By lex, on May 19th, 2011
A US Navy helicopter crew fired on a Somali skiff engaged in piracy, apparently killing all four pirates:
The interdiction took place at 10:35 a.m. local time. The Norfolk, Va.-based Bulkeley, assigned to Joint Task Force 150, had received a mayday call from the German-owned, Panamanian-flagged crude carrier Artemis Glory, which said it was being chased and attacked by pirates.
Bulkeley responded to the mayday call, first heard by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship and relayed to Combined Maritime Forces, by launching an SH-60B Seahawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Squadron Light 48, Detachment 4, to investigate. When it arrived on station — a command spokesman could not provide the distance or transit time — the crew saw four individuals in a skiff firing at Artemis Glory, using small arms.
The helicopter crew opened fire on the skiff under what command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Sam Hearn of the Royal Navy said was the principle of “extended unit self-defense” on behalf of the crude carrier. All four pirates are believed to have been killed, Hearn said. Hearn said he did not know which weapon system was employed but noted that the SH-60B is equipped with a single M-240 machine gun.
Officials do not believe the helicopter was fired upon by the pirates, Hearn said.
Other rules of engagement may be in effect, and if so they are properly classified. But based on the JCS Special ROE of 2000, extending the concept of collective self-defense to non-US forces and foreign nationals or their property may not be delegated below the National Command Authority level. Which is perhaps why I’ve been hearing some back channel chatter that this demonstration of both determination and accuracy is not universally admired at headquarters.
But it’s hard for even highly trained and disciplined good guys to sit idly by and watch bad guys commit an overtly hostile and illegal act against innocents without executing a proportional response. The power to prevent a present evil implying the responsibility to do so. If the collective/NATO ROE governing piracy need work – and it’s quite possible that they do – then this event should document the necessity, rather than serve as cause for punishment. The optics of which, once scarcely need mention, would be terrible.
To quote from my own sidebar:
“A kind Providence has placed in our breasts a hatred of the unjust and cruel, in order that we may preserve ourselves from cruelty and injustice. They who bear cruelty, are accomplices in it. The pretended gentleness which excludes that charitable rancour, produces an indifference which is half an approbation. They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.”–Edmund Burke