More Details on the Rescue

It looks like there really was some fantastic marksmanship at work in this incident with the Somali Pirates.   I have to share Dave Kopel’s sentiment that President Obama deserves kudos for ordering the Navy to do what they had to do, and get the captain back by whatever means were prudent, even if it meant dead pirates.  When he does something right, I will praise him.  Let’s look at the marksmanship though:

U.S. Navy snipers fatally shot three pirates holding an American cargo-ship captain hostage after seeing that one of the pirates “had an AK-47 leveled at the captain’s back,” a military official said Sunday.

The captain, who’d been held in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean since Wednesday, was rescued uninjured, Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters.


U.S. forces moved to rescue Phillips after seeing him in imminent danger on the lifeboat, Gortney said. A fourth pirate was negotiating Phillips’ fate aboard the nearby USS Bainbridge.

“While working through the negotiations process tonight, the on-scene commander from the Bainbridge made the decision that the captain’s life was in immediate danger, and the three pirates were killed,” Gortney said. “The pirate who surrendered earlier today is being treated humanely; his counterparts who continued to fight paid with their lives.”

Now imagine the shot they had to take.  You’re on the deck of a ship that’s pitching in the high seas, and shooting at targets who are also pitching in the same seas.  You not only have to be able to aim to where the targets are right now, but where they will be by the time the bullet finds it way to the target.  The distances involved are probably on the order of hundreds of yards, if not more.  The pirates “was shot in the head.” according to a defense official.

We should thank God we have such skilled men and women defending our country.  I’m going to bet future pirates are going to avoid American flagged vessels from this point forward.

UPDATE: Blackfive is reporting the distance was about 25 meters.  I’m surprised the pirates allowed themselves to be reeled in that close.  Either way, there’s no such thing as a fair gunfight.

13 thoughts on “More Details on the Rescue”

  1. If the official Obama Administration policy on pirates is “we’ll feed their cooling bodies to sharks” it’d be probably the first thing I agree with them on.

    I was trying to picture that shot as well, and then figure in that they had to take out 3 or 4 of them at the same time is even more impressive.

  2. I know what it’s like to fire at a target from a ship on the ocean. Back some years ago, off Beruit, my ship had a training operation where we dropped a weather balloon ( filled with air instead of helium so it didn’t take off ) overboard and then took up station about 1000 yards away and steamed back and forth. Marksmen on the ship attempted to hit the balloon with rifle and 50 cal. ( Navy and Marines both ) My station had a 50 cal but we were not allowed to fire because we had no com with CIC ( sound powered phones not working ). Eventually, every one of the other stations used all of the available ammo they had without hitting the target. Probably over a thousand rounds had been fired. By this time we had fixed our com problem, so they gave me the go-ahead. I racked the 50 cal twice to charge it, took aim, let loose a 5 round burst and hit it dead on. Lucky as hell. I was pissed because they made me stop shooting.

    I don’t know what range they were working at for the shots they made, but it sure wasn’t easy to make them.

  3. Appparantly the boats were pretty close. Within 100 yards – with at least the Navy Spokesman during the news conference today saying it could have been as close as 60 yards. That doesn’t sound right to me – its just way too close. But its what I heard someone say on Fox this afternoon.

    In either case, kudos to Obama for giving them the order to do what was necessary and then not interferring. And to the Seals for pulling it off – frankly, I’m more impressed that they were dumped in the sea in the middle of the night with their boat and then made their way to the Navy ship.

  4. “I’m going to bet future pirates are going to avoid American flagged vessels from this point forward.”

    Uhmm…no. They’ve pretty much declared war on American ships after this incident.

    Read it here:

    “Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding the Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” he told The Associated Press. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

  5. OrangeNY

    Thats what they’ve been talking about on the news, but I’m not sure if I buy it. These guys hijack boats for the quick ransom and payment. If they kill a crew, they stand no chance of getting a ransom (though in fairness to them, if they kill some crew members, perhaps they can force a quicker ransom).

    But still, it raises the stakes too much for them and I suspect they want to avoid that and simply get their money quick..

  6. Several sites are saying 25-30 yards. The destroyer was towing the lifeboat by the time they took the shots. I expect they had reeled it in little by little. At that range, they ought to be able to shoot the parrots off their shoulders. With headshots.
    Wonder what tattoo seals get for shooting a pirate?

  7. Obama didn’t give the order to shoot. As Uncle Jimbo stated on Blackfive.

  8. CNN has a nice video of how the rescue went down- shots were from 75 feet away (roughly 25 meters). They also interview Vice Adm. William Gortney, who recommends that shipping companies hire “armed security detachments.” Interesting to see if that idea will gain traction.

    Linky: (Vice Adm. Gortney’s comments about armed security is in the last half of the video)

  9. Some background material: One of my contacts, whose bona fides are vouched for by a man I know to be a former naval officer, was a SEAL.

    This contact tells me that SEAL snipers can *guarantee* a hit out to 200 yards, whether they’re on a ship, zodiac, helo, treading water, or even on dry, nonmoving land.

    I, on the other hand, can pretty much guarantee ignominiously drowning while treading water with a heavy rifle and combat load.

Comments are closed.