Yeovilton helicopter crew helps to beat the pirates
A Westcountry-based Royal Navy helicopter crew has helped scupper the activities of a gang of pirates terrorising dangerous shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia.
Flight 217, part of RNAS Yeovilton's 815 Naval Air Squadron, was serving on board French frigate FLF Surcouf – deployed under the EU's Operation Atalanta anti-piracy drive – when it was called into action.
The alarm had been raised by the American ship USS Halyburton, which was operating as part of NATO's anti-piracy operation Ocean Shield and had received a distress call from a merchant vessel MSC Jasmine.
She had reported that the ship, which was sailing 260 miles off Somalia, was under attack from six men armed with rocket propelled grenades.
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Although the crew had managed to repel the assault themselves, a German EU maritime patrol aircraft was scrambled to track the suspect boat, which was by then towing another boat with several more men on board.
In order to make sure the pirates did not escape, the Royal Navy Lynx crew took to the skies and sped to the scene, then ordered the suspect vessel to stop.
French commandos from Surcouf then arrived alongside and boarded the ship, which resulted in the pirates' surrender.
All 12 suspects are now being held on board Surcouf while evidence is gathered against them. Lieutenant Mike Curd, Flight Commander of 217, said it had been a very successful result.
"It was a long and tiring day that began before dawn, but by the end of it we were proud of a job well done."
It is the first deployment of its kind under a new treaty.