Tuesday, May 28, 2013
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 – Operation ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR – ATALANTA), the European Union counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia, began in Klaipėda.
According to the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, it is the final phase of combat training which will finalise the Lithuanian troops’ preparation for the mission. The exercise which will be running till 29 May will test the troops’ readiness to complete vessel and crew protection tasks.
The active phase and evaluation of operational capacity of the AVPD will begin in Klaipėda Seaport by a protection task of a vessel and her crew conducting cargo loading/unloading activities. While on the open sea, the AVPD’s 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 “Iron Wolf”. The unit is under command of the Battalion’s 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 – 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’s participation in the EU NAVFOR – 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 –
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 –
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 – Operation ATALANTA.EU NAVFOR – 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
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’s participation in EU
NAVFOR – Operation ATALANTA till the end of 2015 with the approved
annual quota of up to 30 military and civilian personnel that could be