NATO Maritime Air Forces Changes Command

NATO Maritime Air Forces Changes Command

Rear Admiral Thomas Ernst, German Navy, relieved French Navy Rear Admiral Jacques de Solms as NATO’s Commander, Maritime Air (COMMARAIR) and Deputy Chief of Staff Maritime Air for NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), on Wednesday, 10 July 2013.

During his tenure, de Solms led the complex consolidation of two regional air commands, COMMARAIR Naples and COMMARAIR Northwood into a single unified command headquartered in Northwood. The new command’s area of responsibility spans the North Atlantic and includes the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black and Norwegian Seas.

NATO’s COMMARAIR prepares, employs and commands all maritime aircraft which are deployed in support of MARCOM’s operations and missions. This ranges from exercises to large scale maritime operations where numerous daily combat air patrols are flown.

 “NATO’s maritime air forces bring critical capabilities to joint commanders,” said de Solms. “It has been my honor to conclude my career leading this talented team of naval aviators in their invaluable support of counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD and counter-terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR, among other operations.”

COMMARAIR has a wide range of different maritime aircraft at its disposal: fighter aircraft operating from aircraft carriers, helicopters flying from warships and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) based on land.

 “I look forward to working with the fine men and women of NATO’s Maritime Air Component,” said Ernst. “Our forces will continue to demonstrate consummate professionalism and vital flexibility in supporting the execution of MARCOM’s varied missions.”

Rear Admiral de Solms, who also served as acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations during his assignment to MARCOM, is retiring from the French Navy after a distinguished career spanning 38 years of dedicated service, which included operations in Lebanon, Bosnia, and Kosovo. While retiring from active duty, he will continue to provide invaluable service to fellow mariners as the General Inspector for the Channel, North Sea, and overseas territories for the French Lifeboat Association, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM). The voluntary organization is tasked with saving lives at sea around the French coast, including overseas departments and territories.

Rear Admiral Ernst, a former TORNADO fighter pilot, takes command with a wealth of experience in counter-piracy operations, as he previously served as Deputy Commander of the European Union Naval Force’s counter-piracy Operation ATALANTA. He has served in the German Navy since 1976.

Press Release, July 11, 2013; Image: NATO ACO