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NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011 A Fort for


TAKE one support ship with 100 RFA sailors aboard.


plus two commando snipers. Load two RIBs, two ORCs and two infl atables plus crew and specialist boarding teams from the Fleet Protection Group RM.


staff.


Build a brig on the poop deck. Put a Royal Marines colonel in charge of all 265 souls aboard.


Victoria, has come to a close. With each success – normally ending with a


Add one Merlin with eight air and ten ground crew, Staff the hospital with 18 medics and surgical


Send it to the Horn of Africa. Chalk six pirate action groups. After 87 days the counter-piracy surge codenamed Operation Capri,


quickly surrounded the pirate whaler which was now towing two smaller vessels – the typical make-up of a pirate action group – supported by the helicopter’s sniper team. The pirates capitulated immediately, throwing their weapons into the sea, before being temporarily detained on RFA Fort Victoria. After 24 hours onboard – a detention area was built on the poop deck to hold them – the pirates were let ashore off the Somali coastline. “The pirates have changed their tactics in light of our patrols but we have been able to detect and destroy their equipment and have prevented further piracy attacks,” said Capt Rob Dorey RFA, Fort Victoria’s CO.


in to


o pt spearheaded by RFA Fort


pirate mother ship (typically a whaler) blown to smithereens and their chastened crew sent scurrying back to Somali shores – another set of skull and crossbones was painted on Fort Vic’s bridge wing. Success No.6 came off Hobyo, some


Northumberland which has sailed home after eight months away – come under the command of Col Mark Gray, the first time a Royal Marine has commanded a naval task group in nearly a decade.


His ship – and the now-departed HMS


more critical at times when it was the only availa helicopter in the area,” said pilot Lt Larry Smith 820 NAS.


“The Merlin brings a great deal to the party. W its long endurance and high speed, it has an influe over a wide area.”


p


Pioneer’s crew of pilots, aircrew, RM snipers LA(Phot) Al Macleod used the Merlin’s radar, elec optic camera, Orange Reaper radar detector, M eyeball and camera lens to scour the seayeb ‘pirate action groups’ – typically a whaler w two or three skiffs in tow. W


‘pirapiir wo


pr 1


p t


300 miles north of the Somali capital Mogadishu and an infamous hotbed of brigandage. In the fading light of the last Sunday in November, Pioneer spied a whaler packed with fuel and pirates, ready to set out on a raid.


As darkness fell and the pirates put to sea, the auxiliary shadowed the action group. When


appeared out of the blackness, the Marines


the supply ship


The colonel dismisses all romantic Hollywood notions of parrots, patches and peg-legs. He uses adjectives such as ‘dastardly’ and ‘ruthless’ to describe his foe. To catch them, he says, relies upon “cunning, persistence, patient professionalism”, supported by “painstaking intelligence analysis.” At Col Gray’s disposal are green berets of the Fleet Contingency Troop – specialists in boarding ops – plus a couple of Offshore Raiding Craft (think tooled-up ‘super RIB’), two RIBs and two inflatable raiding craft, and one Pioneer. Pioneer? That’s the callsign of Fort Vic’s Merlin, which is the lynchpin of counter-piracy mission and has clocked up an average of 100 hours in the skies per month.


ywo ood


“The engineers have certainly put in the hours to keep the aircraft running and available – even


regularity.


to play. Which


to plao p


proverbial... The piracy danger area co 1.1 million square miles of ocean – m than 11 times the size of the UK. Alternatively, you can keep an eye on known pirate camps and wait for the brigands to come out


they’ve done. With some


ships attached to NATO’s Operation Shield mission – which has included both Fort Vic and HMS Montrose – thwarted half a dozen pirate attacks. Over that same period, the European Union anti-piracy halted four attacks (but sadly couldn’t stop the Malaysian contain ship MV Albedo being seized 900 miles off Somali coast). Indeed, as of the beginning of last month


ks t i


pirates still held 22 vessels – and more than mariners. “It should not be assumed that we are dealing w a disorganised bunch of rogues,” says Capt Dorey So to stop organised rogues you need an organ


constabulary. In the last two weeks of November alone, Which is like trying to find a needle in


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