Navy: Helo fires on pirate skiff, killing 4
The crew of a Navy helicopter launched from the destroyer Bulkeley fired upon and is believed to have killed four pirates who were in the process of attacking a crude oil carrier while it was transiting the Gulf of Oman on Monday, according to Combined Maritime Forces.
The interdiction took place at 10:35 a.m. local time. The Norfolk, Va.-based Bulkeley, assigned to Joint Task Force 150, had received a mayday call from the German-owned, Panamanian-flagged crude carrier Artemis Glory, which said it was being chased and attacked by pirates.
Bulkeley responded to the mayday call, first heard by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship and relayed to Combined Maritime Forces, by launching an SH-60B Seahawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Squadron Light 48, Detachment 4, to investigate. When it arrived on station — a command spokesman could not provide the distance or transit time — the crew saw four individuals in a skiff firing at Artemis Glory, using small arms.
The helicopter crew opened fire on the skiff under what command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Sam Hearn of the Royal Navy said was the principle of “extended unit self-defense” on behalf of the crude carrier. All four pirates are believed to have been killed, Hearn said. Hearn said he did not know which weapon system was employed but noted that the SH-60B is equipped with a single M-240 machine gun.
Officials do not believe the helicopter was fired upon by the pirates, Hearn said.
Hearn said Bulkeley did not pick up the bodies, and could not say whether the skiff was sunk. Once it was determined that Artemis Glory was out of danger, the ship continued on its way, Hearn said. The ship is transporting a cargo of crude oil from Saudi Arabia to China.
None of Artemis Glory’s 23 crew members were injured, according to the command.
It’s at least the second run-in with piracy in the region for Bulkeley. On March 5, the simple arrival of Bulkeley in response to a hijacking attempt on a Japanese oiler — a Turkish frigate subsequently joined the U.S. ship — convinced four pirates already on board to surrender to a boarding team without a shot being fired.