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Greek and German Frigates Join Red Sea Policing Mission

Greek defense minister Nikos Dendias addresses the crew of the Hydra, February 26 (Hellenic Ministry of National Defense)
Greek defense minister Nikos Dendias addresses the crew of the Hydra, February 26 (Hellenic Ministry of National Defense)

Published Feb 26, 2024 8:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

The frigate Hessen, Germany's contribution to the European maritime security mission in the Red Sea, has arrived on station after a two-week transit. Germany formally joined the effort on February 23, though Hessen got under way well in advance. 

The German frigate will soon be joined by the Hellenic Navy frigate Hydra, which departed Salamis Naval Base near Piraeus on Monday. The Greek government sees the mission as a contribution to the protection of its own maritime industry: Greek-owned vessels have been attacked multiple times over the course of the Houthis' campaign of intimidation, and the sea lanes connecting Piraeus to Asia have been profoundly altered. 

"By participating in EUNAVFOR Operation Aspides, you are not only promoting the Greek and European flags, but serving the pure national interest," said Greek defense minister Nikos Dendias in an address to the Hydra's crew.

Operation Aspides ("shields" in ancient Greek) is intended as a European counterpart to the American-led Operation Prosperity Guardian, serving the same air defense and policing goals but with a separate chain of command. The operation will be run out of a command center in Larissa, Greece, under Italian Rear Admiral Stefano Costadino. 

In addition to Hessen and Hydra, Operation Aspides can draw upon the French frigates Alsace and Languedoc, as well as the Italian destroyer Caio Duilio and frigate Federico Martinengo.

EU Operation Aspides' rules of engagement forbid counterstrikes against targets on the ground in Yemen, but U.S. forces continue to destroy Houthi drones and missiles before launch (with regular support from the UK). On Monday evening, U.S. Central Command's forces identified and destroyed three unmanned surface vessels, two anti-ship missiles and one suicide drone.