Missions OperationsReport

Successful test for Rota HQ

(B2 in Rota) The weather is beautiful offshore, the sea is calm, a light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. An idyllic time for pirates to take action. Their prey that day: a merchant ship, the Giavi. The ladders launched made it possible to overcome the ship which was sailing slowly on the water. The crew took refuge in the command post. The alert has just been issued. At the HQ of the European maritime operation EUNAVFOR Sarunia, we are preparing to intervene…

Attention ! This is just one scenario from the exercise organized by the Spanish General Staff on Monday (April 23) off the coast of Cadiz in southern Spain. Objective: obtain certification of the HQ of the Spanish naval base in Rota as HQ of the European Union. B2 was on board the Juan Carlos I, the flagship of the Spanish Navy, which allowed the entire exercise to be followed.

A scenario very close to reality

The scenario concocted by the Spanish teams is very close to a known situation, off the coast of Somalia, at the end of 2007-2008. Some borders have been moved (notably those of Kenya) but it is the same cartography, and the same methods of action,…. Only a few dates change, for the sake of form. The epicenter of the crisis is the Republic of Sarunia, which is trying to maintain its own stability while its neighbor, Celego, has been at war since 1993. Sarunia is suffering the indirect effects of its neighbor's civil war. The flow of refugees is only increasing. The camps and humanitarian aid are always full. Humanitarian aid, which supplies the country by sea, is under pressure from the radical group “Paradise Revolution” (OHR), which has made piracy one of its main sources of resources. The number of attacks is increasing, from around thirty in 2015 to around a hundred in 2018. International trade is threatened. The UN Security Council decides to authorize the European Union to launch a maritime operation, EUNAVFOR Sarunia, to combat piracy.


MILEX 18: successful test 

Once the emergency call is received at Rota HQ, it is the frigate Reina Sofia (F-84), already at sea, which goes to the area. Quickly, the Armada special forces board the merchant boat (played in this case by the patrol boat Watchman P-73), arrivals on two shuttles and a helicopter. Two other helicopters provide support and cover during this time. The pirates are neutralized in less than ten minutes. The crew is released. The wounded evacuated by helicopter and repatriated aboard the aircraft carrier Juan Carlos 1er. All personnel return on board the Reina Sofia. End of exercise…

Certification on track 

This full-scale test closes the MILEX18 exercise, which lasted two weeks. But above all it comes at the end of six months of preparation on the Spanish side to qualify the Rota HQ as one of the EU's future operational headquarters. “ I am very satisfied » tells us Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, commander of the headquarters. Spain will thus join the fairly closed club of countries with such an HQ: France with Suresnes Mont Valérien, Germany with Potsdam, Italy with Rome, and Greece with Larissa. Rota should ultimately replace the Northwood HQ (United Kingdom), whose European certification will automatically be revoked in March 2019. Because of Brexit.

Strong political support

A great political blow also for Madrid... On the Juan Carlos I, in fact, were present on the bridge, the ultimate European ship. Armed with caps and sunglasses, noise-cancelling headphones and binoculars, most of the ambassadors of the EU Political and Security Committee and the military representatives of the '1', followed the actions of the planes and boats, and commented on the situation. The President of the Military Committee (the Greek General Kostarakos), the Chief of the EU General Staff (the Finnish General Pulkkinen), the head of the European Defense Agency (the Spaniard Jorge Domecq) and the Secretary General Deputy of the EEAS (the European diplomatic service) in charge of defense were also on the trip. Suffice it to say that their presence, joyful, even enthusiastic for some, on the ship was worth all the political approval.

A challenge met for Spain

In front of an audience of journalists who came in large numbers, especially from Madrid for the occasion, the Spanish Minister of Defense, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, did not hide this success. “ Spain has enough experience and expertise » to raise the "challenge of providing a strategic command and control capability". Rota HQ is “an excellent candidate to host the Atalanta Command HQ.” The Spanish candidacy is " fully supported » affirms the minister, who highlighted « the Spanish bet for the CSDP ».

(Leonor Hubaut, with NGV)

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Demonstration of strength

The Spanish General Staff wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to flex their muscles and make a real show of force in front of their European allies. In total, more than 550 soldiers, from land, air and sea, participated in the day. A flypast allowed us to see Harrier AV-8B fighters, Tiger attack helicopters, Chinook and Cougar transport or maritime helicopters such as the Sea King SH-3D, the Sea Hawk SH-60B or the AB in action. 212. Also present were a P-3M Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and a Casa C-295 which brought the final touch to the exercise, by dropping a unit of marine paratroopers, in a simulated rescue exercise of two pilots in high sea.

Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.