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EU launches new naval mission to protect naval shipping in Red Sea

The German Navy's Type 124 Sachsen-class air-defence frigate FGS Hessen (F 221) departs Wilhelmshaven, bound for the Red Sea, on 8 February. (Bundeswehr/Julia Kelm)

The European Union (EU) has officially launched its new maritime operation to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen-based Houthi rebels.

The new mission, dubbed Operation ‘Aspides', was inaugurated on 19 February with the aim of providing EU naval presence to help restore and protect freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where Houthi rebels have been attacking commercial shipping with unmanned systems and rockets since October 2023.

“With the launch of EUNAVFOR [EU Naval Force] ‘Aspides', the European Union is responding swiftly to the necessity to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “The operation will play a key role in safeguarding commercial and security interests, for the sake of the EU and the wider international community.”

Headquartered in Larissa, the operation will be led by Greek Commodore Vasilios Griparis, with Italian Rear Admiral Stefano Costantino serving as force commander.

The mission's mandate – which is set initially for one year with a budget allocation of EUR8 million (USD8.6 million) – is ‘defensive' in nature, with activities limited to the provision of maritime security awareness and escorting and protecting civilian vessels from potential multidomain attacks. The operation will be deployed at sea with ships and air assets only, with no operations to take place on land.

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