The latest addition to the arsenal keeping pirates at bay off the Horn of Africa is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Last week the 32nd wing of the Italian Air Force completed its first tasking with EUNavFor – a successful 11 hour check test flight of a General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.
Based in Djibouti the wing will now put its UAVs into service monitoring the sea off the coast of Somalia where pirates have been known to operate and give early warning of possible attacks.
In addition to providing more real-time intelligence on possible pirate attacks, the Predators will also be used to monitor the safety of World food programme (WFP) vessels transiting the Indian Ocean to provide food and other necessities to needy people in East Africa.
This will be the first time UAV’s have been deployed in anti-piracy operations off Africa’s east coast.
The US Air Force is the largest operator of Predators which it terms a MALE UAS (medium altitude, long endurance, unmanned aircraft system).
The US is operating UAVs in Africa using the remote piloted aircraft to provide intelligence on Islamist militants in Niger and they have also been instrumental in the destruction of an al Qaeda enclave in Mali. A Predator has also been used to assist in the search for the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.