A German Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft is being stationed in Djibouti, where it is carrying out anti-piracy patrols as part of the European Union Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta.
On Thursday last week the P-3 conducted its first flight along the coast of Somalia, looking for pirate bases. The aircraft, from Marinefliegergeschwader (MFG) 3 (Naval Air Wing 3) ‘Graf Zeppelin’ based in Nordholz, Germany, will take part in Atalanta until December. Prior to receiving the P-3, 45 tonnes of ground support equipment and spare parts were flown to Djibouti aboard an Antonov An-124 operated by Volga Dnepr.
In a letter to the detachment, the EU Navfor Force Commander, Rear Admiral Thomas Jugel, welcomed the P-3 personnel: “Let me heartily welcome the German P-3C Orion Detachment and all its men and women in Operation Atalanta. Let’s work together!”
“As we all know, Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft provide an indispensable supplement to our intelligence and reconnaissance capability. And reliable intelligence is prerequisite for successful counter piracy operations. Keeping this in mind, the German aircraft joins exactly at the right time. This reinforcement is urgently needed because we will see a strong pirate surge during the upcoming inter monsoon phase”, said Rear Admiral Thomas Jugel.
German Navy P-3s have taken part in anti-piracy patrols from Djibouti since 2008, completing several six-month deployments.
The German P-3s use electro-optical/infrared equipment for their patrol missions. According to Code One magazine, German P-3s came with Star Sapphire systems but some aircraft were fitted with Wescam MX-15 systems in theatre, with Wescam MX-20 electro-optical/infrared cameras scheduled to be installed on German P-3s this year.
Germany’s P-3s originally came from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, which ordered thirteen P-3Cs in 1978. After defence cuts in 2004, the P-3s were sold, with five being sent to Portugal and eight to Germany. The latter received its P-3s in 2005 and 2006.