The US Navy thwarted a pirate attack on a Philippines-flagged ship in the Arabian Sea last week.
On March 24 the MV Falcon Trader II merchant ship reported it was being attacked by pirates about 300 miles off northeast Masirah, Oman, according to Wing Commander Paddy Kennedy of the European Union Naval Force.
In a second report from the Falcon Trader II, the crew said there were pirates aboard and that all 20 crewmembers were safely locked in the ship’s citadel or safe room.
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), were in the region conducting operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and responded by sending helicopters to investigate the ship, the US Navy says.
A SH-60F helicopter assigned to the “Dragonslayers” of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11 from the Enterprise and a SH-60B helicopter assigned to the “Vipers” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 from the Leyte Gulf soon discovered pirates on board the Falcon Trader.
Once on scene, the SH-60 from HS-11 fired warning shots to dissuade the pirates from continuing their attack. Two pirates jumped off the bow of the MV Falcon Trader II and the pirates’ skiff fled the area, pursued by HS-11’s helicopter.
As the pirates attempted to link up with a mother ship, they fired at the helicopter. Neither the helicopter nor its crew were harmed. They returned to continue conducting reconnaissance of the scene.
“We could definitely see the muzzle flashes from their AK-47s, but we weren’t hit,” said Lieutenant Joshua A Overn, a pilot aboard the helicopter. “The anti-piracy training we had received kicked in, and everyone conducted themselves with poise and professionalism.”
With no confirmation that all the pirates had left the vessel, a Leyte Gulf crewmember remained in contact with the Falcon Trader’s crew in the citadel and monitored the vessel overnight. The following morning personnel from the Leyte Gulf boarded and secured the vessel. Confirming no pirates remained aboard, they notified the crew that it was safe to come out of the citadel.
All 20 Filipino crew members of the Falcon Trader II are safe and in control of the vessel, the US Navy reports.
“It says a great deal about the inherent flexibility and capability of the Enterprise Strike Group that we were able to conduct counter-piracy operations while simultaneously flying Operation Enduring Freedom missions and coordinating air defence of the region,” said Captain Eugene Black, commanding officer of Leyte Gulf.
US forces continue to monitor the suspected pirate mother ship – no direct action has been taken yet in case there are hostages aboard.
“This is a great example of the teamwork inherent in a Carrier Strike Group,” said Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, commander of Enterprise Strike Group. “We were lucky to be on scene when the attack occurred, and everyone did their jobs well.”
The attack against the Falcon Trader II was the eighth attempted hijacking in a week, the International Maritime Bureau reports.