Germany Dispatches Frigate to Red Sea in Advance of EU Security Mission

Image courtesy German Embassy in the United States

Published Feb 8, 2024 11:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Germany has not yet received a green light for a European-sponsored maritime security mission in the Red Sea, but it has dispatched a frigate so that it will have an asset in the area before a formal approval vote. 

On Thursday, the Sachsen-class frigate Hessen departed Wilhelmshaven, bound for the Red Sea region. Hessen is a fully equipped air defense frigate with 24 American-built SM-2 missiles and 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow antiaircraft missiles. She has sailed with several U.S. Navy carrier strike groups, including the maiden deployment of the USS Gerald R. Ford. 

This time, her mission will not be explicitly allied with American-led operations. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has stressed that the separate EU mission "will not conduct any operation on land," and will only take defensive action. This rules out destroying Houthi equipment on the ground, a task that U.S. Navy forces do on a daily basis. 

"Our purpose is not to conduct any kind of attack, but just to defend," Borrell told reporters last week. 

The crew of the Hessen are awaiting a signoff from the EU Foreign Affairs Councils, which meets next on February 19. They will also need approval from the German parliament. 

The operation will be called "Aspides," Borrell said, after the Greek word for "shield." It will be led by Italy, which is reportedly sending the destroyer Caio Dulio to participate. The Dulio left Italy on January 28, well in advance, and is already operating in the area in support of EU antipiracy mission Operation Atalanta.