Rear Admiral Thomas Ernst, German Navy, has relieved French Navy Rear Admiral Jacques de Solms as NATO’s Commander, Maritime Air (COMMARAIR) and Deputy Chief of Staff Maritime Air for NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM).
Rear Admiral Ernst, a former TORNADO fighter pilot, takes command with a wealth of experience in counter-piracy operations, as he previously served as Deputy Commander of the European Union Naval Force’s counter-piracy Operation ATALANTA. He has served in the German Navy since 1976, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s MARCOM said in a news release.
Ernst said he looked forward to working with the fine men and women of NATO’s Maritime Air Component. “Our forces will continue to demonstrate consummate professionalism and vital flexibility in supporting the execution of MARCOM’s varied missions,” he added.
During his tenure, de Solms led the complex consolidation of two regional air commands, COMMARAIR Naples and COMMARAIR Northwood into a single unified command headquartered in Northwood. The new command’s area of responsibility spans the North Atlantic and includes the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black and Norwegian Seas.
NATO’s COMMARAIR prepares, employs and commands all maritime aircraft which are deployed in support of MARCOM’s operations and missions. This ranges from exercises to large scale maritime operations where numerous daily combat air patrols are flown.
“NATO’s maritime air forces bring critical capabilities to joint commanders,” said de Solms. “It has been my honor to conclude my career leading this talented team of naval aviators in their invaluable support of counter-piracy Operation Ocean shield and counter-terrorism Operation Active Endeavour, among other operations.” COMMARAIR has a wide range of different maritime aircraft at its disposal: fighter aircraft operating from aircraft carriers, helicopters flying from warships and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) based on land.