Royal Marines turn pirates as they try to ‘hijack’ HMS Bulwark

Sailors and Royal Marines played out scenes reminiscent of Captain Phillips as they practised taking down pirates in the Indian Ocean.

Playing the part of modern-day buccaneers, commandos attempted to hijack Britain’s flagship HMS Bulwark – to see how the crew and Allied warships respond to the threat of a pirate attack.

American destroyers USS Sterett and Gridley drove off the marines – who turned Bulwark’s landing craft and sea boats into a mock ‘pirate action group’ for the sake of several days of counter-piracy training.

It came in the middle of the world’s largest mine warfare exercise, which has been run over the past fortnight in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Gulf.

More than 40 nations and 6,500 military personnel – around 1,500 of them from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary – took part in the International Mine Counter-Measures EXercise (IMCMEX), which tests the abilities of the navies of the world to keep the sea lanes open.

In addition, the 2014 variant of the exercise, which is run every 18 months, has thrown non-minehunting tasks into the mix, from escorting gas and oil tankers, to protecting oil rigs and counter-piracy.

Plymouth-based HMS Bulwark and minehunters Chiddingfold and Penzance, permanently based in Bahrain, as well as their mother ship RFA Cardigan Bay, linked up with US Navy minehunters Dextrous and Devastator.

As the minehunters knuckled down to their mission in the Gulf of Aden – dubbed ‘Pirate Alley’ by the media due to the attacks over the past decade – the Royal Marines began harassing the warships.

“The idea was for the minehunters to notice that one craft was no threat and just had inquisitive civilians onboard, who, as per real life, will often come in close and ignore warnings so they can get a good photo,” explained Captain Theo Hogg Royal Marines.

“The second craft, on the other hand, arrived from a different direction with weapons manned and approached at speed.

“The crew did incredibly well, recognising the threat posed by the pirates and taking the correct actions to protect their ship from the incoming danger.”

Following successful completion of the minehunting operations, Britain’s flagship turned into MV Bulwark for theCaptain Phillips scenario, sending out a mayday –giving the Sterett and USS Gridley an opportunity to practise the skills necessary to protect commercial shipping from pirate attacks.

Having driven off the faux pirates, the US Navy’s boarding teams searched Bulwark to ensure no criminals were onboard.

At the end of the exercise, Bulwark and the Gridley joined the Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland and US Navy destroyer USS Dewey in the Gulf of Aden.


Original Article