NATO, with the participation of a Turkish frigate, has begun a new standing maritime security operation in the Mediterranean Sea named Operation Sea Guardian.
Three NATO ships and two submarines – the Italian frigate ITS Aviere, the Bulgarian frigate BGS Verni, the Turkish frigate TCG Gemlik, theGreek submarine HS Papanikolis and the Spanish submarine ESPS Mistral – started to conduct the first patrols in the central Mediterranean as part of Operation Sea Guardian, NATO reported on Nov. 9.
Air support to Operation Sea Guardian will include rotational patrols by Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPAs) from Turkey, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, NATO stated.
“These first patrols will run through Nov. 17, 2016, with other patrols on the forge and to occur according with approved schedule of operations,” it added.
Citing the operation’s three core aims as maritime situational awareness, counter-terrorism and capacity building, NATO said additional tasks could be added if decided by the Allies, which could include upholding freedom of navigation, conducting interdiction tasks, countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and protection of critical infrastructure.
TCG Gemlik, the Turkish frigate in this operation, previously participated in antipiracy operations off the Somalian coast.
At the Warsaw Summit in July, NATOannounced the transformation of Article 5 Operation Active Endeavour into this new operation in response to the evolving security environment. Operation Sea Guardian has a broader scope adapted to a wider range of maritime security threats.
Operation Active Endeavour was NATO’s only Article 5 operation on anti-terrorism, initiated as support to the United States immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the Operation has helped to protect one of the busiest trade routes in the world. NATO ships have kept sea lanes open and deterred terrorist activity through the operation, hailing ships more than 128,000 times and boarding more than 170 vessels.