The handover ceremony between the 45th and 46th contingents of the Tactical Air Detachment (DAT) in the European Union's 'Operation Atalanta' was held at Djibouti Air Base 188. The ceremony was presided over by Captain Juan María Ibáñez Martínez, current Commander of the Force Headquarters, and was attended by civilian and military authorities from the European Union, Germany, the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Japan and Djibouti.
At the ceremony, the outgoing Force Commander handed over command of the Detachment to Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Rodríguez Sacristán, ending the 45th contingent’s mission after three months of deployment during the monsoon period.
Operation Atalanta, under the European Union flag, is part of Spain’s commitment to maintain maritime security off the coast of Somalia and neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean region.
The increase in acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean since 2005 led the UN Security Council to adopt a series of Resolutions to protect maritime traffic in the area. In support of these provisions, the Council of the European Union approved, on November 10, 2008, the creation of a naval air force. This was the first maritime operation of the Union that was carried out within the framework of the CSDP. Shortly afterwards, this operation was launched.
From the beginning of the operation Spain's commitment has been total, materialising in maritime surveillance missions to prevent and intervene to put an end to acts of piracy and to assist in the surveillance of illegal activities off the coast of Somalia.
Subsequently, and since the enforcement of Decision (CFSP) 2020/2018, which extends the mandate of Operation Atalanta, the missions entrusted to it have been expanded to include surveillance of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and drugs, arms and charcoal trafficking. All of this reinforces Atalanta’s role as a maritime safety factor in the area, being key in the success of the fight against piracy and the protection of vessels of the World Food Program (WFP) as well as other vulnerable vessels.
The new EU mandate extends the area of operation to the Red Sea and also includes the fight against illegal trafficking as well as cooperation with other operations.
Spain's permanent contribution takes the form of:
· Orion Detachment of the Air and Space Army, equipped with a D-4 VIGMA maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPA version of the CN-235 aircraft) deployed in Djibouti, with 49 military personnel.
· Navy ships, which have an airborne air unit and operational Marine Corps security teams.
· In March 2019, Spain assumed the leadership of 'Operation Atalanta' from the Spanish Headquarters (ES-OHQ) in Rota.