By Chris Koney
The Offshore Patrol Vessel ESPS ‘Audaz’ called at the port of Tema on March 6, where it carried out military activities with the Ghanaian Armed Forces for six days. In addition, the warship participated in the ‘Flintlock-23’ exercise, supporting a Force of Special Operations located in land. The main goals of the visit were to strengthen cooperation ties between Ghana and Spain and to promote maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Taking advantage of these events, Lieutenant General Francisco Braco Carbó, Commander of the Operations Command, travelled to Ghana in order to oversee the military activities of the Spanish forces and to establish an agenda of high-level meetings.
Port visit in Tema
Audaz, constructed by Navantia, is one of the four OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels) built for the Spanish Navy under the extension of “1st series navy ships”. It was delivered in July 2018, and it has its docking base in Cartagena, Spain. The current staff of ESPS. ‘Audaz’ is made up of 77 people, among them were an Operational Security Team of Marines and a reinforcement of soldiers and seamen for specific capacities. It is commanded by the Captain of Corvette Marcos de Sousa Fuchs.
After having covered more than 8.000 nautical miles since it left Spain last January, the ESPS ‘Audaz’ set course towards Tema (Ghana). Previously, it had participated in the ‘Obangame Express 23’ exercise and it had visited the ports of Lagos (Nigeria), Pointe Noire (Republic of the Congo) and Luanda (Angola). Audaz’s operations in Ghana fall within the scope of “Foco África 2023” and “Plan Africa”, two strategies of the Spanish Government, which consider Ghana a priority of Spain’s foreign policy.
The military cooperation activities carried out with the Ghanaian Armed Forces aimed at improving Ghana’s capacities in fighting terrorism, piracy and other maritime related crimes.
The cutting edge equipment of the vessel, together with the high level skills of the Spanish soldiers, were shared with the Ghanaian authorities, who learned about the use of unmanned vehicles such as drones, medical services or various defence mechanisms.
Exercise FLINTLOCK-23 and ESPS ‘AUDAZ’
Audaz also participated in the annual ‘FLINTLOCK’ exercise, organized and directed by the US Special Operations Command for Africa (SOCAFRICA). The exercise is designed to enhance the capabilities of Sahel countries to combat terrorist or extremist organizations, illicit trafficking and the flow of foreign fighters. It aims at increasing Border security, integrating the Air Forces of host nations in support of Special Operations, as well as adding “Information Operations” into these scenarios. It is the first time that a ship participates in this exercise.
Although special Operation Units from different countries participated in Flintlock, (1300 troops from 30 countries), the ship was the only vessel taking part in the exercise. Furthermore, Spain is participating in Flintlock with additional units from the three Armies and Civil Guard, all working under the leadership of the Commander of the Operations Command, Lieutenant General Francisco Braco (CMOPS).