Category Archives: Current Operations

On-going Naval Ops or Maritime Current Events

Forward from the Sea…and Land

The EU agreed in March to conduct counter-piracy on land.

On the east coast of Africa and along the southern Arabian Peninsula, the U.S. has been waging a campaign against pirate and terrorist targets from naval forces offshore. Early reports today detail European militaries’ first counter-piracy operation ashore. A helicopter from EU Naval Force Somalia’s Operation Atalanta struck a pirate base camp in Somalia’s Mudug region and destroyed several pirate skiffs and other supplies stowed on a beach.

Britain’s The Telegraph gives a detailed account:

The dawn raid, launched from one of nine European warships patrolling off Somalia, was aimed at “making life as difficult for pirates on land as we’re making it at sea”, an EU military official said.

A helicopter flew low along the beach with a door gunner on mounted machine gun troops firing at the targets below.

The operation was ordered after weeks of surveillance from maritime patrol aircraft and other surveillance aircraft circling above the pirates’ known hideouts.

Best not to leave your things unattended.

Five small attack boats with powerful outboard engines were “rendered inoperable” and pirates said that the strike also hit drums of diesel and a weapons store.

The attack involved troops from several of the European navies including seven frigates currently patrolling off Somalia, from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Officials said it was “a European mission” and would not specify from which warship the strike was launched.

But not all efforts against piracy and terrorism in the region involve strikes from the sea. In addition to the use of U.S. Navy SEALS, Afloat Forward Staging Bases, naval vessels and naval aviation assets, the U.S. is also using land-based air power. A report in The Aviationist (h/t Danger Room) describes the role of the Air Force and an F-15E squadron in augmenting the drone strikes in the region. The ring around the Indian Ocean is proving to be a perfect test bed of low-intensity power projection concepts and technologies.

Happy Mothership Day!

“Mom, I’m about to go through a tunnel….”

While we Americans at CIMSEC were busy calling our mothers, taking them out to lunch, building them their own self-propelled, semi-submersibles – you know the usual Mother’s Day stuff – we didn’t want to leave you without a little reading material….so over to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea!

 

At Information Dissemination, Chris Rawley highlights al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s use of amphibious tactics in their revenge assault for the killing of Fahd al-Quso, who helped plan the USS Cole bombing.

 

He also mentions a group of Somalis arrested on Yemen’s Socotra Island, a well-known pirate haven, who were learning to scuba dive. While he implies this may have been in preparation for a terrorist operation in Yemen, hijacking ships at anchor for profit is the more likely motivation. News sources describe the suspects as pirates rather than terrorists (but Chris is right, never hurts to be alert to new threats).

 

Nonetheless, most piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and Somali Coast areas occur against vessels underway, (and those that don’t usually forgo the trouble of so thoroughly disguising the assault) so it would still be a notable change in tactics.

 

A mothership always loves a call from her skiffs.

Speaking of Socotra Island, gCaptain details three recent pirate attacks from at least one mothership in its vicinity. Two employed armed security teams and repelled the incoming skiffs. The third became the first oil tanker successfully taken in over a year.

 

But there’s also good news. BNO News reports the Dutch navy’s HNLMS Van Amstel’s Lynx helo spotted a dhow mothership off the Somali coast. The 11 pirates were compliant after the Dutch made radio contact, and were seized through a combination of “RHIBs, fast motorboats, [and] a special boarding unit consisting of marines” under the protection of Van Amstel’s Lynx. The operation also freed 17 Iranian fishermen hostages.

 

Meanwhile THA – Daily News describes how the Turkish navy executed a similar operation on Saturday. A helo from the frigate TCG Giresun (ex USS Antrim) spotted a hijacked vessel off the coast of Oman prompting the Giresun to launch a boarding netting 14 captured pirates and seven freed Yemeni sailors.

 

And as food for discussion – The National is reporting that Convoy Escort Programme (CEP), a British company backed by the Lloyds of London insurance family, is planning a private navy of 18 ships based in Djibouti. It will consist of 7 ex-Swedish navy fast patrol boats and 11 former offshore supply vessels. CEP will offer to escort convoys along the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor between the Red Sea and Arabian Sea – takers will forgo insurance premiums and instead be covered by CEP and its Lloyd backers.

Resource Rush

Two quick videos from Al-Jazeera English (which this week was kicked out of China) portraying two of the most important motivators in the scramble for territory in the South China Sea, oil and food. In the first, China is demonstrating increased deep-sea drilling know-how, which may mean a near-to-medium-term increase in unilateral oil exploration and drilling in contested waters.

The second video shows the impact of the stand-off at the Scarborough Shoal on Filipino fishing villages in the area.

Closer to Closure

It was safer behind bars.

The U.S. took another step towards closure on the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing on Sunday. A year after a SEALs strike took down Osama bin Laden, one of al-Qaeda’s local operators for the Cole bombing, an American drone strike killed Fahd al Quso in Yemen with the Yemeni government’s blessing.

 

Quso’s death leaves only Jamal al-Badawi at large, another al-Qaeda local operator in the bombing and fellow FBI Top 10 Most Wanted Lister. The U.S. military is holding Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, the Cole mastermind and field commander in Guantanamo Bay, and will bring him before a military commission trial in November where he faces the death penalty.

 

Quso escaped a Yemeni prison in 2003, was re-imprisoned after he turned himself in and in 2004 sentenced to 10 years. He served 5 until Yemen secretly released him in 2007. In May 2010, Quso issued a statement again threatening U.S. warships. Later that year the U.S. State Department designated him a global terrorist, but he had always faced U.S. charges and had a bounty on his head.

Cole aboard M/V Marlin.

While not belittling the serious threat posed by Quso, his efforts had a touch of the slapstick. The Cole was the second bombing attempt – the first failed to strike the USS The Sullivans when the plotters overloaded the boat, which sank before hitting its mark. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Cole bombing was also less than the propaganda coup al-Qaeda hoped for as Quso, who was to film the attack from an apartment nearby, overslept and missed the action.

 

Sunday’s actions bring the U.S. Navy once step closer to book-ending the Cole bombing in a similar way achieved with 9/11 last year. But as the world is forever a changed place since that day in September, the significant increase in anti-terrorism / force protection measures implemented since the Cole will remain in place long after the U.S. reaches closure on that October.

Top Photo: Yahya Arhab. Bottom Photo: U.S. Navy