern war could also feature Kamikaze attacks on ships. Most people are aware of kamikaze attacks. Many are also aware that the Kamikaze means a divine wind which destroyed the Mongol fleet sent to invade Japan in the 12th century. Kamikaze attacks are suicidal missions whose aim is to sink war ships. The Japanese gave such missions the name Kamikaze thinking that they will act like the divine wind and destroy the enemy fleet during WWII. The first time such a mission took place was on November 12, 1944, when a US ship was hit by kamikaze attacks when it had anchored at Dulag Harbor, Philippine Islands. Subsequently the intensity of these attacks increased, but they could not do much damage as the US Navy took safety measures against the human propelled planes. The basic defense was to try and shoot these planes down before they could strike elements of the US fleet. This remains the corner stone of expected Kamikaze attacks in modern war.
The end of the war saw the US navy technical team begin research to develop an anti-dote to a future kamikaze attack. This has now become a real possibility in modern war, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz where Iran could launch such an attack and block the strait. In 1981 after decades of research the US Navy perfected a weapon system called the CIWS (Close in Weapon System). This weapon system is now installed on all US Navy ships. It consists of radars, computers and multiple barrels rapid fire guns all integrated together in one weapon system. This weapon system also referred to as ‘ Sea Whizz’ is expected to neutralize low flying cruise missile and planes approaching in kamikaze like attacks. Part of the system uses a simple 20 mm Gatling gun with a stupendous rate of fire. This gun is mounted on a radar controlled rotating platform with a turning radius of 360 degrees.
The weapon systems efficacy was doubted by some, as the US warship USS Stark was equipped with this system, yet was hit by a missile in 1987 during the Iraq-Iran war. Later it was learnt that the attack was a success because the system was not operational on the ship.
Kamikaze type of attacks can be expected in modern war, in particular in sensitive sea lanes like the Strait of Hormuz or the Aden gulf. The enemy could also use such attacks to block the Hooghly and Calcutta port by sinking ships at the mouth of the Delta.
The prospects of kamikaze attacks are frightening, but modern navies will have to factor this in modern warfare. Kamikaze is no longer a Japanese preserve.