On May 4 2013 the EU Naval Force Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft from the Spanish Air Force and based in Djibouti, flew far out to sea to the Dutch frigate HNLMS De Ruyter, to deliver spare parts for her NH90 helicopter.
With EU Naval Force’s counter piracy patrol area covering over 2 million square miles of ocean, air support from land to sea is crucial to ensure that the warships remain fully operational in order to maintain pressure on pirates.
The carefully wrapped helicopter parts were dropped into the sea next to De Ruyter from the Spanish aircraft’s sonar buoy tubes in a specially designed container. The container was equipped with a small stabilization parachute with an opening delay system to prevent it striking the aircraft when launched. Extra weight was also added to enhance the fall trajectory and buoyancy. After completing all the necessary tests with the aircraft on the ground, and satisfied with the results, the Spanish craftsmen proceeded to paint the container yellow to improve its visibility. Of course, they also included red stripes and the silhouette of a bull to resemble the Spanish flag.
The launch was successfully performed at a pre-determined time and position, and the container was immediately picked up by HNLMS De Ruyter.
After the drop, the aircraft returned to her counter piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia.
Speaking about the successful operation, Lieutenant Commander Jean Marc Stervinou, the logistics co-ordinator of the EU task force said
“This was an interesting challenge for the EU Naval Force units and a great example of effective and combined operations”. The EU Force Commander, Commodore Jorge Novo Palma, congratulated the Spanish MPRA team for demonstrating “flexibility and professionalism, thus enabling sustainability of an Operation Atalanta warship”.
Press Release, May 10, 2013; Image: EU Navfor