Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Monday, July 16, 2012

Persian Gulf: USNS Rappahannock Fires after Vessel ignores warnings

USNS Rappahannock Fires after Vessel ignores warnings:
An embarked security team aboard a U.S. Navy vessel fired upon a small motor vessel after it disregarded warnings and rapidly approached the U.S. ship near Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates today.

In accordance with Navy force protection procedures, the sailors on the USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) used a series of non-lethal, preplanned responses to warn the vessel before resorting to lethal force.

Circled area includes Jebel Ali
The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun.

The incident is under investigation.
UPDATE: Al Jazeera report:
A US navy vessel has fired on an approaching motor boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, killing one person and injuring three others, reports said.

Lieutenant Greg Raelson, a spokesman for the navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said on Monday that sailors aboard the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on the boat after it ignored warnings.

"US ships have an inherent right to self defense against potential threats... The safety of our vessels and our personnel is of the utmost priority," he told Al Jazeera in an email response to a query.

A US consular official in Dubai confirmed the incident, telling the Associated Press that one person was killed and three others injured.

Dozens of police and other Emirati officials crowded around the boat after it docked after the incident in a small Dubai port used by fishermen and sailors. The boat was removed from the port shortly afterward.

Rescue workers were seen carrying one person in a body bag off the white-hulled boat and placing it in an ambulance as fishermen looked on, AP reported.

The boat appeared to be a civilian vessel about 9 meters long and powered by three outboard motors.

Similar boats are used for fishing in the region, though Iran's Revolutionary Guard also employs relatively small, fast-moving craft in the Gulf.
UPDATE2: A timeline from the U.S. Navy:


  1. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I have served on the Rappahannock and numerous other vessels in the Persian Gulf. It is not uncommon to have unknown craft approach USNS ships, but never have I seen them not get the message and turn away. It is reported that they were just fishermen, but the question is why did they not turn away in the face of superior firepower. It is a tradgedy, but the security forces did the right thing and I am sure they are not happy about having to do it.

  2. Very good wrap-up with great graphics; many thanks for sharing!

  3. Anonymous9:04 AM

    It is a shame someone has to die for stupidity. I only hope that the sailors followed protocol and the Indian helmsman was just plain stupid. Does anyone not know that warships exude danger to anyone foolish enough to challenge?

  4. It would appear that the EST sailors DID follow ROE, you assuming otherwise? And yes the Indian boat crew was wrong to approach a USNS and NOT heed many warnings. There is always the 10% who do NOT get the message.
    OTOH maybe the boat was acting in a threatening manner and DID appear suspicious? And did NOT look like an ordinary fishing boat?

  5. "It is a shame someone has to die for stupidity."

    Unfortunately, it's probably the number one killer, everywhere. Considering how much press piracy has gotten (which makes naval reductions even more curious, but that's another discussion), it should be pretty common knowledge among mariners in the area, either through the media or word of mouth (the Middle East runs on rumors, so word gets around, whether it's accurate or not is a different question), that once shots have been fired, backing off is the only reasonable option.

    Even in the West, one periodically encounters someone who has a fragementary knowledge of the rules of the road. This is often seen in people who read the part about sailing vessels having the right of way but didn't continue on to the section about vessels constrained by draft, towing, minesweeping and so on. This has been the source of many exciting moments for OODs and the deck watch of large merchant vessels.