Bundesmarine P-3 Operations in Operation Atalanta

May 9, 2019 (Google Translation) – With the reconnaissance aircraft P-3C Orion, called “Jester”, pirates were tracked down in the Indian Ocean and enlightened. In collaboration with the Spanish comrades, the forces at Operation Atalanta were able to make a significant contribution to their capture.

Alarm at noon

It should be a quiet Sunday. The crew of the reconnaissance aircraft P-3C Orion regenerated from the strenuous mission flight the day before. The technicians were in the lunch break. Except at the Mission Support Center (MSC), there was not much traffic at this time in the German hangar at Base Aerienne 188 in Djibouti.

Shortly after 12 o’clock local time then the alarm. About 1,300 kilometers away from Djibouti there had been an attempted attack on an industrial fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean. The assumption was that this could be piracy. The crew and technicians of the reconnaissance plane P-3C Orion, also called “Jester”, were alerted. After only a short time, the plane took off towards the deployment area. The Mission: Identify and enlighten possible Pirate Action Groups (PAG) that might be associated with the attack.

Sighting on the Indian Ocean

Swiftly, Jester approached the location of the incident, locating a dhow, a local ship, shortly after arrival. In tow it had two skiffs. These are small, fast wooden boats with outboard engines, which are often used for pirate attacks. At that time, it was very likely that the dhow was the pirate mothership. For the crew of “Jester” now began another important part of the contract. The aim was to collect as much as possible Dhow artwork and videos for later analysis. After the first approaches, the ship was identified as the Yemeni dhow “Al Ahzam”. This had been abducted a few days earlier near a Somali fishing village.

The Spanish frigate “Navarra” comes to the support

After transmission of the first reconnaissance results the Spanish frigate “Navarra” left the port of Mombasa. The plan was to intercept the pirate mothership.

After four hours in the field “Jester” left the scene and returned to Djibouti. This morning, the Spanish P-3C was assigned the call sign “Cisne” to track down the dhow. While the “Navarre” was still on an intercept course, took over the following afternoon, the “Jester” again commissioned to rediscover the suspected ship, to shadow and ultimately to hand over the position to the Spanish frigate.

High concentration and tension over hours

When “Jester” reaches the planned altitude, the sun went down that day. In complete darkness, the crew had to rely on their surveillance technology. Above all, the thermal imaging camera plays an important role in a mission flight at night. It took about two hours for Jester to reach the calculated position of Al Ahzam.

By radio, the Spanish frigate could be brought to the finish. After six hours of flight time and transfer the exact end position at the “Navarra”, the P-3C Orion was able to take the several hours return. The order was successful. It was not until early in the morning on Tuesday that Jester landed at Djibouti airport.

What happened after “Jester” left the destination

The frigate Navarra accompanied the dhow from a safe distance. With the first light, two speedboats of special forces put to the ship. Five of the suspected pirates were able to flee to the Somali coast with one of the carried skiffs. At the Dhow “Al Ahzam” the forces found five other suspected pirates. Furthermore, 25 crew members of the Dhow, who had been taken hostage, were released. The alleged pirates are now being tried in Seychelles.

Successful operation through teamwork

The contingent leader of the German contingent in Djibouti summarizes: “This incident proves once again that piracy in the Horn of Africa has been suppressed, but not completely disappeared. The incident has once again made it clear to the soldiers of the German task force EUNAVFOR European Union Naval Forces Somalia – Operation Atalanta what they are here for. “