One of the key elements of the EU Naval Force’s counter-piracy operation in the waters of the Horn of Africa is the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA). These long-range, capable aircraft conduct aerial patrols over the sea areas where pirates are known to operate and can provide early warning of a potential pirate attack.
Spain has been a key contributor of maritime patrol aircraft to Operation Atalanta since it was launched by the European Union in December 2008 following a surge in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Each MPRA team serves in the EU Naval Force for approximately eight months.
On Wednesday 19 March the outgoing XVIII Contingent held a Transfer of Authority (TOA) ceremony with the XIX team to hand over their counter-piracy duties. The ceremony took place at the French Air Base in Djibouti.
The military ceremony was presided over by the Chief of Plans & Programmes of the Air Combat Command, Colonel Pablo Guillen García.
Speaking about his XVIII contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Policarpo Sánchez Sánchez, stated “I am very proud of the excellent work that my team have performed. They have worked long hours to ensure that the Force Commander had the best possible aerial imagery of the piracy High Risk Area (HRA).
The in-coming air contingent, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jacobo Lecube Porrúa, has returned to the EU Naval Force duties after 8 months, with the Spanish Air Force P3M Orion replacing the CN-235 Vigma aircraft.
Press Release, March 21, 2014; Image: EU Navfor