Indian Navy Commandos Take Control of Pirate Ship in Airborne Raid

March 18, 2024 9:32 AM
AF C-17 aircraft executed a precision Airborne Drop of two Combat Rubberised Raiding Craft (CRRC) boats, along with Indian Navy MARCOS in Arabian Sea on March 17, 2024. Indian Navy Photo

Indian warships and naval commandos retook a merchant vessel from Somali pirates and rescued 17 crew members in a 40-hour-long operation in the Arabian Sea over the weekend, further highlighting New Delhi’s “First Responder” role in the Indian Ocean region.

The MV Ruen and its crew of 18 were hijacked off the Somali coast last Dec. While shadowed by Spanish, Japanese and Indian warships, the captured bulk carrier managed to escape its pursuers after entering Somali territorial waters. The Indian Navy destroyer INS Kochi (D64) managed to facilitate the evacuation of one injured crew member.

Over the last three months, the Indian Navy tracked the movement of the Ruen, which was being utilized by pirates to launch attacks further into the Indian Ocean. Seventeen members of the crew of Angolan, Bulgarian and Burmese nationals were still onboard the captured vessel.

The Indian operation to recapture Ruen began last Friday after INS Kolkata (D63) was ordered to intercept the vessel 260 nautical miles east of Somalia. Officials aboard Kolkata confirmed the presence of 35 armed Somali pirates onboard the Ruen using a drone. The drone was then shot down by the pirates, prompting the Indian Navy to escalate.

The Indian Navy deployed a series of warning shots and shows of force against the Somali pirates. According to a press release, Kolkata disabled the merchant vessel’s steering system. The release did not specify how the destroyer and its crew halted Ruen.

While Kolkata engaged in what the Indian Navy described as “forceful negotiation” with the pirates, a flurry of Indian Navy assets joined the operation. An unspecified unmanned aerial system, possibly one of the service’s leased MQ-9B SeaGuardians, as well as a P-8I Poseidon from Indian Naval Air Arm provided surveillance. The offshore patrol vessel INS Subhadra (P51) arrived in the area on Saturday to provide further support.

In a joint feat, the Indian Navy and Air Force flew an eight-man Marine Commando team and two airborne assault boats over 1,400 nautical miles from India and dropped them from a C-17 Globemaster into the water next to Ruen.

According to the Indian Navy, these efforts convinced the 35 Somali pirates to surrender. No injuries were sustained on either side and all 17 remaining crew members of Ruen’s original crew were rescued. The recaptured bulk carrier will also be brought back to India.

In Jan., the Indian Navy held a similar operation to retake MV Lila Norfolk from pirates off Somalia.

New Delhi’s maritime security efforts in the Indian Ocean have gained new importance amid the ongoing Red Sea Crisis, which has seen numerous merchant vessels struck by Houthi anti-ship missiles and drones attempting to transit the key maritime trade route connecting Europe and Asia.

While the Indian Navy has not reported downing any missiles, Indian warships and aircraft have assisted stricken vessels and responded to calls for aid. India has also stepped up the deployment of Indian Navy and Coast Guard assets to the region, which it considers to be the key protector of international trade.

“The culmination of the ongoing Anti-Piracy operation involving pirate ship Ruen in the Southern IOR highlights the commitment of the Indian Navy towards reinforcing peace and stability, and also to thwart the resurgence of Piracy in the region,” reads a statement from the service. “The Indian Navy remains steadfast in performing its role as the ‘First Responder’ in IOR.”

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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