The Spanish Navy is deploying Boeing Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) off the Somali coast as part of its Operation Atalanta anti-piracy deployment, with the aircraft logging more than 175 flight hours.
The Spanish Ministry of Defence said that the Scan Eagle system is deployed aboard the vessel Galicia, halfway into its Atalanta deployment, and has been producing some of the more valuable intelligence for European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) deployed on Operation Atalanta, in the waters of the Indian Ocean.
The system consists of four aircraft, one of which is specially designed for the acquisition of night images. The system can operate continuously for more than 18 hours. It is specially designed for data acquisition, both imaging and video, both day and night.
To date, the ‘Scan Eagle’ has completed 175 flight hours during this operation Atalanta deployment, without suffering any notable damage.
From a control station located in the ship’s flight hangar, the UAV is managed and controlled by operators from the newly formed Eleventh Squadron, part of the Naval Air Arm.
Scan Eagle has carried out missions including intelligence operations on the northern coasts of Somalia in June, and later on the East Coast, to identify and locate possible illegal activities related to piracy in the coastal strip. The UAVs have come to collect imagery for over eleven hours without being detected at any time.
Aboard the Galicia, the part of the Embarked Air Unit (UNAEMB) dedicated to the Scan Eagle system consists of three officer pilots, plus three NCOs and one sailor who perform maintenance work and preparation for the flight.
The Scan Eagle is the first RPA operating successfully from a Spanish navy vessel, and thus marks a milestone in Spain’s naval history.
This system has already been deployed in Afghanistan, where it operated from the advanced support base of Qala i Naw until the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent in 2013.
The Amphibious Assault ship Galicia sailed from its home port in Rota on 20 April to take art in Operation Atalanta, the European Union mission combating piracy in the Indian Ocean. It is scheduled for relief next October 6, after which it will return, to its home port.