Operation “Sophia”

11-02-2019

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Since 2015, M28 05 Bryza has been serving as a maritime surveillance aircraft for the Polish Military Contingent carrying out MPA missions in the Mediterranean region within the EUNAVFOR MED. SOPHIA operation being under the patronage of the European Union. The operation was initiated in order to combat and neutralize human trafficking, smuggling of illegal migrants and illegal export of petrol from Libya and its neighbouring countries.  

 

The task of the Polish Military Contingent is to identify and capture any vessel suspected of illegal transport of immigrants, arms and drugs trafficking as well as to survey smuggling routes and to support enforcing the arms embargo of Libya.

 

“Sophia” is particularly challenging mission for the aircraft crews as well as for the aircraft itself. Intelligence gathering and transferring to the mission headquarters usually takes from 6 to even 10 hours of continuous operation. Since the launch of the mission in 2015, the Polish pilots alone have completed 550 flight hours. In order to perform the mission, M28 has to face extreme temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius and relatively strong gusts of wind appearing in the Sicily regions. Thankfully, harsh weather conditions do not pose a threat to the M28 in any way.  

 

Although tracking down little drug-smuggling boats is a hard nut to crack, the M28 is equipped in an automatic vessel identification system (AIS), a satellite communications system SATCOM, a radio direction finder (DF), and a life raft which combined together considerably enhance the M28 MPA capabilities making the aircraft even more reliable.

 

Among other pieces of specialist equipment, the aircraft interior includes radar/FLIR operator consoles and a data transmission system. The aircraft crew comprises console operators, two pilots and a flight engineer.

 

The M28 aircraft deployed to the Mediterranean is commonly referred to as “the Lady in White”. The aircraft painting scheme alludes to the historical colours of a British twin-engined bomber - the Vickers Wellington aircraft, which served during the Second World War within the ranks of the 304th Polish Bomber Squadron called “the Land of Silesia.