Navy Disrupts Piracy Attempt in Arabian Sea

ARABIAN SEA, March 25, 2011 — U.S. naval forces dis­rupt­ed a pirate attack on a Philip­pine-flagged mer­chant ves­sel, after it report­ed it had been attacked by pirates yes­ter­day.
All 20 Fil­ipino crew mem­bers of the Fal­con Trad­er II are safe and in con­trol of the ves­sel, offi­cials said.

Philippine-flagged merchant vessel Falcon Trader II
Navy Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer Nathan P. Rose, an assis­tant board­ing offi­cer, briefs the guid­ed-mis­sile cruis­er USS Leyte Gulf’s vis­it, board, search and seizure team before board­ing the Philip­pine-flagged mer­chant ves­sel Fal­con Trad­er II, which had sent out a dis­tress call report­ing it had been board­ed by pirates in the Ara­bi­an Sea, March 25, 2011.
U.S. Navy pho­to by Pet­ty Offi­cer 3rd Class Robert Guer­ra
Click to enlarge

At about 10:30 a.m. local time yes­ter­day, the air­craft car­ri­er USS Enter­prise and guid­ed mis­sile cruis­er USS Leyte Gulf respond­ed to a dis­tress call from the Fal­con Trad­er II report­ing that sus­pect­ed pirates in a small skiff were try­ing to board the ves­sel.

In a sec­ond report, the Fal­con Trad­er II crew report­ed pirates aboard, and that all 20 crew mem­bers had locked them­selves into a safe room, also known as a “citadel.” The citadel is a secure room with food, water, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­trol over the vessel’s steer­ing and propul­sion, offi­cials explained.

A SH-60F heli­copter assigned to the “Drag­on­slay­ers” of Heli­copter Anti-sub­ma­rine Squadron 11 from the Enter­prise and a SH-60B heli­copter assigned to the “Vipers” of Heli­copter Anti-Sub­ma­rine Squadron Light 48 from the Leyte Gulf were sent to inves­ti­gate.

The HS-11 heli­copter fired warn­ing shots to dis­suade the pirates from con­tin­u­ing their attack. Two pirates were seen jump­ing off the Fal­con Trad­er II’s bow, and the pirates’ skiff fled the area, pur­sued by the HS-11 heli­copter.

As the pirate’s skiff tried to ren­dezvous with a larg­er ves­sel sus­pect­ed to be act­ing as a “moth­er ship,” the pirates shot at the heli­copter with assault rifles. The heli­copter and its crew were not harmed and returned to con­tin­ue recon­nais­sance.

“We could def­i­nite­ly see the muz­zle flash­es from their AK-47s, but we weren’t hit,” said Navy Lt. Joshua A. Overn, a pilot aboard the heli­copter. “The antipira­cy train­ing we had received kicked in, and every­one con­duct­ed them­selves with poise and pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

With no con­fir­ma­tion that all of the pirates had left the ves­sel, a Leyte Gulf crew mem­ber flu­ent in Taga­log remained in con­tact with the Fal­con Trad­er II’s Fil­ipino crew and mon­i­tored the ves­sel overnight. After observ­ing no sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty, Leyte Gulf’s “vis­it, board, search and seizure” team secured the ves­sel. After con­firm­ing no pirates remained aboard, they noti­fied the crew that it was safe to come out of the citadel.

“It says a great deal about the inher­ent flex­i­bil­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty of the Enter­prise Strike Group that we were able to con­duct coun­ter­pira­cy oper­a­tions while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly fly­ing Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom mis­sions and coor­di­nat­ing air defense of the region,” said Navy Capt. Eugene Black, com­mand­ing offi­cer of the Leyte Gulf.

U.S. forces con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor the sus­pect­ed pirate moth­er ship, offi­cials said. Pirates are known to keep hostages on moth­er ships to pre­vent coun­ter­pira­cy forces from act­ing direct­ly against them.

“This is a great exam­ple of the team­work inher­ent in a Car­ri­er Strike Group,” said Navy Rear Adm. Ter­ry Kraft, com­man­der of Enter­prise Strike Group. “We were lucky to be on scene when the attack occurred, and every­one did their jobs well.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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