The 13th Coast Guard District has announced that moving maritime security zones in Puget Sound will be enforced with flashbangs fired from shot guns aboard Coast Guard assets escorting high value vessels. The flashbangs will be fired in front of vessels that fail to respond to radio communications or other signals to steer clear of these security zones.
The flashbang munitions, which “create a bright flash of light and loud sound,” are intended to provide a “safe and effective method” of alerting inattentive boaters that they are standing into danger. The Coast Guard announcement advises boaters who see or hear a flashbang to “slow down, establish voice communication with the Coast Guard Patrol Commander on VHF channel 16 and follow the direction of the Coast Guard.” Those who ignore this “unmistakable signal” will face “more aggressive tactics.”
One of the major difficulties in defending against the small vessel threat lies in determining whether an approaching craft has “hostile intent” or not. One doesn’t want to blow some clueless weekend “yachtsman” out of the water. On the other hand, no one wants to give maritime terrorists a free shot at any of the Navy ships, ferries, and tankers the Coast Guard regularly escorts in Puget Sound. The flashbangs should help with this dilemma by waking up the inattentive. And they are a whole lot cheaper than warning devices such as the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device).