Russia seeking to deploy reconnaissance aircraft to Djibouti


Russia is seeking to base two Ilyushin Il-38 maritime surveillance aircraft to Djibouti in support of its anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. A number of nations base anti-piracy aircraft in the Horn of Africa country, which borders on the pirate infested waters of Somalia.

“We have asked France to host two reconnaissance planes at its air base in Djibouti in addition to three French planes deployed there,” Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said yesterday following a meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in Paris. Serdyukov, who spoke about the matter with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drien, said both ministers wanted to continue co-operating on anti-piracy efforts.

Russian warships have taken part in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden region since October 2008 and successfully escorted more than 130 commercial vessels from various countries through the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.

The international community runs several seaborne anti-piracy missions off North Africa, with the European Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta, NATO-led Operation Ocean Shield and Combined Taskforce 151 led by the United States. Atalanta was originally set up to safeguard the United Nation’s World Food Programme aid deliveries to Somalia but has expanded to take on a general anti-piracy role. Other nations like South Korea, China, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and India also have ships off the East African coast.

However, the Russian military believes that the deployment of reconnaissance aircraft in the region would significantly improve the effectiveness of its anti-piracy mission at sea.

A number of European nations currently deploy maritime surveillance aircraft to Djibouti in support of anti-piracy operations, including Portugal, Spain the United States (at Camp Lemonnier) and France (at Base Aerienee 188).

Maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from Luxembourg, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Portugal have been operating together with European Union Naval Force warships, usually taking off from Djibouti, Mombasa (Kenya) or Port Victoria (Seychelles).