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The Garibaldi new flagship of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean

ItsGaribaldi551@EunavforMed151126(B2) The European maritime combat force deployed in the Mediterranean against traffickers and smugglers (EUNAVFOR Med / Sophia) has a new flagship: the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi. He replaces his alter ego, the Cavour, which ensured the beginnings of the operation since June 2015. The transfer of authority took place on Wednesday (November 25). The Garibaldi is expected to wear the flag of the operation's admiral for the next five months.

First mission: welcome the FHQ

The main purpose of the flagship is to accommodate the command of the force. The EUNAVFOR Med FHQ thus comprises 50 officers and non-commissioned officers from around twenty Member States. It is he who assesses needs, sends the necessary means in first emergency or reinforcement (ships, helicopters, etc.), provides tactical command in the area. The ship's Command Center has over 65 workstations. This makes it possible to comfortably manage any type of operation.

Notable operational capabilities

Several helicopters will be on board (Merlin EH 101 normally). On the Cavour, the on-board helicopters have not been idle too much. According to the assessment drawn up by EUNAFOR, the 2 EH 101 helicopters on board the ship carried out 154 patrol and surveillance missions, flying more than 240 hours. The objective being above all to collect information on suspicious activities at sea. the key to success in the fight against smugglers and traffickers in the central Mediterranean “We estimate at the headquarters of the operation. The Garibaldi also has a reinforced infirmary (role 2 type), able to perform the most common medical procedures. 

Greater aerial capabilities

The Garibaldi will not, however, be at the maximum of its military air capabilities. It can, in fact, accommodate up to 18 devices (STOVL AV 8B Harrier II type aircraft or EH 101 or Seaking type helicopters). For this purpose, it has 12 parking spaces in the hangar, to which are added the 6 spaces on the flight deck (six spots deck on the flight deck). But it's a big maximum. In general, the manpower is 12 helicopters or 11 planes and 1 helicopter, or a 'mix' between the two. The aircraft carrier also has a panoply of on-board sensors (more geared towards naval air warfare than police surveillance, however): long-range airborne radar, medium-aircraft radar, airborne and surface detectors, navigation and approach, etc.

The first Italian aircraft carrier

The ITS Garibaldi (551) is the first ship of this type built for the Italian Navy, allowing the take-off of short-range aircraft (catapult) and vertical landing (STOVL). NB: after the Second World War, Italy was prohibited from acquiring aircraft carriers, only helicopter carriers. Ban lifted only in the 1980s. Built by Fincantieri (Italcantieri) in the Monfalcone shipyards, from 1978, she was completed in March 1981, launched in June 1983, and commissioned in July 1985. She has four Fiat COGAG gas turbines, making it possible to reach a maximum speed of 29 knots. The cruising speed is more like 20 knots with a range of 7.000 nautical miles.

Committed from Somalia to Kosovo via Libya

The Garibaldi has been in all the major Italian overseas operations. He thus took part in operations in Somalia in the early 1990s. He notably ensured the withdrawal of the Italian contingent engaged in Operation Restore Hope and of the other blue helmets afterwards. In 1997, he took part in the "Alba Neo" operation (evacuation operation) in Albania, with armed planes, which carried out daily take-offs from the base of Grottaglie. In 1999, it was the war in Kosovo. And Italy is engaged in the operation Allied Force of NATO. The AV-8B Harrier II + planes on board the Garibaldi performed from May 13 to early June 1999, 30 sorties and 63 flight hours. In 2011, he participated in the maritime surveillance operation off Libya, in particular to ensure compliance with the arms embargo (read: The means of the arms embargo operation "Unified Protector"). Since 2014, and the restructuring of the Italian maritime forces, it is placed in COMGRUPNAV Three with the San George, the San Marco and San Giusto and is based in Taranto.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde with Leonor Hubaut)

A spinning German ship

Another change for the EUNAVFOR Med operation. FSG augsburg (F-213), a German Bremen-class frigate, also joined the operation to combat smugglers in the Mediterranean in late November.


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).