Italian Air Force Predators supporting Somali anti-piracy ops

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

Italian Air Force Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been flying anti-piracy patrols from Djibouti for the last two weeks after a successful evaluation period last month.

On September 22 the Italian Predator task force in Djibouti reached full operational capability with the Predator after the aircraft were transferred from Afghanistan to East Africa in support of anti-piracy Operation Atalanta.

The Italian Air Force’s 32nd Wing completed an 11 hour check flight with the aircraft in Djibouti at the beginning of September. The aircraft has been based in Djibouti since August 6, according to the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor).

As is the case with EU Naval Force warships and maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the remotely controlled aircraft will be used to monitor the seas off Somalia for pirates and can also be used to monitor the safety of World Food Programme vessels as they transit along the Somali coast.

“I congratulate the Italian Air Force team which attained Full Operational Capability with their Predator aircraft. I know that a lot of hard work was required from the team, which also included coordinating with the Djibouti authorities as well as other local partners,” said Brigadier General Dick Swijgman, Deputy Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force. “In the coming months, the remotely-piloted aircraft will be used to monitor the coast of Somalia, where pirates have operated, and the unit will be tasked with alerting competent authorities in case of possible attacks.”

Italian Predator operations take place from Chabelley airfield in Djibouti, where United States UAVs are also based.