HMAS Newcastle has continued the multi-national fight against terrorism in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with a focused operation targeting weapons and drug smugglers operating in the Red Sea.
The narrow sea is commonly used by smugglers to ferry weapons and drugs between Africa and the Middle East. The sale of smuggled weapons and drugs is a known source of income for terrorist organisations.
The ship’s S-70-B2 Seahawk helicopter conducted daily sorties to gather intelligence and to search for vessels which could be used for smuggling during the focused operation in early July.
Newcastle’s boarding party also made several approaches on skiffs (small vessels) to ensure they were not carrying any illegal cargo.
Boarding Officer, Lieutenant Laura Ball, said her team was looking for anything that might confirm the skiffs were conducting illegal activities.
“Whenever we conduct boarding actions of this nature, we look for inconsistencies with the vessel’s declared purpose for being in the area,” Lieutenant Ball said.
“If the crew states that they are in the area to fish but they don’t have any fishing equipment onboard, we may want to investigate further.
“We are out here to keep the smugglers from succeeding, because weapons and drugs that make it across the Red Sea may be used against coalition troops throughout the MEAO and innocent people across the globe.”
Newcastle is conducting operations in the Red Sea as part of the Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), a 29-nation counter-terrorism focused coalition based in Bahrain.
The task force has a principal mission to deter, disrupt and defeat attempts by international terrorist organisations to use the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a means to transport personnel, weapons and other materials.
Newcastle successfully completed the CTF 150 focused operation during early July in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait.
Newcastle is in the MEAO as part of Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.
The ship’s six month deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130740.