Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) that Lithuania will deploy on the EU Naval Force Somalia ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR ‚Äì ATALANTA), the European Union counter-piracy and armed robbery operation off the coast of Somalia, completed their training on 30 May and are expected to deploy into the operation area by the end of July, Ministry of National Defence has informed.
Lithuania‚Äôs participation in the EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA will be the largest contribution of our country to a European Union-led military mission and the first naval operation Lithuanian military have been involved in so far.
‚ÄúI am very proud about the results that the AVPD have demonstrated during their certification. Cooperation, experience sharing and coordination of actions not only enhance the internal strength of the unit but are also great prerequisites for training the capabilities for completing a scale of tasks. Alignment of actions is the true highway towards triumph‚Äú, said Major Riƒçardas Dumbliauskas, Commander of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion and Officer Conducting the Exercise, after the pre-deployment certification exercise.
According to the Battalion Commander, training for a mission of such nature in cooperation with the personnel of the Lithuanian Navy, Air Force and the Special Operations Forces‚Äô Combat Divers Service was critical for the Land Force‚Äòs troops assigned to the AVPD.
The certification exercise of the AVPD took place in Klaipƒóda on 28-29 May, 2013. It began in Klaipƒóda Seaport with a task of providing protection to a vessel and her crew conducting cargo loading/unloading activities. Then the AVPD‚Äôs ability to protect a vessel underway, when anchored on the open sea or entering port was evaluated.
The unit trained protecting the vessel and defending her from pirate attacks. In addition to the protection tasks the AVPD staff suppressed simulated conflicts aboard the ship, rendered first medical aid for ‚Äúthe injured‚Äù, arranged their airlifting, conducted life-saving activities on the persons that had simulated falling overboard, etc.
It is the final phase of combat training which finalised the Lithuanian troops‚Äô preparation for the mission. The exercise which ran till 29 May tested the troops‚Äô readiness to complete vessel and crew protection tasks.
The AVPD staff of 16 members is commissioned by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion of the Mechanised Infantry Brigade ‚ÄúIron Wolf‚Äù (14 members) and the Military Medical Service (two members). The unit is under command of the Battalion‚Äôs officer Captain Aivaras Pliatkus.
The AVPD will be on duty off the Somali coast from August to December, i.e. nearly for the whole second semester of 2013. While deployed with the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation ATALANTA, the Lithuanian AVPD will provide their capability, weaponry and equipment for the protection of a World Food Programme (WFP) vessel transporting food from Kenya to Somalia. The Lithuanian unit will take over the responsibility for the protection of the ship from Finland.
The Lithuanian military began preparing for the deployment with EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA early in 2013. The training schedule included individual skill refresher exercises, familiarisation with the mission environment, basics of navigation, and live-firing from aboard a ship on the sea, etc.
The Lithuanian AVPD is expected to deploy into the operation area in late July.
One Lithuanian naval staff officer has been posted to EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA Operational Headquarters in Northwood (UK) since early 2011. Lithuania will also deploy an officer to serve in a Dutch command ship from this August.
The largest European Union-led military operation EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA was launched late in 2008 in response to the rising levels of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia. Warships deployed on EU NAVFOR escort WFP ships delivering aid to the Somali people, deter and apprehend pirates and armed robbers in the area of operation, complete monitoring of fishing activity, and conduct other tasks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Currently, 23 EU and three non-EU member states are contributing the up to two thousand personnel of EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA.
EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA is not the only EU-led operation that Lithuania is contributing to. From this spring Lithuanian military instructors have been deployed to the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) to provide training for Malian military. The EUTM Mali objective is to enhance operational capabilities and activities of the Malian Armed Forces in order to incapacitate it to ensure territorial integrity of the country and to counter attacks of terrorist groups inside the country.
Lithuania participates in the EU Common Security and Defence Policy and contributes to the development of the EU multinational rapid crisis response capabilities through participation in the EU-led multinational operations and missions. On 23 April, 2013, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania prolonged the mandate of Lithuania‚Äôs participation in EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA till the end of 2015 with the approved annual quota of up to 30 military and civilian personnel that could be contributed.