MANAMA, BAHRAIN – Eight officers from the Royal Thai Navy have arrived at Combined Maritime Forces headquarters, Bahrain, in preparation for the historic deployment of two Thai vessels to the Gulf of Aden.
The offshore patrol vessel, HTMS Pattani, and the support ship, HTMS Similan, will conduct counter-piracy operations with Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), currently commanded by Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul of the Turkish Navy.
The 98-day deployment involves a total of 351 Thai personnel, led by Rear Admiral Chaiyot Sundaranaga.
Vice Adm. Mark Fox, Commander CMF, said, “We are delighted that Thailand has joined CMF. Our strength derives from the fact that, as a coalition of the willing, we can achieve more by working together than any single nation or navy could do alone.”
CTF-151’s mission is to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy, protecting maritime vessels of any nationality and securing freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. In conjunction with NATO and EU Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR), CTF-151 conducts patrols in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and supports Best Management Practice (BMP) methods for piracy avoidance that are promoted by the shipping industry.
Ertugrul said, “The Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin contain some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes where safe and free passage is vital to the international economy. Piracy is truly an international problem that requires an international response, which is precisely why this multinational coalition force is deployed here. The Royal Thai Navy can make a very positive contribution to the mission with its ships, and it will increase our ability to deter and disrupt potential attacks.”
In order to prepare for the integration of Thai vessels into the coalition fleet, a small team from Coalition Communications based at Naval Support Activity Bahrain flew to Sattahip Naval Base, Chonburi, Thailand, to provide technical assistance and training associated with installing and operating communication equipment and networking capability. Four team members are sailing with the two vessels to provide continuing support.
Chief Warrant Officer John D. Radford, who led the team, said, “Communications enable participation, and are therefore, the key to successful coalition operations. I had a strong team and we received excellent support and a warm welcome from the Royal Thai Navy and from the U.S. Security Assistance Organization (SAO) in Thailand. Working together, we removed the barriers to participation and successfully integrated these two ships into the CMF force flow.”
Radford added, “It was clear from the reception we received, that Thailand is embracing its CMF membership with great enthusiasm and total commitment. We thought it was important to reciprocate this enthusiasm by demonstrating how highly we value Thailand’s contribution.”
“The Combined Maritime Forces look forward to working alongside this newest partner in countering the threat of piracy and destabilizing maritime activity.”
CTF-151 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces, of which Thailand becomes the 25th member nation. CMF is a unique naval coalition, dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across some 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East. CMF’s main focus areas are defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities, and promoting a safe maritime environment.