The Irish Defence Forces are well ahead of their counterparts when it comes to planning against terrorist hijacking of passenger ferries.

Sky News defense 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.

The Army Ranger Wing successfully deployed assault team elements by sea and by air onto the Stena Superfast Ferry before securing the vessel as it approached Dublin Port. LÉ James Joyce and the Air Corps CASA were used to locate, track and provide surveillance of the Ferry. ARW assault teams simultaneously boarded the Ferry from AW139 Helicopters and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats before securing the vessel.

The joint operations exercise was led by the Defense Forces Special Operations Task Group (The Army Ranger Wing) and supported by the Air Corps and Naval Service with a Defense Forces HQ Command and Control (C2) element.

The Special Operations Forces led scenario exercised the command and control, communications, intelligence and surveillance gathering capabilities of the Defense Forces.

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The Irish Army Ranger Wing (ARW) of the Republic of Ireland’s Defence Forces launch an assault via air and sea on a passenger ferry on the Irish Sea as part of a major maritime counter-terrorism (MCT) exercise. The Army Ranger Wing are Ireland’s elite special forces group, consisting of approximately 200 highly trained and skilled soldiers, and are the best funded and equipped unit of Ireland’s armed forces. In this video, the ARW use two AW139 helicopters from the Irish Air Corps (fast-roping) and a number of Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) and rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) from both the ARW and Irish Naval Service to successfully board the hijacked vessel, kill the terrorists and rescue the hostages. This scenario is seen as one of the more likely terror/hijacking possibilities in Europe, considering increased aviation security across the western world, but the Irish ARW show they’re fully prepared if anyone dares.


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 coordinated 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.

Defense 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.

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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 Defense Forces source said combining Naval Service, Air Corps, and Army in an exercise is “a complex operation”.

The Army Ranger Wing has been practicing 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.

Read More: Irish Examiner

Feature Media – Irish Examiner