The two Spanish Navy warships participated in NATO’s operation ‘Ocean Shield’ and EU’s operation ‘Atalanta’ fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. They have both been relieved by other Spanish Navy ships in the port of Djibouti.
The frigate ‘Álvaro de Bazán’ (F-101) has been relieved by her sister ship ‘Cristóbal Colón’ (F-105) as flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2) under the command of the Spanish Rear-admiral Eugenio Díaz del Río.
SNMG-2 is one of the two Immediate Reaction Forces of NATO with a high level of readiness to operate wherever required. Since December 2013 the group leads the counter-piracy operation ‘Ocean Shield’ in the Indian Ocean.
During the stay in Djibouti, Commander Enrique Núñez de Prado relieved Commander Manuel Aguirre as CO of the frigate ‘Cristóbal Colón’. During the four-month deployment, the frigate will also accommodate RA Díaz del Rio’s International Staff.
On the other hand, the OPV ‘Tornado’, participating in the EU operation ‘Atalanta’, was relieved by her sister ship ‘Relámpago’.
These Oceanic Patrol Vessels (BAM in its Spanish initials) are state-of-the-art, multi-purpose vessels designed for maximum logistic efficiency and the optimization of her human resources to carry out sea control missions in low intensity scenarios. They have deterrence and reaction capability for conventional threats in oceanic or far-away theatres of operation. They have a very high level of automation and can be manned by small crews. In fact just 83 people operate this 95 m. long and 2,500-ton warship.
For this specific mission, the ship’s capabilities have been enhanced with an embarked helicopter and a Marine Corps security team. The ‘Relámpago’ is under the command of Lt-Cdr Isidoro Junguito.
The main mission of operation ‘Atalanta’ is to provide escort to World Food Program and Somali African Mission ships. Other tasks include verification of self-protection measures of merchant ships, surveillance and reconnoiter of suspected pirate camps in the coast of Somalia, protection of the IRTC (Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor) and the control of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
Press Release, March 20, 2014; Image: Armada