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An airman in the deputy command of Operation Atalanta

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(BRUSSELS2) It is indeed an aviator… from the navy who arrives at the HQ of Atalanta, the European anti-piracy operation. German Rear Admiral Thomas Josef Ernst was trained in the German, American, British and French schools (having attended the Higher Naval Warfare School)

Thomas Ernst has taken over from his Spanish counterpart Bartolomé Bauzá as deputy boss of Atalanta. He will work alongside the new leader who takes office in a few days, Major General Buster Howes from the commandos (read: A green beret will take charge of EUNAVFOR Atalanta). At sea, command remains ensured by the Swede Jan Thörnqvist aboard the Karlskrona. A very complete trio as it illustrates the three military components of the operation: the maritime, the air, the action.

Born in 1956, Thomas Ernst is a child of Saarland. He grew up in Saarbrücken. And in 1976, at the age of 20, he joined the navy, after training at the Mürwik Naval School (MSM) and on board the training ships “Gorch Fock” and “Deutschland”. In 1980, with a certificate in electrical engineering in hand, he chose maritime aviation and began pilot training at the US Air Force base in Sheppard. He completed this training at the British RAF base at Cottesmore as a Tornado bomber pilot.

He then began his career as a maritime pilot at Naval Air Wing 1 in 1984 and oversaw the introduction at the operational level of the high-speed anti-radar missile (HARM) weapon system, AGM 88. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he followed the courses at the Ecole Supérieure de Guerre Navale in Paris. And on his return to Germany in 1993, he commanded the first squadron of Naval Air Wing 1 in Schleswig. The town in northern Germany where he makes his home (he has a daughter, Theresia).

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The Gorch Fock training ship – Credit: Bundeswehr / Ricarda Schönbrodt/Ricarda Schönbrodt

After a stint at the Ministry of Defense as a maritime air staff officer, in 1998 he took over a command: the Naval Air Wing 2 Group based in Eggebeck, made up of 5 squadrons and 50 Tornado aircraft.

From 2000 to 2002, Ernst returned to the Ministry of Defense as military assistant to the German CHOD (General Kujat). In 2002, he moved to Norfolk to HQ Saclant as head of politico-military affairs. Returning to Germany in 2005, he joined the Ministry of Defense as director of naval personnel and, in 2007, became chief of staff to Secretary of State Peter Wichert (who resigned from his post in November 2009 following the bombing murderer of Kunduz in Afghanistan).

Just before his departure for Northwood, he was promoted to Rear Admiral and last March took command of the Mürwik naval school, a nice homecoming, in this school which is celebrating its anniversary this year. centenary (it was founded by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1910).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).