On 27 May, 2013, a certification exercise of the personnel of the 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 operation off the coast of Somalia, began in Klaipƒóda.
According to the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, it is the final phase of combat training which will finalise the Lithuanian troops‚Äô preparation for the mission. The exercise which will be running till 29 May will test the troops‚Äô readiness to complete vessel and crew protection tasks.
The active phase and evaluation of operational capacity of the AVPD will begin in Klaipƒóda Seaport by a protection task of a vessel and her crew conducting cargo loading/unloading activities. While on the open sea, the AVPD‚Äôs ability to protect a vessel underway, when anchored or entering port, will be evaluated. An ad hoc group with two cutters and miscellaneous weaponry will be enacting pirate attacks on the vessel.
The 16 staff members of the AVPD are commissioned by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion of the Mechanised Infantry Brigade ‚ÄúIron Wolf‚Äù. 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 to Somalia food from Kenya. 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.
Lithuania‚Äôs participation in the EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA will be the largest contribution of our country to the European Union-led military mission and the first naval operation Lithuanian military have been involved in so far.
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 3 non-EU member states are contributing the up to 2 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 April 23, 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.
Find more on EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA at:http://eunavfor.eu/key-facts-and-figures