Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta

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Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta
Skwadra Marittima tal-Forzi Armati ta' Malta
Maritime Squadron AFM.png
Coat of arms of the Maritime Squadron
Active 1970 – present
Country  Malta
Branch Armed Forces of Malta
Type Navy
Role Maritime surveillance, maritime law enforcement and search and rescue
Size 9 vessels
6 boats
Garrison/HQ Hay Wharf (Xatt it-Tiben), Floriana
Website Official website
Commanders
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Mallia
Insignia
Naval Ensign Flag of Malta.svg
Naval Jack Naval Jack of Malta.svg
Protector-class patrol boats on an anti-piracy training mission in 2011.

The Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta is the naval component of the current 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 (Xatt it-Tiben) 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:

  • Maritime Troop of the Malta Land Force (1970–1971)
  • 1st (Maritime) Battery of the Malta Land Force (1971–1973)
  • 1st (Maritime) Battery of the Armed Forces of Malta (1973–1980)
  • Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta (1980–present)

History[edit]

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, indluding 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. The current fleet consists of vessels which were built between 1998 and 2012.

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.[1][2]

C23 tragedy[edit]

After being decommissioned, P23 (formerly C23) remained at Xatt it-Tiben as a memorial to those killed in the tragedy.

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):

  • Bombardier Francis Borg, 36 of Ħamrun
  • Private Anthony Farrugia, 27 of Żejtun
  • Bombardier Joseph Pace, 36 of Santa Venera
  • Gunner William Simpson, 36 of Lija
  • Private Anthony Vella, 20 of Għajnsielem
  • Police Constable Joseph Hare, 24 of Sliema
  • Police Sergeant Saviour Muscat, 30 of Birkirkara

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 Xatt it-Tiben 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.

Current structure[edit]

The AFM base at Hay Wharf.

Headquarters Command[edit]

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.

Offshore Command[edit]

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.

Inshore Command[edit]

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[edit]

Patrol boat P32 at Mġarr, Gozo.

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[edit]

Support Command is responsible for the upkeep of the maritime craft and equipment. It also incorporates equipment and supply management.

Active vessels of the AFM[edit]

These vessels are in active service as of 2015:

Class Photo Type Ships Origin Commissioned Note
Search and rescue launches (2 in service)
Supervittoria 800 class[3] Malta - Sliema (Valletta Ferry harbour) 01 ies.jpg Search and rescue launches Melita I
Melita II
 Italy 1999 Built in 1998 by Vittoria Naval Shipyard, Adria/Rovigo, Italy
Boats (6 in service)
FB Interceptor class[4] 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[5] Rigid-hulled inflatable boat P02
P03
P04
 Finland 2012 Purchased from EBF Funding
Defender class[6] USCG small boat RB-S 25583.jpg Boat P05
P06
 United States 2014 Donated by the US Government
Patrol vessels (7 in service)
Austal class[7] Armed Forces of Malta Inshore Patrol Craft, P24 - Flickr - sludgegulper.jpg Inshore patrol vessel P21
P22
P23
P24
 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.[8][9]
Protector class[10] Malta - Gzira - Lazzaretto Creek (MSTHC) 02 ies.jpg Offshore patrol vessel P51
P52
 United States 2002
2004
Built at Bollinger Shipyards
Diciotti class (modified)[11] Malta 248.jpg Offshore patrol vessel P61  Italy 2005 Built by Fincantieri S.p.A Italy at Muggiano Shipyard. P61 is the flagship of the AFM

The European commission voted 110 million euros 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.

Decommissioned vessels[edit]

A list of vessels since retired by the AFM.[12][13][14]

Class Photo Ships Origin Commissioned Decommissioned Note
Patrol vessels (22 decommissioned)
C21  Malta 1971 or 1973 Built at the Malta Drydocks for the Customs Department
Swift class Malta 251.jpg P23 (ex-C23)
P24 (ex-C24)
 United States 1971 2011 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.[9][15] P23 is laid up at Hay Wharf as of 2014.
Malta 304.jpg C25
C26
 Yugoslavia 1975-1976 c.1990 Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in Yugoslavia with the names:
  • unknown (C25)
  • Tariq (C26)
Equity class P25 (ex-C25)
P26 (ex-C26)
 United States 1991 c.2000 Ex-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1255 and 1257
View of the Old Walled City of Valletta and its harbor. Malta, Mediterranean Sea.jpg C27
C28
C29
 Germany 1972 c.1980s Built between 1952-1956 as Customs Launches with the following names:
  • Brunsbuttel (C27)
  • Geier (C28)
  • Kondor (C29)

C28 is now a ferry boat named Seahawk by Captain Morgan Cruises.

Farwa class C28
C29
 United Kingdom 1978 1992
1989
Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in the UK in 1967-68 with the names:
  • Arrakib (C28)
  • Akrama (C29)
Kondor I class Mal P30.jpg P29
P30
P31
 East Germany 1997
1992
1992
2004 Built at Peene Werft shipyard 1968-1970 as minesweepers with the following names:
  • Boltenhagen (P29)
  • Ueckermuende (P30)
  • Pasewalk (P31)

P29 and P31 were sunk as diving sites in 2007 and 2009. As of 2013, ex-P30 was laid up at Marsa.

Bremse class Malta 250.jpg P32
P33
 East Germany 1992 2012
2005
Built at VEB Yachtwerft Berlin in 1971-1972
P33 was decommissioned in 2005 and may be scuttled as an artificial reef.[16]
P32 was decommissioned in 2012, but it is still moored at Hay Wharf along with the other commissioned patrol boats as of 2015.
Litoraneo class P34
P36
P37
 Italy 1992 Built by Baglietto in the 1950s for the Italian Guardia di Finanza with the following names:
  • GL 314 (P34)
  • GL 326 (P36)
  • GL 316 (P37)
Kalnik class P38 (ex-C38)
P39 (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 63ft General Purpose Pinnace Mk1 A.jpg C21  United Kingdom 1980s Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force
RAF 2700 series Vosper Thornycroft 68ft Rescue & Target Towing Launch 1.jpg C68
C71
 United Kingdom 1978 Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force 2768 and 2771
Landing craft (1 decommissioned)
Higgins boat LCVP line drawing.svg LC1  United States

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ireland to donate offshore patrol ship to Malta". Times of Malta. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ireland and Malta to explore further defence co-operation in the context of European security, peacekeeping and crisis management operations". Department of Defence. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron SAR Supervittoria 800 Rescue Launches overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  4. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron FB Interceptor Vessel overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  5. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Protector Class Offshore Patrol Vessels overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  6. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Defender Class Boats overview". 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2014-04-16. 
  7. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Austal P21 Class Inshore Patrol Vessels overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  8. ^ "Visit to Australia by Republic of Malta Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs The Hon Dr Tonio Borg". Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  9. ^ a b "New AFM patrol boats launched". Times of Malta. 2009-10-06. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  10. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Protector Class Offshore Patrol Vessels overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  11. ^ "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Diciotti Class Offshore Patrol Vessel overview". 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  12. ^ "Maltese Navy". Battleships-cruisers.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  13. ^ "Maritime Squadron Armed Forces of Malta". Steno.webs.com. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  14. ^ "Maritime Squadron". Malta Ship and Action Photos. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  15. ^ "Retired AFM P24 boat back in the U.S.". US Embassy in Malta. 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  16. ^ Xuereb, Matthew (3 March 2012). "Patrol boat to be scuttled". Times of Malta. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 

External links[edit]