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Ceremony of the 46th contingent of the Air and Space Army's Orion Air Tactical Detachment of operation Atalanta, awarded with medals

April 21, 2023
  • The personnel of the 46th contingent receive the Common Security and Defence Policy Atalanta Service Medal

The Spanish military personnel of the 46th contingent and the 86th crew, after having demonstrated to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy that they have met all the requisites, have been awarded the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Service Medal, in recognition of their time of service as components of the European Union's Operation Atalanta.

This award was ratified with the corresponding act of awarding the decoration, which was attended by several civilian and military authorities, among others, the Ambassador of the European Union in Djibouti, Sylvie Tabesse, and the Honorary Consul of Spain in Djibouti, Josefina Llorente Martín.

After having received updates from the Chief of Formation, the Force Commander greeted the attending Authorities. He was then presented with the medal by the frigate captain of the French Navy, head of the EU Operation Headquarters Support Element Atalanta.

After this, the rest of the members of the detachment received their decoration, presented by the Force Commander of the Orion Detachment, the French frigate captain and the head of the Air Forces Group of the Spanish 49th Wing.

At the end of the presentation, the Force Commander of DAT Orion, who presided over the ceremony, addressed a speech to the detachment in which he emphasised the effort and dedication of the personnel in favour of the mission, highlighting the professionalism shown and the good work of the personnel, to conclude by encouraging the personnel to continue with the same impetus and professionalism in the rest of the detachment.

The Air and Space Army anthem was then sung, ending the ceremony with the dislocation of the Force.

Operation Atalanta, under the flag of the European Union, is part of the engagement acquired by Spain in the fight to maintain maritime security off the coasts 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. To support these provisions, the Council of the European Union approved, on 10 November 2008, the creation of a naval air force. This was the first EU maritime operation to be conducted in the framework of the CSDP. Shortly afterwards, this operation was launched.

Spain's commitment from the start of the operation has been total, materialising in maritime surveillance missions with the aim of preventing and intervening to put an end to acts of piracy and collaborating in the surveillance of illegal activities off the coast of Somalia.

Subsequently, and since the entry into force of Decision (CFSP) 2020/2018, which extends the mandate of Operation Atalanta, the missions entrusted have been extended to include the surveillance of illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing and the smuggling of drugs, arms and charcoal, which enhances Atalanta's role as a factor of maritime security in the area, being key to success in the fight against piracy and the protection of World Food Programme (WFP) vessels and other vulnerable vessels.

The new EU mandate extends the area of operation to the Red Sea and also includes the fight against illegal trafficking and cooperation with other operations.

Spain's permanent contribution consists of the following assets:

  • DAT Orion 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, which has almost 50 military personnel.
  • Navy ships, which have an embarked air unit and security operational teams of marines.
  • In March 2019, Spain assumed leadership of 'Operation Atalanta' from the Spanish Headquarters (ES-OHQ) in Rota.