Navy vs Pirates Of The Arabian: Inside India's Daring Red Sea Missions

The Indian Navy saved 110 lives in the 100 days starting December 14, 2023 (File)

New Delhi:

The Indian Navy carried out 18 rescue ops in the Arabian Sea since mid-December under its Operation Sankalp, launched after attacks on merchant ships in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019.

The Navy has been responding to the manifestation of the Israel-Hamas conflict in the maritime domain, especially in the Red Sea corridor – one of the world’s busiest cargo and oil transit points – since December 2023.

The Navy responded to at least 18 incidents between December 2023 and March 2024 and played a pivotal role as the “first responder” and the “preferred security partner” in the Indian Ocean Region, it said in a statement. During this period, the Navy came to the aid of several nations as the menace of pirate attacks in this major trade route was compounded by drone and missile strikes.

How Navy Secured A Pirate Mother Ship

Pirates hijacked a Malta-flagged cargo vessel with the call sign Ruen on December 14, 2023. An SOS was sent out by the crew onboard and the Navy began tracking it as soon as it was indicated that six pirates had illegally boarded it in the Arabian Sea.

It deployed a warship on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden to locate and assist the seized vehicle.

Soon it was indicated that a crew of the vessel had been injured. The Navy launched a rescue op and evacuated the injured sailor from the vessel within four days. He was then flown to Oman for treatment.

However, the pirates overtook control of MV Ruen and steered it towards the Somalian coast.

Since then, at least a dozen warships have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden and the northern Arabian Sea to assist vessels east of the Red Sea, where the navies of several countries, including the US, are trying to secure the route from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Since the hijacking, the Navy kept the region under “continuous surveillance activities”, using aerial platforms and other vessels to gather information and monitor the region.

Several days and three months later, MV Ruen was spotted off the Somali coast on March 14, information came in from the British maritime security firm Ambrey.

The pirates converted the bulk carrier into a mothership to attack other ships. On March 15, the Indian Navy re-routed its warship INS Kolkata to intercept it. INS Kolkata sailed over 2,600 km and cornered the vessel the next morning.

Forty hours later, the Navy forced 35 Somali pirates to surrender and rescued 17 crew members held hostage on the hijacked ship.

The high-stakes op involved multiple Navy vessels, drones, aircraft, and marine commandos. 

INS Subhadra – a patrol vessel, High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE RPA) drones, and P8I maritime patrol aircraft joined forces to help INS Kolkata take control of the pirate mother-ship.

A squad of eight marine commandos (MARCOS PRAHARs) were airdropped by a C-17 aircraft onto the vessel to detain the pirates and safely evacuate the crew. No injuries were reported during the audacious operation.

Navy To The Rescue Of Pakistani Nationals

Days after INS Kolkata’s operation, the Navy rescued 23 Pakistani nationals from a hijacked Iranian fishing vessel “Al-Kambar 786”.

INS Sumedha intercepted the fishing vessel in the early hours of March 29 and was subsequently joined by the guided missile frigate INS Trishul.

A distress call was sent out by the vessel on March 28 approximately 90 nautical miles southwest of Socotra – an island of Yemen in the Indian Ocean – when nine armed pirates reportedly boarded it.

After over 12 hours of “intense coercive tactical measures”, the Navy forced the pirates on board the hijacked FV to surrender. The crew, comprising 23 Pakistani nationals, have been safely rescued,” it added.

The Navy saved 110 lives, including of 45 Indians, in the 100 days starting December 14, 2023. More than 90 maritime incidents have happened, including 57 drone or missile attacks or sightings and 39 incidents of piracy, hijacking, and suspicious approaches between November last year and March.


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