The Spanish Air Force P-3 and CN-235 maritime patrol detachment in Djibouti has flown 2 000 flight hours in support of Operation Atalanta, the European Union Naval Force’s anti-piracy operation.
The European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) announced that, since the beginning of the operation, Spain has permanently contributed a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance (MPRA) capability, flying more than 330 missions with both the P-3 Orion and CN-235 VIGMA aircraft.
The main tasks of the unit are to perform surface searches to locate designated or suspected vessels, mother ships and skiffs. The P-3 has also been used to assist vessels under pirate attack, alone or in coordination with other assets, such as helicopters and warships, the EU Navfor said in a statement.
The ‘Orion’ Detachment is an Expeditionary Tactical Unit, composed of 52 members from different Spanish Air Force units.
Portugal also has contributed aircraft to Atalanta. The first Portuguese P-3 arrived in Victoria, the Seychelles, to take part in Atalanta on April 21 last year. It was the first time a maritime patrol aircraft from Portugal participated in the EU Navfor operation. The aircraft arrived with 41 crew and support personnel from the Portuguese Air Force.
Portugal’s P-3 took part in Atalanta for four months, flying its last flight over the Somali Basin on August 20. The aircraft flew 320 hours, with an average of 10 flights per month, each of which lasted on average nine hours.
The P-3 joined aircraft from Sweden and Luxembourg. On March 8 last year the Swedish Coast Guard’s Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 turboprop conducted its first anti-piracy flight. It was stationed in the Seychelles for four months. It was the first time a maritime patrol aircraft from Sweden had participated in an international maritime operation.
Operation Atalanta’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid of the World Food Program (WFP) and vessels of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). EU Navfor also protects vulnerable vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, deterring and disrupting pirate activity. The operation also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.