USS Dubuque


05/06/2011 USS Dubuque is the fifth Austin class Amphibious Transport Dock and the second ship in that class built by Ingalls in Pascagoula. The Dubuque is due to be decommissioned this Summer. The USS Dubuque was in the news in the Fall of 2010 for its engagement in a counter-piracy action.  The ship is more than 44 years old. In an ABC news story from September 9, 2010:

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The photos show the USS Dubuque during operations in the Pacific in December 2010 and are credited to the USN Visual Service.

U.S. Marines today stormed a German-owned commercial vessel that had been captured by Somali pirates, in what appears to be the first U.S.-led military boarding off the coast of East Africa. The MV Magellan Star was located in the Gulf of Aden, about 85 miles south of the Yemeni town of al Mukalla, when 24 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raiding Force boarded and seized control of the ship early this morning.

There were no casualties among the raiding party or the ship’s crew, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. Nine alleged pirates were captured in the operation and are under coalition control.

Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost, spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said two teams of 12 marines stationed aboard the USS Dubuque boarded the Magellan Star at 5 a.m. Bahrain time. The raid “went down in minutes … and no shots were fired,” she said.

The pirates were overwhelmed and “the smartest move is not to react in a hostile way and they surrendered.”

The 11 crew members aboard the Magellan Star had remained in the ship’s safe room since the pirates seized the ship Wednesday. The marines rescued them shortly after they overtook the pirates, who were armed with AK-47 rifles.

Assigned to the international anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, the Navy’s USS Dubuque and USS Princeton had responded to the pirate seizure shortly after it occurred. The Dubuque and the Marines aboard were travelling through the Gulf of Aden en route to Jordan for a previously scheduled training exercise with the Jordanian military.

This is not the first time the U.S. military has used force to intercede in an act of piracy. In April of 2009, Navy SEAL snipers shot and killed three suspected pirates holding the captain of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama hostage on a lifeboat.

The difference in that operation was that the military acted after both the crew and the pirates had vacated the ship. Navy ships have also intervened during attacks while they were underway, but this is the first time a U.S. military team has boarded a ship fully under pirate control.

We have written earlier about the splitting of the MEU and the flexibility which this capability provides for the USN and USMC team.  This is an example of the outcome of that flexibility.

The Marines were from the same unit that responded to the Pakistan relief efforts and the ship was also part of the original three ships, headed by the USS Peleliu, that were off the coast of Pakistan. The United States is part of a joint piracy task force that includes NATO and navies from the European Union.

The Magellan Star, attacked and captured Sept. 8, was initially helped by a Turkish Navy vessel, which was the first to respond the ship’s distress calls. The U.S. warships carrying the Marines then arrived and subsequently boarded the Magellan Star.