The contribution made by the Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire [EdA]) to the European Union (EU) Operation Atalanta earned its aircraft flotilla the operation’s emblem, a heraldic device as a permanent reminder of “prolonged and successful participation”.
The Spanish aircraft flotilla (FLOAN) has been part of the operation since the first Spanish frigate was tasked with Atalanta duty in 2009. Its participation in the operation has seen deployments aboard Spanish F-80 class frigates, maritime action ships (BAM), Galicia and Castilla amphibious ships and Patiño and Cantabria supply ships. Helicopters from the 10th (SH-60B ‘Seahawk’), the 5th (SH-3D) and 3rd Squadron (AB-212), in addition to the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the 11th Squadron, are other air assets used for Atalanta missions. 4th Squadron aircraft provided logistic support to the Operation when called on, a EU NavFor Op Atalanta statement reads.
Currently, the FLOAN has an air unit embarked on the frigate Victoria (F82). It is manned by personnel and aircraft from the 3rd and 11th squadrons sailing the Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean.
To date, the aircraft flotilla (FLOAN) in Operation Atalanta logged 45 embarked air units (UNAEMBs) deployed in the area of operations with just on six thousand days on mission and over eight thousand flight hours.
During the emblem award ceremony, Operation Atalanta commander Vice Admiral José María Núñez Torrente expressed gratitude to FLOAN pilots, flight crews and maintenance and support personnel for a prolonged and effective effort. “Thanks to your efforts over 15 years of operation, Spain and the EU have been able to contribute their grain of sand to preserve peace, ensure freedom of navigation and increase maritime security in an area of vital importance for global maritime traffic and for our interests.”
This is the third Emblem of Operation EU NavFor Atalanta Operation Commander presented to units that have been part of Operation Atalanta in “a prolonged and notable manner”. The previous occasions were on 13 January 2023 when the first emblem was presented to the 22nd Group of the Spanish Air and Space Force, at the Morón Air Base (Seville), and on 4 May 2023, the second emblem going to the 41st Escort Squadron of the Spanish Navy “Armada”.