HMS Liverpool drives Gaddafi's gunboats back to port

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The main gun of HMS Liverpool has recently driven four boats back to shore as the destroyer once again thwarted Colonel Gaddafi's forces off Libya.

In the latest attempt by pro-Gaddafi forces to interrupt the sea lanes in the Gulf of Sirte, four craft were spotted between Al Khums and Zlitan - a few miles west of the besieged city of Misurata.

Several shots across the bow from the Portsmouth-based destroyer’s 4.5-inch (11.5cm) gun sent the boats scurrying for the relative safety of harbour.

Land and naval forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi have made repeated attempts to take Misurata and block the port, including laying mines.

In this sortie, three rigid inflatable boats and one small craft were spotted leaving Zlitan harbour - which is in Government hands - by NATO forces patrolling in the area.

Liverpool was sent in to investigate and tracked the boats using her array of sensors. She identified that personnel were being transferred between the four craft.

Sea Dart missile firing from onboard HMS Liverpool
Sea Dart missile firing from onboard HMS Liverpool (stock image) [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD]

If left unchecked, these craft could have posed a possible threat to the civilian population, so the destroyer went to action stations and closed in on the four boats, warning them to return to port.

After half-an-hour of such warnings with no response, Liverpool’s 4.5-inch gun fired a warning shot across their bows. A high explosive shell roared from the ship and was seen to land to the east of the contacts.

One rigid inflatable boat took the hint and returned to port, but the three remaining craft refused to budge - initially. A salvo of three more warning shots crashed into the water near the boats, whose crew got the message and went back to Zlitan:

Through the reading of warnings, we were able to give pro-Gaddafi forces the opportunity to return to their base port,” said Liverpool’s Commanding Officer, Commander Colin Williams.

It shows that they can be kept at bay by a responsible show of force, without unnecessary violence.

My ship’s company once again showed their professional attitude, responding admirably to another challenge laid before them.

It’s the second time the four-and-a-half inch gun has been fired in anger by Liverpool. Last month she was fired on with rockets in the same area and again returned fire with her gun - which has a range of more than 12 nautical miles (22km).

Her key role in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, as a member of the NATO Task Group, is in support of UN Security Council Resolutions 1973 and 1970, enforcing embargo operations along the Libyan coast.

She left Portsmouth at the end of March 2011 to relieve the Type 22 frigate HMS Cumberland on 8 April 2011. She remains off the coast of Libya.