U.S. Navy Destroyer Seizes RPGs, Machine Guns From Dhows off Somalia

Seized RPG launchers (USN)

Published Feb 16, 2021 2:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last week, the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill seized shipments of weapons and weapons parts from two dhows off the coast of Somalia. 

Churchill’s boarding team and an embarked interdiction team found the illicit cargo during a flag verification boarding, which was conducted in accordance with international law and in international waters. The two dhows had no flag registry. 

The cache of weapons aboard the two vessels included thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew-served weapons. Additional weapons components included spare barrels, stocks and scopes.

Images courtesy USN

Churchill found the dhows and stood by to provide support for its boarding teams throughout the 40-hour operation. The destroyer's crew gave the two dhow crews food and water before allowing them to go. 

The Churchill has been deployed since August 10, and she was on a maritime security patrol in the region at the time of the seizure. Her mission off Somalia is part of the U.S. Navy’s presence and interdiction operations in the 5th Fleet AOR. The long-running operation is intended to ensure the free flow of commerce and disrupt the transport of illicit cargoes. Multiple naval forces maintain a security presence in the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean, including the rotating partnership of nations in Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150). 

“This joint team [Army, Navy and Coast Guard] on board Churchill came together to successfully execute this operation over the course of two days in the Indian Ocean. These operations prevent nefarious actors from illegally spreading their lethal aid,” said Cdr. Timothy Shanley, the commanding officer of Churchill.