After leaving her home port of Zeebrugge on Sunday 10 August, Belgian Navy warship BNS LEOPOLD I has arrived in the Gulf of Aden to commence counter-piracy operations with the EU Naval Force.
This is the fourth time that this multi-purpose frigate, with 157 men and 13 women on board, has participated in the European Union’s Operation Atalanta.
During 2011 and 2012, BNS LEOPOLD I underwent an in-depth upgrade, with new state-of-the-art sensors added to the ship’s sensor arsenal. Fully integrated into a new combat management system, the sensors have vastly improved the ship’s capability to detect and identify small sea-borne threats, such as dhows and skiffs, as used by pirates to attack ships.
For this important EU counter-piracy mission, BNS LEOPOLD I has a sizable boarding team embarked and prior to departing Belgium they, like the rest of the crew, completed an intensive training programme, including the stop and search of different types of vessels.
BNS Leopold’s crew has an Alouette III helicopter embarked. The Alouette III is a small, highly manoeuvrable naval helicopter that can be used for both observation and fire support. The helicopter can be airborne at very short notice and has a proven track record in counter-piracy operations.
BNS LEOPOLD I has the capability to embark, as required, a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) on board a merchant vessel to offer close protection against pirate attack. This ensures that a vulnerable vessel remains safe and at the same time allows BNS LEOPOLD I to maintain freedom of manoeuvre.
BNS LEOPOLD I will complete her current deployment with Operation Atalanta at the end of November 2014 and will return home just in time for the crew to celebrate the holiday season with their families.