Spanish MPRA Crucial to EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta

Spanish MPRA Crucial to EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta

Playing a key role in the EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta are the Spanish Airforce P3-M Orion Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA).

The aircraft are based in Djibouti and have been a stalwart part of the operation since 3 January 2009, they provide an unbroken expertise assisting and co-ordinating other MPRA contributors based both in Djibouti and the Seychelles. The Spanish MPRA detachment in Djibouti consists of one aircraft and 56 personnel including aircrew, maintainers, picture analysts and operations personnel. The aircraft fly around 13 missions per month which totals 100 flying hours.

The P3 is the perfect aircraft for the operation able to take both imagery intelligence and conduct radar surface searches.

As well as providing the P3-M support to Operation Atalanta the Spanish detachment have a 24 hour communications centre and provide a focal point for Search and Rescue and Combat Search and Rescue (SAR) to the operation. This allows the co-ordination of SAR for all the units of the Atalanta Task Force.

Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Clavero Mañueco, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the detachment, said:” It is a great honour to be deployed with the EU Naval Force and I am very proud to be in command of a great team in this detachment. The Spanish MPRA has been continually deployed with Operation Atalanta providing continuity and co-ordination for the operation. There is great co-operation, especially with the French and German MPRA crews. We share crewmen with all three nations flying on each others missions. We also share spare parts, and support each other whenever needed.”

Asked about his task providing reconnaissance to Operation Atalanta, the CO said: “Pirates success has certainly fallen but there are still 2 vessels with 60 hostages in pirates’ hands. I think our operation, patrolling the coast of East Africa and sea off the Horn of Africa, checking skiffs, dhows, beaches and villages has an impact on piracy, probably contributing to a change in their business model. But the current trend is reversible and Spain will remain committed. We are concerned about vessels transiting the area exposed to the threat of piracy.”

MPRAs provide the EU Naval Force with essential information to assess the situation off the Horn of Africa. Additionally they are the instrument of choice to locate pirate logistic dumps on the coastline and pirate action groups at sea, able to cover a large search area.

Naval Today Staff, March 20, 2013; Image: EUNAVFOR