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|Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta
Skwadra Marittima tal-Forzi Armati ta' Malta
Coat of arms of the Maritime Squadron
|Active||1970 – present|
|Branch||Armed Forces of Malta|
|Role||Maritime surveillance, maritime law enforcement and search and rescue|
|Garrison/HQ||Hay Wharf, Floriana|
|Lieutenant Colonel||Andrew Mallia|
The Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta is the naval component of the Maltese military. The Maritime Squadron has responsibility for the security of Maltese territorial waters, maritime surveillance and law enforcement, as well as search and rescue. It is based at Hay Wharf in Floriana.
The Maritime Squadron was established in November 1970 as the Maritime Troop of the Malta Land Force. Its name changed a number of times:
Malta's first navy was built when it was under the Order of Saint John. It was a powerful navy with ships such as the Santa Anna. The Order participated in various naval exploits against the Ottoman Empire while based in Malta, most notably the Battle of Lepanto of 1571 and the Battle of the Dardanelles of 1656. In the 17th and early 18th centuries Maltese vessels also went for corsairing expeditions against Muslim ships. Eventually corsairing decreased and the Order was weak and bankrupt, so there was little resistance when Napoleon landed on Malta in 1798. The Order's navy, including the ships of the line San Zaccharia and San Giovanni, was integrated into the French navy and Malta no longer had its own naval force.
Soon after the British occupied the island, the Mediterranean Fleet of the Royal Navy transferred its base to Malta. Malta became a hub of naval activity due to its harbours and strategic position, and it remained so during the Second World War and until the 1960s. The Mediterranean Fleet was disbanded in 1967, and three years later Malta's first naval force appeared after over 150 years. The Maritime Troop of the Malta Land Force was established in November 1970 and two Swift boats were transferred to Malta from the United States Coast Guard in January 1971. In July 1971 the force was renamed 1st (Maritime) Battery of the Malta Land Force and was based in Senglea. In the 1970s, the number of patrol boats increased as West Germany and Libya gave Malta some of their former customs launches. In 1973 a vessel built at the Malta Drydocks for the Customs Department was taken over by the Maritime Battery.
In 1977, the Battery moved to its present base at Hay Wharf, or Xatt it-Tiben. In 1978, the British gave Malta two search and rescue launches, and in 1979 they left Malta completely, handing over all their former responsibilities to the Battery. On 1 April 1980 it was renamed Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta, as it is today. In the 1980s and 1990s, Yugoslavia, the United States, Italy gave more vessels to Malta. Malta purchased patrol boats for the first time in 1992, when former East German minesweepers and patrol boats were bought from Germany. The Swift, Kondor and Bremse classes from the 1960s and 1970s were all decommissioned between 2004 and 2012 as new vessels replaced them.
On 18 February 2015 it was announced that the Emer class offshore patrol vessel LÉ Aoife (P22) would be transferred from the Irish Naval Service as a short term measure pending Malta's purchase of a new OPV. It was commissioned into the AFM on 28 June 2015 as P62.
A new base for the Maritime Squadron is currently being built, also at Hay Wharf.
The worst peacetime tragedy suffered by the AFM occurred on 7 September 1984. The Swift-class patrol boat C23 was dumping some illegally manufactured fireworks off Qala when the fireworks went off probably due to a spark caused when a hatch was closed. The explosion killed seven people (five from the AFM and two policemen):
Of these, the remains of Francis Borg and Anthony Farrugia were never found. The only person to survive the explosion was Private Emmanuel Montesin, 21 of Paola and he managed to beach the severely damaged patrol boat on Comino despite being wounded himself. The day after, the men were given a state funeral and a day of national mourning was declared. From that day on, fireworks have no longer been carried on patrol boats but on towed barges.
The patrol boat was repaired and reentered service, later being renamed P23. Memorial services were held in 2004 and 2009, the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the tragedy. P23 remained in service until 2010 and the AFM retained the patrol boat as a memorial. A monument was built at Hay Wharf soon after the tragedy, and a new one was unveiled in 2009 on the 25th anniversary. The Maritime Museum of San Diego also has another memorial to those killed in the tragedy near P23's sister ship P24 which is preserved in the museum.
The Headquarters Command is responsible for base security, transportation and anything necessary for sustaining the patrol boats throughout the year. It is therefore responsible for the supply of all the fuel and ammunition.
The Offshore Command operates the Protector-class P51 and P52 and the modified Diciotti class vessel P61, the flagship of the Maltese navy. The Offshore command formerly operated the Kondor I-class P29, P30 and P31 vessels until these were decommissioned in 2004.
The Inshore Command operates the four P21-class patrol boats, as well as the Search and Rescue launches Melita I and Melita II. The Command also includes the Rapid Deployment Platoon who operate using any of the Inshore Command vessels, the fast interceptors such as P01 or using aircraft from the Air Wing.
G Command is responsible for military activity on the island of Gozo. The Land Component consists of a platoon strong element which provide assistance to the Malta Police and various Government departments, as well as securing the territorial integrity of Gozo. The Maritime Component consisted of three crews operating the Bremse-class patrol boat P32 around Mġarr Harbour. P32 was decommissioned in 2012 and now the G Command operates a single Melita Class SAR Launch and a Defender Class CPB.
Support Command is responsible for the upkeep of the maritime craft and equipment. It also incorporates equipment and supply management.
These vessels are in active service as of 2015:
|Search and rescue launches (2 in service)|
|Supervittoria 800 class||Search and rescue launches||Melita I
|Italy||1999||Built in 1998 by Vittoria Naval Shipyard, Adria/Rovigo, Italy|
|Boats (6 in service)|
|FB Interceptor class||Rigid-hulled inflatable boat||P01||Italy||2006||Built at FB Design in Annone Brianza (Lecco) - Italy. It is used by the Rapid Deployment Team (RDT), the unit tasked to perform M.L.E. (Maritime Law Enforcement) operations and counter terrorism interventions at sea.|
|Boomeranger class||Rigid-hulled inflatable boat||P02
|Finland||2012||Purchased from EBF Funding|
|United States||2014||Donated by the US Government|
|Patrol vessels (8 in service)|
|Austal class||Inshore patrol vessel||P21
|Australia||2010||Ordered in February 2009 and built by Austal, Perth. Two of them were launched on 6 October 2009 and they were delivered in February 2010.|
|Protector class||Offshore patrol vessel||P51
|Built at Bollinger Shipyards|
|Diciotti class (modified)||Offshore patrol vessel||P61||Italy||2005||Built by Fincantieri S.p.A Italy at Muggiano Shipyard, the P61 serves as the flagship of the Maritime Squadron. The vessel will be undergoing an overhaul and engine refit which will cost around €7 million as of 2015.|
|Emer class||Offshore patrol vessel||P62||Ireland||2015||Built in 1979 as LÉ Aoife (P22)
Largest ship in the Maritime Squadron
The European commission voted €110 million in funds for the AFM. The government used these funds to purchase the four P21 class patrol vessels and has bought 2 new Beechcraft Super King Air offshore maritime surveillance aircraft for the Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta.
In 2015 the Maltese Government was looking to further expand the Maritime Squadron as the Diciotti-class P61 was struggling to keep up with the demands faced by patrolling Malta's large SAR Region and its territorial waters, as well as being in need of a major overhaul. Considering the gap that would be left for such as overhaul to take place, the Irish Naval Service donated the LÉ Aoife to help reduce the strains on the P61. Thus the government announced that it will "issue a tender for the construction of a tailor-made vessel for Malta’s needs" that would cost in the region of €40 million partly financed by the European Union's Internal Border Funding. The new offshore patrol vessel will roughly have the same capabilities held by the current P61, as well as being larger, having longer endurance and also including a flight deck.
|Patrol vessels (22 decommissioned)|
|C21||Malta||1971 or 1973||Built at the Malta Drydocks for the Customs Department|
|Swift class||P23 (ex-C23)
|United States||1971||2010||Built in 1967 as USA C6823 (PCF-813) and USA C6824 (PCF-816). Transferred from the United States Coast Guard in 1971. In 2012 P24 was handed back to the USA and it is now in the Maritime Museum of San Diego. P23 is laid up at Hay Wharf as of 2014.|
|Yugoslavia||1975-1976||c.1990||Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in Yugoslavia with the names:
|Equity class||P25 (ex-C25)
|United States||1991||c.2000||Ex-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1255 and 1257|
|Germany||1972||c.1980s||Built between 1952-1956 as Customs Launches with the following names:
C28 is now a ferry boat named Seahawk by Captain Morgan Cruises.
|Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in the UK in 1967-68 with the names:
|Kondor I class||P29
|2004||Built at Peene Werft shipyard 1968-1970 as minesweepers with the following names:
P29 and P31 were sunk as diving sites in 2007 and 2009. As of 2013, ex-P30 was laid up at Marsa.
|Built at VEB Yachtwerft Berlin in 1971-1972
P33 was decommissioned in 2005 and may be scuttled as an artificial reef.
P32 was decommissioned in 2012, but it is still moored at Hay Wharf along with the other commissioned patrol boats as of 2015.
|Italy||1992||Built by Baglietto in the 1950s for the Italian Guardia di Finanza with the following names:
|Kalnik class||P38 (ex-C38)
|Yugoslavia||1982||Donated by Yugoslavia|
|Search and rescue launches (4 decommissioned)|
|RAF 1600 series||C20||United Kingdom||1980s||Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force 1654. As of 2011, the decommissioned boat lay derelict in a field at Marsaxlokk.|
|RAF 1300 series||C21||United Kingdom||1980s||Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force|
|RAF 2700 series||C68
|United Kingdom||1978||Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force 2768 and 2771|
|Landing craft (1 decommissioned)|
|Higgins boat||LC1||United States|
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