On July 30, France transferred command of Combined Task Force (CTF 150) to Pakistan, after a four month deployment at sea onboard French Ship Var, the CTF 150 flag ship. This completed France’s 9th command of the Combined Maritime Forces’ multinational maritime security and counter-terrorism task force.
Rear Admiral Muhammad Moazzam Ilyas of the Pakistan Navy assumed command of the naval force from Captain René-Jean Crignola (French Navy) on 30 July 2015 at a ceremony held at the Combined Maritime Forces headquarters in Bahrain.
In his final speech, the outgoing Commander highlighted the great successes registered by the multi-national units contributing to CTF 150, including a record heroin seizure and combined drug smuggling interdiction inside the area of operation.
Captain Crignola said: “The important encounter of allied assets inside our Area of Responsibility gave us the opportunity to ensure permanence at sea and to concentrate our efforts during several weeks off East-African coasts. Once again, we can say that our operations have been fruitful against international terrorist organizations, denying them the use of the maritime environment to conduct their activities. Working all together, we struck a blow against drug smuggling inside the Indian Ocean, seizing nearly two tons of heroin onboard sailing dhows. These seizures, worth more than 1 billion USD, represent an important amount that won’t be used by terrorists to fund their organizations.”
He added: “I took over command from Canada, which worked during its mandate side by side with Australia, four months ago. I am now passing the torch to Pakistan. Four different nations, representing four different continents, separated by thousands of kilometers, but united around a common goal: to enhance maritime cooperation and global security, fighting against terrorism. I must say that I am very proud of France being part of that common effort, in this very important part of the world.”
Embarked CTF 150 staff was composed of 24 seamen and women deployed onboard FS Var. This command at sea provided Captain Crignola with a good understanding of the regional maritime environment, and of the tactical situation. During these four months, the different units under French command conducted many queries and approaches over fishing and commercial vessels and dhows, as well as 30 flag verification boardings, with 8 of them leading to the discovery and seizure of dissimulated narcotics.
The handover ceremony was overseen by Vice Admiral John Miller, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, CMF, who said: “The Task Force has done outstanding work under Captain Crignola’s leadership, but the job continues and it’s not an easy one, by any means. Our work takes patience, long-term vision, and a great deal of cooperation. Success in this task force also requires extreme effort, on the part of all of our participating nations; given the massive size of our area of responsibility and its importance to world trade and security. We in CMF draw our strength from the diversity of our international coalition. We look forward to continued success and growth under the new leadership of Rear Admiral Ilyas and the Pakistan Navy.”
Before officially assuming command of the Task Force, Rear Admiral Muhammad Moazzam Ilyas, incoming Commander of CTF 150 greeted the French team and said: “I would like to congratulate Captain René-Jean Crignola and his team in completing a successful command of CTF 150 and contributing to regional peace and stability. The team’s professional conduct during the period has brought great laurels for CMF as well as the French Navy. I feel pride in taking over the helm from a thoroughly competent team and wish them ‘Fair Winds and Following Seas’.”
This is the eighth time that the Pakistan Navy has commanded CTF 150. During his career Rear Admiral Muhammad Moazzam Ilyas has commanded three missile boats and a destroyer. He has also served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations), Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Plans) and Chief Staff Officer to Commander Pakistan Fleet.
CTF 150 is one of three naval task forces operated by CMF, which is a multinational naval partnership of 30 nations. CTF 150’s principal mission is to suppress the exploitation of the maritime environment by those who keep up links with terrorist organizations. CTF 50 is committed to building maritime counter-terrorism capability in regional navies and to promoting regional security and stability. Its vessels also assist mariners in distress and other humanitarian work as required.