Last week saw a detachment of 20 Royal Danish Air Force officers and enlisted service members fly their Challenger CL-604 from the Seychelles for the final time on an Operation Ocean Shield sortie.
The flight and a visit by Commander Maritime Air NATO Commodore Andreas Vettos marked the end of the 6th Royal Danish Air Force Challenger deployment as a part of NATO standing Operation Ocean Shield.
The Danish detachment was the last of NATO forces assigned to the counter piracy mission in the Indian Ocean. The detachment completed 17 sorties and logged nearly 90 flight hours during their month-long tour.
“The work done to deter attacks and to provide surveillance by the Danish detachments all these years is admirable and has helped increase the safety of seafarers in this region. Without our presence in this area the situation would be far worse,” Major Anders Peter Kyed, detachment commander, said. “We have concluded a demanding deployment and I would like to express my congratulations and gratitude for the crews’ continuous effort and relentlessly sustained workload.”
The Danes primary task was to produce an intelligence picture composed of the pattern of life along the Somali coastline; within tiny camps and large cities. The detachment covered 1.800 km of coastline in which intelligence specialists reviewed and disseminated photographs and video files to produce the intelligence picture.
In the vast area of operations, NATO co-ordinates with the European Union (EU) Naval Force and Coalition Maritime Force for the best use of surface vessels and aircraft. All three have their own part to play but all information is shared.
Multiple Royal Danish Air Force detachments have rotated through the post since 2011. Their participation supported NATO’s ongoing efforts since 2009, to deter and disrupt pirate attacks, while at the same time protecting vessels and helping increase stability and security in the region.
The detachment shut down outpost operations as Operation Ocean Shield prepares to conclude at the end of the year. Overall Danish Challenger aircraft detachments completed more than 200 flights totalling more than 1,100 hours of patrolling along the Somali coastline and in the Indian Ocean since 2011.
As part of a larger co-operation with the EU, United States and independent deployers, NATO has seen piracy activities in this area decrease from multiple incidents each month to zero within the last two years. At its peak, 33 ships were held captive.
As a NATO alliance member, the Danes bring this capability to support the international effort to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. Since early on in Operation Ocean Shield, Denmark has contributed multiple naval vessels and surveillance aircraft to the NATO effort for differing periods of time. Denmark’s efforts are part of the larger collaborative response including NATO members and partners from across the region. These efforts are commanded from the Allied Maritime Command Headquarters in Northwood, United Kingdom.
NATO Maritime Command maintains an active interest in all aspects of maritime security. In addition to active efforts in East Africa, NATO Maritime Command also operates the NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) in the United Kingdom which provides generic advice on the piracy threat to ship owners as well as guidance on best-practices. The NSC is frequently contacted by masters and shipping companies who sail throughout the region.