NATO launched its new maritime operation – named Sea Guardian – in the Mediterranean on 9 November to conduct surveillance activities, counter-terrorism and capacity building of regional navies.
Sea Guardian also stands ready to support the European Union’s Operation Sophia with situational awareness and logistical support, NATO said. Sea Guardian replaces NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour, which was set up in response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Sea Guardian was created at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016.
Sea Guardian comes under the command of Headquarters Allied Maritime Command (HQ MARCOM), Northwood, United Kingdom, and forces are generated from national assets.
Three NATO surface ships – the Italian Artigliere (Lupo)-class frigate ITS Aviere , the Bulgarian Type E-71 Wielingen-class frigate BGS Verni, and the Turkish FFG 7 Gabya-class frigate TCG Gemlik – were joined by the lead Greek Type 214 diesel-electric submarine (SSK) HS Papanikolis and the Spanish S 70 Galerna (Agosta)-class boat ESPS Mistral for Sea Guardian.
NATO said Sea Guardian “will help maintain an accurate picture of daily activity in the Mediterranean to help identify possible security concerns”. The assets involved “will contribute information to maintain a comprehensive picture of the operating area”. Sea Guardian also could address freedom of navigation, interdiction, and counter-proliferation tasks, if required by the alliance.
So far, the major maritime operations conducted by NATO have been Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean and Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa. More recently, NATO has been assisting Frontex, and Greek and Turkish national authorities in their efforts to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis in the Aegean.