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15th anniversary of the Spanish tactical air detachment against piracy

In Djibouti
September 22, 2023
  • This marks 15 years of continuous Spanish presence in Djibouti, fighting piracy and illegal trafficking.

With the 48th relief of the Orion Detachment, Spain has now reached 15 years of continuous presence in the African country fighting piracy and illegal trafficking. Initially, it did so under the Spanish flag, although shortly afterwards it switched to the EU flag. During these 15 years, the Detachment, under the operational control of the Operations Command, has carried out a total of 1,960 missions, with 14,446:30 flight hours, which have contributed to almost completely eliminating acts of piracy and greatly reducing illegal trafficking flows.

On 21 September 2008, Spain began its fight against piracy with Operation Indian Sentinel, which included the Orion Air Detachment, based in Djibouti (Horn of Africa).

Shortly afterwards, on 10 November, Operation Atalanta was created under the EU flag and the Spanish detachment was integrated into it. Operation Atalanta is the result of a series of Resolutions to protect maritime traffic, creating a naval air force to patrol the Indian Ocean area off the coast of Somalia. It was the first maritime operation of the Union to be carried out within the framework of the CSDP.

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, unreported and unregulated fishing and the trafficking of drugs, arms and charcoal, which reinforces Atalanta's role as a factor of maritime security in the area, being key to the successful 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.

Operation Atalanta currently has an Operational Headquarters (OHQ), located at the Rota Naval Base (Cadiz), and a Force Headquarters (FHQ), embarked on the Frigate Durand de la Penne, in addition to a Support Element Atalanta (SEA).

Spain's commitment from the beginning 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 in the area, always striving and working to continue maintaining the recognition and prestige of the Air and Space Army and therefore of the Spanish Armed Forces in the mission.

The Air and Space Army's permanent contribution consists of the following assets:

  • DAT Orion of the Air and Space Army: deployed in Djibouti, it has about 50 components, and is equipped with a maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft: D-4 VIGMA, MPA version of the CN-235 aircraft, replacing the former P-3 "Orion", which gave its name to the detachment.

In addition to the permanent contribution of the Air and Space Army, the Spanish contribution consists of:

  • Navy ships, which have an embarked air unit and operational security teams from the Marines.
  • Together with the aforementioned resources, in March 2019, Spain assumed the leadership of Operation Atalanta from the Spanish Headquarters (ES-OHQ) in Rota.