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The God's eye view: Operation Active Endeavour

NATO Review spends a day with Operation Active Endeavour to see how it keeps a close eye on the Mediterranean Sea - and how it's used.

 Subtitles: On / Off

The Mediterranean Sea, stretching

from the Suez Canal to Gibraltar,

from the Black Sea to North Africa.

At 3900 km long and 1600 km wide

it is a key location

linking waters and some of the most

important economies in the world.

It's also where NATO's first operation

under its key so-called article 5 was

launched against terrorist activities.

Shortly after the attacks

of September 11, 2001,

NATO launched Operation

Active Endeavour. Its motive?

To deter, disrupt

and prevent terrorists

from using

the key Mediterranean Sea.

But Operation Active Endeavour

appears to be changing

in its methods, in its resources

and in the kind

of results it's now producing.

There have been engagements

with other, non-NATO countries.

We found ourselves

in some immigration situations

or smuggling situations,

or any kind of not legal activity.

Keeping tabs on the activity

in the Mediterranean

is a massive and complex operation.

Every day Operation Active Endeavour

monitors the activities

of over 8000 vessels

passing through the Mediterranean.

A 400% increase on the numbers

at the start of the operation.

That requires

an enormous level of coordination

from land, sea and the air.

NATO review hitched a ride

on one of the US Navy's planes,

which was participating

in Active Endeavour,

to see how the operation works

in practice.

The flight was also designed to show

Vice Admiral Maurizio Gemignani

how information is collected

in the airplane’s systems.

The equipment

can detect and locate information

from almost any ship over 300 tonnes

in the Mediterranean Sea.

As well as collecting information,

fed into the machines here,

this operation has a second part,

which is to go low

and to look at the ships on the sea.

There’s two parts to that.

They can identify them to make sure

that they are who they say they are.

And they let other ships know

that this area

is protected

by Operation Active Endeavour.

This helps provide eyes in the sky

to Operation Active Endeavour,

but it is only part

of creating a full picture

of the activities

in the Mediterranean.

Back on land, the Maritime

Operations Centre in Naples

analyses the raw data

that's been collected.

At present that data is largely

processed by expert analysts.

But changes are afoot,

which will help make the process

lighter and more automated.

In terms of personnel,

what we're hoping to do

is take the personnel

out of the weeds

of looking at individual ships

and allowing the analysis tools

to do the first level,

automated look at what ships

we're interested in.

More networking should mean

less costs, and in 2010,

with many defence budgets

being cut, this is a key factor.

Active Endeavour is moving on

to a more network-enabled operation

and away

from a unit-heavy operation.

We're trying to strike a balance

between establishing a network

which is cost-effective but gives us

the God's eye view we need.

Our budget for Operation

Active Endeavour is so small

that it should not be cut.

But indirectly for sure,

because flight mission

and some other activities

could be affected

by budget reduction.

And do you think that will affect

the efficiency of the operation?

Well, it will force us to find

other ways to perform the operation

at the same level with less money.

We're moving away

from having assets constantly

within the operation,

ships, submarines and aircraft,

and to one where we use them

occasionally on a surge basis

to flood a certain area

of the Mediterranean

to achieve presence and deterrence.

So, in that sense, yes,

we are giving up some resources

but acquiring others, which make

the operation more cost-effective.

Despite this, the operation's effects

may soon spread well

beyond the Mediterranean.

So here in the Maritime

Operations Centre in Naples,

we get information from sources

on land, at sea and from the air.

It gives us information

which looks out for anomalies,

such as ships veering off course

or unexplained loitering.

The idea is that the lessons learnt

from this operation

can be transposed

into other operations,

such as the one off

of Somalia against piracy.

I'm sure that the ships in

the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin

that have participated,

have benefited from the training

they've got in maritime operations.

Ask most people about piracy

and they'll know

what the problem is

and what's being done.

The same cannot be said

of Active Endeavour,

but its proponents don't see this as a

problem, more proof that it's working.

The main aim is not to get publicity

but to achieve our aims,

and we are winning in this sense.

So I don't complain,

even if as a public affairs officer

I would like to show more

of what we are doing.

Like the policeman on the beat

one has to assume

that a policeman

walking down the street

is putting off people from crime.

Were he not there,

crime may well be committed,

or on the maritime situation,

terrorist activity could be committed.

So having racked up

almost nine years of operation

and having

undergone many changes

where will Active Endeavour head

in the coming years?

We could open all the maritime areas

to these kinds of operations

as soon as we completed

what we are doing now in terms of...

to really install a network

between NATO

and national

and international agencies.

If you don't know what's going on

you can't achieve your goals

in terms

of deterrence and prevention,

and therefore,

Active Endeavour is bound

to move towards

a more network-based system.

The Mediterranean Sea, stretching

from the Suez Canal to Gibraltar,

from the Black Sea to North Africa.

At 3900 km long and 1600 km wide

it is a key location

linking waters and some of the most

important economies in the world.

It's also where NATO's first operation

under its key so-called article 5 was

launched against terrorist activities.

Shortly after the attacks

of September 11, 2001,

NATO launched Operation

Active Endeavour. Its motive?

To deter, disrupt

and prevent terrorists

from using

the key Mediterranean Sea.

But Operation Active Endeavour

appears to be changing

in its methods, in its resources

and in the kind

of results it's now producing.

There have been engagements

with other, non-NATO countries.

We found ourselves

in some immigration situations

or smuggling situations,

or any kind of not legal activity.

Keeping tabs on the activity

in the Mediterranean

is a massive and complex operation.

Every day Operation Active Endeavour

monitors the activities

of over 8000 vessels

passing through the Mediterranean.

A 400% increase on the numbers

at the start of the operation.

That requires

an enormous level of coordination

from land, sea and the air.

NATO review hitched a ride

on one of the US Navy's planes,

which was participating

in Active Endeavour,

to see how the operation works

in practice.

The flight was also designed to show

Vice Admiral Maurizio Gemignani

how information is collected

in the airplane’s systems.

The equipment

can detect and locate information

from almost any ship over 300 tonnes

in the Mediterranean Sea.

As well as collecting information,

fed into the machines here,

this operation has a second part,

which is to go low

and to look at the ships on the sea.

There’s two parts to that.

They can identify them to make sure

that they are who they say they are.

And they let other ships know

that this area

is protected

by Operation Active Endeavour.

This helps provide eyes in the sky

to Operation Active Endeavour,

but it is only part

of creating a full picture

of the activities

in the Mediterranean.

Back on land, the Maritime

Operations Centre in Naples

analyses the raw data

that's been collected.

At present that data is largely

processed by expert analysts.

But changes are afoot,

which will help make the process

lighter and more automated.

In terms of personnel,

what we're hoping to do

is take the personnel

out of the weeds

of looking at individual ships

and allowing the analysis tools

to do the first level,

automated look at what ships

we're interested in.

More networking should mean

less costs, and in 2010,

with many defence budgets

being cut, this is a key factor.

Active Endeavour is moving on

to a more network-enabled operation

and away

from a unit-heavy operation.

We're trying to strike a balance

between establishing a network

which is cost-effective but gives us

the God's eye view we need.

Our budget for Operation

Active Endeavour is so small

that it should not be cut.

But indirectly for sure,

because flight mission

and some other activities

could be affected

by budget reduction.

And do you think that will affect

the efficiency of the operation?

Well, it will force us to find

other ways to perform the operation

at the same level with less money.

We're moving away

from having assets constantly

within the operation,

ships, submarines and aircraft,

and to one where we use them

occasionally on a surge basis

to flood a certain area

of the Mediterranean

to achieve presence and deterrence.

So, in that sense, yes,

we are giving up some resources

but acquiring others, which make

the operation more cost-effective.

Despite this, the operation's effects

may soon spread well

beyond the Mediterranean.

So here in the Maritime

Operations Centre in Naples,

we get information from sources

on land, at sea and from the air.

It gives us information

which looks out for anomalies,

such as ships veering off course

or unexplained loitering.

The idea is that the lessons learnt

from this operation

can be transposed

into other operations,

such as the one off

of Somalia against piracy.

I'm sure that the ships in

the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin

that have participated,

have benefited from the training

they've got in maritime operations.

Ask most people about piracy

and they'll know

what the problem is

and what's being done.

The same cannot be said

of Active Endeavour,

but its proponents don't see this as a

problem, more proof that it's working.

The main aim is not to get publicity

but to achieve our aims,

and we are winning in this sense.

So I don't complain,

even if as a public affairs officer

I would like to show more

of what we are doing.

Like the policeman on the beat

one has to assume

that a policeman

walking down the street

is putting off people from crime.

Were he not there,

crime may well be committed,

or on the maritime situation,

terrorist activity could be committed.

So having racked up

almost nine years of operation

and having

undergone many changes

where will Active Endeavour head

in the coming years?

We could open all the maritime areas

to these kinds of operations

as soon as we completed

what we are doing now in terms of...

to really install a network

between NATO

and national

and international agencies.

If you don't know what's going on

you can't achieve your goals

in terms

of deterrence and prevention,

and therefore,

Active Endeavour is bound

to move towards

a more network-based system.

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