The Spanish Air Force maritime patrol aircraft detachment stationed in Djibouti has rotated its aircrew as it continues to support the European Union Naval Force’s anti-piracy operations in the region.
The 32nd and 33rd crew rotations performed their handover in Djibouti on 23 January. The Spanish maritime patrol aircraft detachment comprises 44 people including aircrew and maintenance technicians, who usually join the mission for two months at a time, the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) said.
During the last two months with the EU’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta, the outgoing personnel of the 32nd rotation, usually based in Palma de Mallorca with the Spanish Air Forces Wing 48, flew 25 night and day sorties. With more than 200 flying hours, they flew over 26 000 nautical miles.
The Spanish detachment flies the Lockheed P-3 Orion and Airbus CN235 maritime patrol aircraft. Since March 2012 the P-3 detachment has achieved a 100% mission success rate. Their contribution to the EU’s counter piracy operation has been of enormous value, and their achievements are based on their outstanding willingness and enthusiasm, the EU Navfor said.
“The outgoing crew can be proud of the tremendous job they achieved in their four months in area of operation. I am sure I can count on the new personnel to take on the duty with the same excellent standards,” stated the Force commander, Rear Admiral Herve Blejean.
The first flight of the Orion Detachment, operating as part of Operation Atalanta, took place on 27 January 2009, and since then the Spanish Air Force has been the only European Union country to have maintained a permanent maritime patrol aircraft presence for counter piracy operations, the EU Navfor said. The Spanish P-3 detachment has flown more than 5 000 hours with Atalanta.
EU Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft are used for long-range maritime reconnaissance and search and rescue missions.
Other nations also contribute maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft to Atalanta, such as Portugal, Sweden and Luxembourg.