British and US navies carry out counter piracy training

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

Plymouth-based HMS Bulwark and Portsmouth-based HM Ships Chiddingfold and Penzance, as well as Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, have been training with the US Navy’s minehunters USS Dexterous and USS Devastator.

It was all part of the ongoing International Mine Counter Measures Exercise (IMCMEX) which takes place over two weeks every 18 months in the Middle East.

A key element of the exercise was maritime security training, enabling ships to practise procedures such as defending commercial shipping and carrying out board and search operations.

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.

Captain Theo Hogg RM

Royal Marines from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (4ASRM), embarked in HMS Bulwark, played the role of pirates making use of Bulwark’s landing craft and sea boats to threaten the minehunters involved in mine clearance and to harass the task group.

One of the boats also posed as a civilian yacht to ensure the military reaction was tempered.

Captain Theo Hogg of the Royal Marines, said: “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.

“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, HMS Bulwark shifted roles to act as a merchant vessel, giving the US Navy guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Gridley an opportunity to practise the skills necessary to protect commercial shipping from pirate attacks.

The exercise began with scenes reminiscent of Hollywood blockbuster Captain Phillips, with a distress call from the ‘MV Bulwark’ requesting assistance after suspicious boats attacked and tried to gain entry to the merchant vessel. 

The suspected pirates were driven off by the US Navy destroyers before the US Navy’s boarding teams searched the merchant vessel to ensure that no pirates were onboard.

At the end of the exercise, HMS Bulwark and USS Gridley joined the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland and the US Navy’s destroyer USS Dewey in the Gulf of Aden.