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German government decides on naval deployment in the Red Sea

Caption: Frigate "Hessen"

The frigate “Hessen” is already on its way to the Red Sea, and now the German government has decided to deploy the German navy against the Huthis’ attacks on shipping.

The Islamist Huthi militia continues to attack merchant ships in the Red Sea, and the USA and Great Britain have been taking action against the group for weeks. In order to protect international shipping, the German Navy will now also participate in the EU-led Eunavfor Aspides mission, as the Federal Cabinet has now decided. [ds_preview]

Since mid-November, the Houthi militia from Yemen has been attacking international shipping, particularly in the southern Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab. In order to fend off the attacks and stem the ongoing escalation of violence, German forces are also to take part in the EU-led Operation Eunavfor Aspides. The cabinet has decided by circular resolution that up to 700 soldiers can be deployed. The German Bundestag’s mandate is set to run until February 28, 2025. The Bundestag still has to approve the decision, which is expected next Friday.

The area of operations of the EU operation covers the central axis connecting Asia and Europe, through which the majority of all energy supplies for Europe are transported. In addition, around 12% of the world’s goods traffic also passes through the area by ship. In addition to the Strait of Bab al-Mandab, the EU operation includes the Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

The German Navy is supporting the EU mission with a frigate in order to fend off attacks from the air and sea, primarily with missiles and drones. The German government is also providing personnel for the operation’s headquarters.

Operation in exchange with the USA

In addition to accompanying ships in the area of operation, a maritime situation picture is also to be drawn up in close cooperation with international partners – particularly from the EU and the USA. This will give the missions involved an overview of which enemy forces are present in the area of operations. It is the basis for determining which defensive measures are possible and necessary.

The USA is also protecting civilian merchant ships in the area of operation with Operation Prosperity Guardian. The USA had previously attempted to forge an international coalition against the Houthis, who are threatening the sea route, which is important for international shipping, primarily with missiles. Germany was initially reluctant, but then wanted to participate as part of an EU mission.

The legal basis for the EU mission is provided by international law, which allows the EU to defend itself against unlawful attacks on its own or foreign ships and crews. The Eunavfor Aspides mandate is defensive in nature. The defense against attacks is also in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2722 of January 10, 2024.

Frigate “Hessen” already underway for the navy

The frigate ” Hessen” left Wilhelmshaven for the Red Sea at the beginning of February. The German frigate should already be on site if, as expected, the vote for the EU operation is positive. For the Inspector of the German Navy, Jan Christian Kaack, it is “the most serious deployment of a German naval unit for many decades.”

The “Hessen” was specially designed for escort and maritime surveillance. Among other things, it is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles with a range of more than 160 km. It also has radar systems that can monitor an airspace the size of the North Sea.

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