RN-led team ready to strangle terrorists' lifeline in the Indian Ocean

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet

The Royal Navy will direct the international effort to stifle terrorist activity in the Indian Ocean next month.

A battle staff from HMS Excellent in Portsmouth heads to the Gulf to take charge of the ships Combined Task Force 150, policing more than two million square miles of sea on the lookout for vessels smuggling weapons and drugs which either fund or support terrorism.

Earlier this month the Royal Australian Navy’s frigate HMAS Darwin bagged a sizeable weapons haul on a dhow – nearly 2,000 AK47 rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine-guns will never reach the hands of fundamentalists – while in February HMAS Melbourne scored her fifth drugs bust, seizing around £20m of heroin; the proceeds of illegal narcotics are known to fund terrorism.

The British-led staff – personnel from the Royal Navy will be joined by RAF and Royal Marines, plus officers from NATO and regional navies – have gone through a thorough combined assessment at their headquarters on Whale Island to prove they are ready to direct the challenging operation.

Personnel from across the Combined Maritime Forces – a coalition of more than two dozen of the world’s navies – take it in turns to direct the task force, which is one of three naval forces dotted around the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

While CTF150 deals with the threat of terrorism and provides security on the high seas, Task Force 151 tackles piracy (and currently has British frigate HMS St Albans attached), and 152 is focused on stability and security in the Gulf itself.

The scale of CTF 150’s task has been likened to providing police cover for an area the size of western Europe with six patrol cars – around half a dozen vessels are assigned to the group, operating independently, hundreds of miles apart, but with a common aim.

When Commodore Guy Robinson and his team take the reins of 150, it will be the 12th time since 2001 the Royal Navy has done so.

“I am hugely looking forward to commanding Combined Task Force 150, building on the success of my predecessors,” said Commodore Robinson, whose team will direct operations for four months.

“The broad range of skills and nationalities in my team should ensure we can make the fullest contribution to this important, multi-national mission in an area of vital interest to the UK.”

Computer/information systems expert AB Rod McKenzie added: “Being part of CTF150 is going to be a great opportunity for me to see exactly how the Royal Navy works alongside different nations in an operational environment.  I am excited to be spending the next few months with the team.”

The Royal Navy-led team will take command of CTF150 from a combined Australian-Canadian staff in mid-April in Bahrain, the hub of naval operations east of Suez.

I am hugely looking forward to commanding Combined Task Force 150, building on the success of my predecessors

Commodore Guy Robinson, Royal Navy