November 1, 2012
While much of the effort to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden has taken place on sea, the Russians are also thinking about the air.
The country is exploring the possibility of basing two Ilyushin II-38 surveillance planes in Djibouti to supply intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the international effort to put a stop to the problem that has been plaguing international maritime shipping.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has asked France for permission to base the two aircraft on their air base in Djibouti. The request was allegedly met with a positive reception, as France and Russia held securit focused meetings at the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in Paris.
Russian vessels have played a key role in securing the Gulf of Aden, escorting over a hundred ships since 2008, and will surely be aided by some eyes from the sky.
Although Russia is not an official member of the organizations that conduct the several, simultaneous anti-piracy operations, this does not mean their contributions are limited. The European Naval Force administers Operation Atalanta; NATO has Operation Ocean Sheild; and the United States runs Taskforce 151.
There are many other nations not belonging to any of these collectives that routinely lend a helping hand. Besides Russia, countries such as China, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and South Korea have vessels in the region.
The Russian military has decided to send the planes because the air-effort is comparatively limited. Recon from the sky can be extraordinarily helpful to combatting the risk of piracy. Currently, only a handful of countries operate maritime surveillance flights, so Russia’s gesture will likely be greatly appreciated by the international force.