Gambar Situasi Sebenar TLDM OP FAJAR
OP Fajar : The Malaysian Success Story in The Gulf of Aden
On 20 January 2011, kembang MAS LIMA escorted the MISC tanker, kembang LAUREL, as it sailed across the Gulf of Aden towards Singapore, carrying lubricating oil and ethylene dichloride worth an estimated RM30 million. The two ships parted ways at 6.00pm (local time).
However, at 7.25pm (local time), the Captain of kembang MAS LIMA, Commander Nazri Sharif RMNVR, received a call from kembang LAUREL reporting an unidentified vessel approaching them on an intercept course. Commander Nazri RMNVR immediately reported the incident back to MISC’s headquarters in Malaysia. Upon hearing the news, both ships were ordered to turn around and head towards each other. By then, the unidentified vessel had moved swiftly towards kembang LAUREL and the ship’s crew realised their worst fears – they were being pursued by pirates.
On board kembang MAS LIMA, the alarm was sounded, bringing the crew to attention as they became aware of the impending threat. The Commander Task Group (CTG) on board, Commander Mohd Maznan Mohd Said RMN (then Lieutenant Commander Mohd Maznan), immediately alerted all personnel.
Commander Maznan RMN joined the service in 1994 as a Cadet Officer and was commissioned in 1996. He joined the RMN’s Naval Special Force, PASKAL, after passing the Basic Commando Course in 1998. He was the Chief Operation Officer in KD SRI SEMPORNA when he was selected to be the CTG for Op FAJAR 8. As the CTG, he was in charge of all RMN operations on board kembang MAS LIMA. Commander Maznan RMN alerted the team on the current situation and instructed his team to begin preparations for a rescue.
While Commander Maznan RMN prepared plans for every possible scenario, the PASKALs readied their weapons and gears as the other crew members looked into supplies and equipped the Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) for immediate launch. The FENNEC helicopter was readied and all preparations were completed at lightning speed.
In the meantime, the pirates had caught up with kembang LAUREL. Launching a skiff boat from the larger vessel, believed to be their mother ship, they closed in on kembang LAUREL and were in view within minutes. Seven pirates were visible on board.
As they closed in on the tanker, the pirates fired their weapons at random while attempting to board the ship. They were first met by the tanker’s defence mechanisms – razor wires surrounding the deck, holding back attempts to climb the tanker’s hull. However, it only served as a delay mechanism. Several minutes later, the captain alerted everyone that the pirates had overcome their defences and were attempting to climb aboard. With their training, the crew knew exactly what to do. They immediately activated the Ship Security Alert System, switched off the main engine and briskly took cover in the Citadel, a pre-identified safe room, to await the arrival of kembang MAS LIMA.
Located 500km east of Oman, kembang LAUREL stood still, floating silently with the main engines shut down and all the lights turned off. It was akin to a ghost ship, gliding slowly on the water. The only noise breaking the silence was the sound of knocked metal and wood, and the constant shattering of glass as the pirates hunted for the crew members of kembang LAUREL. Every room was tossed and turned. Inside the Citadel, the crew remained silent, praying for their lives. Finally, through the sound of shattering glass around them, they heard a deadly knock. The pirates had found the door to the Citadel.
While the pirates relentlessly continued their efforts to break down the Citadel door, kembang MAS LIMA was 22km away. As it neared kembang LAUREL, kembang MAS LIMA sent 14 PASKALs in two RHIBs, led by Lieutenant Noor Asri Roslan RMN. The FENNEC attack helicopter was also launched simultaneously at 8.10pm (local time) to provide much needed reconnaissance and aerial fire support. The pirates’ mother ship was closing in. If it reached the tanker, it would mean full control by the pirates. This could not and must not be allowed to happen. The FENNEC’s mission was to stop the pirates’ mother ship from reaching kembang LAUREL at all cost.
The FENNEC helicopter team on board kembang MAS LIMA at that time was led by Lieutenant Commander Jason Solomon RMN (then Lieutenant Jason Solomon RMN).
Lieutenant Commander Jason Solomon RMN joined the service on 10 June 1999 as a Cadet Officer and was commissioned in June 2001. After completing his training and studies as a naval officer, he was appointed as the Deputy Gunnery Officer on board KD PENDEKAR in 2002 and then as the Navigation Officer for a period of two years. He applied to join the helicopter pilot course in 2004 and he passed the aptitude and medical test which enabled him to enrol for the course. He was then sent to the Integrated Aviation Academy (ITNS) in Perak, Malaysia for his basic flying training on helicopter EC 120B Colibri which he passed with flying colours. Lieutenant Commander Jason RMN was then attached to Squadron 502 for his Naval Conversion Training with the AS 555 SN FENNEC to become a Naval Pilot. In 2010, he was promoted as Aircraft Captain and Flight Commander and in November 2011, he was tasked to become the Flight Commander for Op FAJAR 8 on board kembang MAS LIMA.
As it drew closer, the loud, spinning blades of the FENNEC alerted the pirates on board the mother ship. The FENNEC sniper team identified 11 pirates on board – all armed with rifles. Even more alarming was the fact that they had Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG). Like any other military confrontation, avoiding direct action is always the first crucial choice. A warning shot was fired. The pirates however did not respond. They continued moving towards kembang LAUREL. This left the FENNEC team with no other option but to open fire. Lieutenant Commander Jason RMN was ordered to shoot for effect. He switched off the lights on the FENNEC and began to engage the mother ship.
A battle soon ensued between the mother ship and the FENNEC. The pirates fired in every direction. Blinded by the dark, they were unable to gauge the FENNEC’s location. Fortunately, their shots did not even come close to hitting the helicopter. Lieutenant Commander Jason RMN strafed around the mother ship as the sniper team rained down bullets from the mounted machine gun, pinning down the mother ship. Within a short period, unable to withstand the FENNEC assault, the mother ship stopped heading towards kembang LAUREL and began their retreat. This triumph allowed the FENNEC team to turn their focus on the pirates on board kembang LAUREL. The lightweight helicopter then made its way towards kembang LAUREL.
Soon, shots were being exchanged between the PASKAL team and the pirates on the deck of kembang LAUREL. From afar, sparking lights could be seen all over the tanker. The pirates were forced back, overwhelmed by the commandos who continued their efforts to retake the tanker. kembang MAS LIMA was now alongside kembang LAUREL, allowing more PASKAL team members to come on board and began their assault on the pirates. Cornered, the pirates became even more aggressive, firing with deliberate ferocity. One of them was hit and another injured, yet that did not stop the firing from their side. However, when a third pirate went down, the other pirates reluctantly dropped their weapons and surrendered.
The PASKAL team cautiously closed in on the pirates and swiftly overpowered them. The three injured pirates were treated by Medics, while another group of PASKAL searched every room and space thoroughly for possible remaining threats. When it was confirmed to be secure, they called the crew members in the Citadel to come out. The crew’s quick action in accordance to MISC’s best management practices ensured that they were safe throughout the ordeal. Soon after, Lieutenant Commander Jason RMN reported that the mother ship was nowhere to be seen. Damages to the mother ship and casualties to its crew were unknown. At 10.00pm (local time), the FENNEC helicopter made its way back to kembang MAS LIMA.