Prince of Wales' first CO takes on terrorism in Indian Ocean

Before he takes on the challenge of taking Britain’s second new aircraft carrier to sea for the first time, Commodore Steve Moorhouse will spend the next three months keeping smuggling by terrorists under the knout.

Prince of Wales’ first CO takes on terrorism in Indian OceanThe first designated commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, currently fitting out at Rosyth, has taken charge of an international task force dedicated to stopping the flow of drugs from the Middle East and Asia to the West – an illegal trade which funds terrorism.

Since 2002, Combined Task Force 150 – typically around half a dozen warships drawn from more than 30 nations, spread across more than two million square miles of ocean with the goal of intercepting smugglers – has patrolled the Indian Ocean in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities.

As with the participating warships, command of the group – based in Bahrain – changes every five or six months.

Under the direction of the Royal Australian Navy’s Cdre Mal Wise the task force has dealt a £1.4bn blow to the drugs trade in the Indian Ocean, seizing more than 30 tonnes of hashish and over 3.1 tonnes of heroin with 19 busts in the past five months.

As part of the Combined Maritime Forces family we will engage with international partners, encourage regional cooperation and support capacity building

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander CTF150

Just before Cdre Moorhouse took the reins, HMAS Warramunga bagged two hauls in two days: hashish worth £178m.

As monsoon season approaches, boarding suspect vessels will be increasingly dangerous due to the height of the waves, but the numbers of dhows plying their trade on the so-called ‘Hash Highway’ is also expected to decrease.

That said, Cdre Moorhouse is determined to keep up the pressure on the smugglers.

“Our ambition over the next few months, is to not only seize opportunities, but also to create them,” he said. “As part of the Combined Maritime Forces family we will engage with international partners, encourage regional cooperation and support capacity building.”

He’s in charge of what is known as a ‘rainbow’ team – although the RN has the lead, it’s supported by officers and sailors from Canada, France and New Zealand.

Cdre Moorehouse formally took charge in a ceremony attended by his predecessor, plus Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, Commander of the US Fifth Fleet and the Combined Maritime Forces, and Cdre Steve Dainton, the senior RN officer east of Suez.

He will ultimately take command of HMS Prince of Wales, one of two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers being brought into service with the Royal Navy.