The French long-range Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft deployed in Djibouti is operating side-by-side Spanish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft P3 ‘Cisne’, thus providing additional air capabilities to the Operation.
The MPRA is an extremely flexible and highly equipped asset, which makes it a “flying frigate” in terms of capabilities. In the framework of EUNAVFOR ATALANTA it can be tasked at short notice to provide imagery of a particular area of interest to enable the Force Commander to react to events and keep the waters of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean safe for all maritime users. France supports Operation ATALANTA with its latest version of the ATL2, Block 6. The crew arrived in the Area of Operation on January and is currently working in direct support of EU NAVFOR, providing additional capabilities.
With its new optical and RADAR sensors, the ATL2 Bk6 is able to gather a huge amount of information, detecting in the area up to 800 ships and visually identifying up to 200 of them, during a single patrol.
The ATL2 is currently operating alongside Spanish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft P3 ‘Cisne’ in support of EU NAVFOR's activities concerning countering piracy, protecting UN World Food Programme (WFP) vessels and other vulnerable shipping. The speed and high level of endurance of these MPRAs make them a key asset for the Operation’s secondary tasks in the monitoring of arms trafficking, illicit charcoal trade, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated Fishing off the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean. By decision of the Political and Security Committee, Atalanta is now authorised to engage in its secondary task to counter illegal narcotics trafficking.
For this first deployment of the ‘Ulysse India’ with ATALANTA, the French crew benefits of the large experience of the Spanish MPRA (Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft) Detachment already deployed since 2009 in the area. The experience shared by its crewmembers was a precious help to make best use of such an asset and illustrate the efficient cooperation within the EU Naval Forces.
Through a very productive cooperation with the frigate ESPS Victoria and its embarked Force Headquarter (FHQ), the ATL2 is enhancing the mutual maritime security awareness in the Area of Operation. The information shared via tactical datalink L11 or radio communications is also providing a common recognized maritime picture within the Task Force.
With numerous operational flights to be completed over several weeks, the crewmembers are not only willing to share their new sensors information with the elements of the force, but also eager to share experience with their partners and allies.
France has contributed almost 20% of Operation Atalanta's naval assets since the beginning of the operation in 2008.