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New Zealand Maritime Patrol Aircraft leaves NATO Counter-Piracy Operation

SEYCHELLES, Indian Ocean – This week the crew of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) P-3 Orion from the Royal New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) completed their support to NATO's counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD (OOS) Task Force 508 (CTF-508).

Figure above: Crews from Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal Danish Air Force MPA contingents to Operation OCEAN SHIELD stand in front of a Danish MPA aircraft during their deployment to the Seychelles

Between 13 and 30 November, the NATO partner nation’s detachment of more than 50 crewmembers flew 8 sorties of 8 to 9 hours flying time each, providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of the coast of Somalia, where pirate action groups have been known to operate. In addition to the detachment based in the Seychelles, the NZDF also based a liaison officer at NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in Northwood, UK.

This was the second time the New Zealand Defence Force has supported NATO's counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia, following the deployment of HNZMS TE MANA earlier this year, demonstrating the strengthening partnership between New Zealand and NATO.

In his message to the New Zealand forces, Commander Maritime Air NATO Rear Admiral Thomas Ernst stated, "I express to you my most sincere appreciation for the steadfast support and the invaluable ISR products that your detachment provided in support of OOS, not only to NATO, but to the whole counter-piracy effort in the Joint Operating Area (JOA).  Your professionalism and expertise both airborne and in ground operations were evident throughout this period of support.”

P-3 Orion land-based maritime patrol aircraft are equipped with radar and infrared and optical camera to collect ISR about Somali pirates’ activities, and they have proved to be an important tool in the fight against piracy.

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