Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151) recently completed Focused Operation IKARUS (FO IKARUS) around the Somali Coast, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, raising awareness of their presence in the area and ensuring information flow and coordination between CTF151’s headquarters, its ships and other agencies in the region.

The international operation was supported by partners including Djibouti, the French Marine Nationale, the Seychelles People’s Defence Force, the Japanese Navy, Spanish Navy and Republic of Korean (ROK) Navy.

Over a three day period, units conducted a boarding exercise, medical evacuation exercise and pattern of life data gathering. Units also engaged with the local merchant community through conducting friendly approaches and maritime awareness calls. These activities worked to successfully reassure legitimate mariners that CTF151 is constantly monitoring and patrolling to deter and disrupt piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

The activities were not limited solely to the units at sea; information gathering activities helped to develop the maritime picture, assisting Commanders’ understanding of the situation. United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) was busy gathering data and ensuring information flow across the units, whilst the Canadian satellite Unclassified Remote-Sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) was tasked with gathering data from space.

The main exercise serial was a simulated incident, with a merchant vessel boarded by pirates. The regional counter-piracy effort sprang into action. Two boarding teams from the ROK Navy and the Spanish Navy suppressed the threat and took back the ship. To make things a little more complex, a simulated casualty incident immediately ensued, testing the interoperability between units in the region. CMF successfully coordinated a helicopter lift for the “casualty” and arranged evacuation to a French Marine Nationale hospital in Djibouti.

Overall, FO IKARUS was a hugely successful exercise, acting as a deterrent against piracy by increasing CMF and other key regional partners’ visibility and exposure in the area of operations, and effectively testing every level of command, from the boarding parties to the CTF151 headquarters staff.

This was one of the final operations conducted by the Kuwait Navy, before they handed over command of CTF151 to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force in February. The Japanese will command the mission to deter and disrupt maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for the next four months.