WEB SPECIAL - War on Terror Update

War on Terror Special report 24.3.05

USS Harry S. Truman and USS Carl Vinson

USS Harry S. Truman and USS Carl Vinson

The USS Harry S. Truman and USS Carl Vinson rendezvous in the Gulf to perform the hand-over. Photo: US Navy

Truman Hands Over To Vinson

The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Carrier Strike Group has now turned over its responsibilities in the Gulf to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group, following nearly four months in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

WARSHIPS IFR begins a series on the Truman CSG’s tour of duty in the Middle East in its May edition.

US And UK Navies Resolve Hi-Jacking

The US Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC 724), working with HMS Invincible and HMS Nottingham in the Gulf of Aden, intercepted a hijacked vessel at around noon on March 17. The interception was ordered after Commander, US Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) received telephone reports from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, concerning the hi-jacking of the Thai-flagged fishing boat Sirichai Nava 12 by three Somalis on the evening of March 16, as well as a fax indicating that the hi-jackers demanded US $800,000 in ransom for the vessel’s crew.

Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 tasked the Invincible, destroyer Nottingham and Munro to investigate the situation. A Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team from Munro boarded Sirichai Nava, while a boarding team from Nottingham went onto a second fishing vessel, Ekhwat Patana, which was with the Thai vessel. Munro’s boarding team detained the Somalis without incident.

One of the crew members of the Thai vessel had a minor flesh wound, which was treated by the Munro boarding team. The Coast Guardsmen also discovered four automatic weapons in the pilothouse, expended ammunition shells on the deck of the vessel, as well as ammunition on the detained suspects. The three suspects were transferred to Munro pending guidance from higher authority. The Munro is currently assigned to CTF 150, which is the Coalition maritime task force conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, North Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

GR7s To Kandahar

Harrier GR7As from IV Squadron RAF deployed from Invincible for a period to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick. Their mission was the culmination of four weeks training with RN sister squadron, 801 NAS, aboard the British carrier. They served alongside a sister RAF squadron, providing Close Air Support and reconnaissance to Coalition forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). IV Sqn is part of the UK’s Joint Force Harrier, which is made up of RN and RAF personnel.

HMS Invincible

The British fleet flagship HMS Invincible recovers a Sea Harrier during flying operations in the Arabian Sea. Photo: Royal Navy.

Chatham Interception

After providing humanitarian aid in Sri Lanka following the Tsunami disaster, HMS Chatham is back into action in the Gulf as part of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Along with a Sea King helicopter from HMS Invincible, Chatham’s Lynx helicopter in early March was tasked to investigate four suspicious dhows. The moment the Lynx helicopter made contact, the crew of one of them immediately ejected a substantial quantity of unidentifiable cargo overboard. Chatham’s Royal Marines boarded the boat. Although it is likely that some form of illegal substances were disposed of, no further evidence of the discarded cargo was identified and HMS Chatham was obliged to allow the crews to carry on their journey.

Grafton’s Drug Bust

In a dramatic incident, HMS Grafton netted 2.6 tonnes of cannabis resin, which was discovered onboard a dhow she had been tasked to locate in the Indian Ocean. The frigate was patrolling the Northern Arabian Sea, an area renowned for smuggling and she was working with other Coalition maritime units engaged in flag verification of merchant vessels, anti-piracy and anti-smuggling patrols, under Operation Calash. Drug smuggling is a key funding activity for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

• For more reports on US and British naval forces in the Gulf, see WARSHIPS IFR magazine.