The Swedish Defense Ministry announced Oct. 1 it would send the command vessel HSwMS Karlskrona to the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden in April, 2010, when Sweden takes command of the European Union naval force patrolling the area.
By Chipp Reid
Sweden’s largest warship is set to sail once more Piracy is a major problem in the lawless areas around the eastern Horn of Africa. Pirates operating from Somalia hijacked more than 100 ships in the Gulf of Aden in 2008, prompting calls from the maritime industry for military patrols, leading to the creation of the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Force, a NATO task group and the European Union Naval Force.
Three Royal Swedish Navy ships returned home Sept. 21 following a highly successful, six-month deployment as part of the EU force. The Stockholm-class corvettes HSwMS Malmö and Stockholm, and the supply vessel Trossö all served as part of Operation Atalanta, the EU-led anti-piracy patrols off Somalia. Malmö and Stockholm combined to thwart an attack on a Greek vessel soon after they arrived on station, capturing seven alleged pirates. The Swedish task force also had a 100-percent success rate of escorting United Nations vessels carrying food supplies into Mogadishu.
Pirates hijacked one UN ship in March, before the arrival of the Swedish vessels. There were no successful attacks on UN ships while the Swedish task force guarded them.
“Word spread quickly about our success and our capture of the pirates,” said Swedish Royal Marines Major Mårten Granberg, who served with the Marine detachment in Operation Atalanta and is now a staff member of the European Union Naval Force Headquarters in Northwood, England.
“There were no successful attacks while we were there and no attacks at all for two months,” Granberg said. “We’re all very proud of that.”
Success paved the way The navy’s success this year played a large role in its decision to send the Karlskrona to the Horn of Africa. Originally a mine warfare vessel, the navy spent $33 million in 2005 converting her to a training and command vessel. She made two global cruises before a lack of officers and crew forced the navy to decommission the ship. The Defense Ministry even thought about scrapping the vessel. The decision to join the EU naval force delayed those plans. EU NAVFOR received its United Nations mandate in 2008 and began operations earlier this year.
Now, Karlskrona is set to be the command vessel for the entire task force and is also to carry a contingent of Royal Marines, helicopters and EU command staff. Granberg said recruiting the 97-sailor crew for the Karlskrona has gone smoothly.
“There have been a lot of hands up of people ready to go on this trip,” he said. “Finding enough crew will not be a problem.”
Her main function will be to help coordinate the multi-national EU force in its patrols while also coordinating actions with a U.S.-led anti-piracy that is part of Fifth Fleet operations as well as a NATO effort and those of individual nations.
“There are a lot of countries taking part in either joint- or individual patrols,” Granberg said. “In addition to the EU and NATO and Fifth Fleet, you have ships from India, China, Russia, North Korea, South Korea all Japan patrolling. It takes a lot to coordinate all those ships from all those countries.”
In addition, Karlskrona is to be the main “back up” to any unit that encounters difficulty and will also have a 15-man Marine detachment ready to reinforce any ship. Karlskrona is also likely to carry an assortment of sea- and airborne unmanned reconnaissance vehicles.
Karlskrona is to leave in March for the operations area.
HMS Malmö advancing towards a suspected pirate skiff in the Gulf of Aden earlier this summer. Everyone aboard is on high alert. ADENVIKEN 20090526. Photo is a still from videorecording by Sergeant Mats Nyström/Combat Camera