The Irish Defence Forces are well ahead of their French counterparts when it comes to planning against terrorist hijacking of passenger ferries.
Sky News defence correspondent Alistair Bunkal reported that French special forces have just carried out their first counter-terrorism exercise in on a ferry in the English Channel — the Irish have carried out several such operations in recent years.
Mr Bunkal showed footage of the Irish operation as an example of how a textbook anti-terrorist exercise at sea should be carried out.
He said ferries could be considered soft targets compared to aircraft, where there are stringent checks on luggage and, in some cases, armed air marshals onboard.
Mr Bunkal pointed out that the Irish exercise featured special forces landing from a helicopter at the same time as others scrambled up rope ladders after alighting from high-speed RIBs (rigid inflatable boats).
Mr Bunkal said it was an “incredibly difficult thing” to board a moving ship in such a co-ordinated manner.
The Irish exercise took place in the Irish Sea, just off Dublin Bay, in the middle of May and it wasn’t the first.
Defence Forces sources confirmed such exercises have taken place every two years for a number of years.
The assault teams boarded the Stena Line’s Superfast ferry, which had passengers onboard who were told it was an exercise.
The special forces’ Army Ranger Wing alighted from both the RIBs and a helicopter in a pincer movement to secure the vessel.
They were also backed up by LÉ James Joyce, which shadowed the ferry during the operation, and by an Air Corps plane carrying out surveillance.
A Defence Forces source said combining Naval Service, Air Corps, and Army in an exercise is “a complex operation”.
The Army Ranger Wing has been practising a number of terrorist countermeasures since well before the Government recently announced that the threat of a terrorist attack in this country has been moved up a notch to ‘moderate’.
The Army Ranger Wing has specialist skills which were seen in the ferry exercise. Some are trained for a seaborne attack while others are expert in aerial assault tactics.
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