NATO ships and submarines patrolling Mediterranean in new ‘security’ operation

Operation Sea Guardian kicks off in the Mediterranean with maritime patrol aircraft, ships and submarines

NATO has begun a new maritime security operation in the Mediterranean Sea named Operation Sea Guardian, which will deploy ships, submarines and patrol aircrafts to “identity possible security concerns”.

The security operation comes in the wake of increased sea passage by Russian ships sailing to Syrian bases where they are assisting Syrian president Bashar al Assad’s regime in fighting rebels in the civil war there.

Operation Sea Guardian is a transformation of the Article 5 Operation Active Endeavour, an anti-terrorism support mission to the United States immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

“Operation Sea Guardian has a broader scope adapted to a wider range of maritime security threats,” NATO said.

Since 2011, Active Endeavour covered trade routes in the Mediterranean, hailing ships more than 128,000 times and boarding more than 170 vessels. The operation was also intended at stopping human trafficking operations, linking up with the EU’s ‘Sophia’ naval mission, and patrol coastal waters to uphold a U.N. arms embargo and counter the growing presence of Islamic State inside Libya.

Under Operation Sea Guadian, three NATO ships and two submarines – the Italian frigate ITS Aviere, the Bulgarian frigate BGS Verni, the Turkish frigate TCG Gemlik, the Greek submarine HS Papanikolis and the Spanish submarine ESPS Mistral – will conduct the first patrols in the central Mediterranean.

Air support to Operation Sea Guardian will include rotational patrols by Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPAs) from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. These first patrols will run through the 17th November 2016, with other patrols on the forge and to occur according with approved schedule of operations.

“Operation Sea Guardian has three core missions: maritime situational awareness, counter-terrorism and capacity building. Additional tasks could be added if decided by the Allies, including upholding freedom of navigation, conducting interdiction tasks, countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and protection of critical infrastructure,” NATO said.

“Operation Sea Guardian will help maintain an accurate picture of daily activity in the Mediterranean to help identify possible security concerns. Ships, submarines and aircraft assigned to NATO Operation Sea Guardian will contribute information to maintain a comprehensive picture of the operating area.”

Operation Sea Guardian establishes NATO Maritime Command in Northwood, UK as the hub of maritime security information sharing for the Alliance.