Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta

The Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta (Maltese: Skwadra Marittima tal-Forzi Armati ta' 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.

Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta
Skwadra Marittima tal-Forzi Armati ta' Malta
Coat of arms of the Maritime Squadron
Active1970 – present
Country Malta
BranchArmed Forces of Malta
RoleMaritime surveillance, maritime law enforcement and search and rescue
Size10 vessels
6 boats
Garrison/HQHay Wharf, Floriana
WebsiteOfficial website
Lieutenant ColonelEtienne Scicluna
Naval ensign
Naval jack

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)


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.

The worst peacetime incident of the Maritime Squadron was the C23 tragedy on 7 September 1984. Illegal fireworks which were to be dumped from a patrol boat exploded, killing five soldiers and two policemen.[1]

On 18 February 2015 it was announced that the Emer class offshore patrol vessel  Aoife (P22) would be transferred from the Irish Naval Service as a short term measure pending Malta's purchase of a new OPV.[2][3] It was commissioned into the AFM on 28 June 2015 as P62.[4]

A new base for the Maritime Squadron is currently being built, also at Hay Wharf.[5]

Current structure

Headquarters Command

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

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

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

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

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

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[6]Search and rescue launchesMelita I
Melita II
 Italy1999Built in 1998 by Vittoria Naval Shipyard, Adria/Rovigo, Italy
Boats (6 in service)
FB Interceptor class[7]Rigid-hulled inflatable boatP01 Italy2006Built 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 (Model 1100) class[8]Rigid-hulled inflatable boatP02
 Finland2012Purchased from EBF Funding. Manufactured by Boomeranger Boats Oy Limited
Defender class[9]BoatP05
 United States2014Built by SAFE Boats International and donated by the US Government
Patrol vessels (8 in service)
Austal class[10]Inshore patrol vesselP21
 Australia2010Ordered in February 2009 and built by Austal, Perth. Two of them were launched on 6 October 2009 and they were delivered in February 2010.[11][12]
Protector class[13]Offshore patrol vesselP51
 United States2002
Built at Bollinger Shipyards
Diciotti class (modified)[14]Offshore patrol vesselP61 Italy2005Built 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.[15]
Emer classOffshore patrol vesselP62 Ireland2015Built in 1979 as LÉ Aoife (P22) by Verolme Cork Dockyard
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.[16] The procurement of the new offshore patrol vessel was confirmed on 19 January 2019, when a ceremony was hold to announce the award of the contract to construct the new vessel to Cantiere Navale Vittoria.[17] The new offshore patrol vessel, which will be the new flagship, will have pennant number P71 and will cost €35 million, €26 million of which will be contributed by the European Union.[18]

Decommissioned vessels

A list of vessels since retired by the AFM.[19][20][21]

Class Photo Ships Origin Commissioned Decommissioned Note
Patrol vessels (22 decommissioned)
C21 Malta1971 or 1973Built at the Malta Drydocks for the Customs Department
Swift classP23 (ex-C23)
P24 (ex-C24)
 United States19712010Built 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.[12][22] P23 is laid up at Hay Wharf as of 2014.
 Yugoslavia1975-1976c.1990Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in Yugoslavia with the names:
  • unknown (C25)
  • Tariq (C26)
Equity classP25 (ex-C25)
P26 (ex-C26)
 United States1991c.2000Ex-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1255 and 1257
 Germany1972c.1980sBuilt 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 classC28
 United Kingdom19781992
Ex-Libyan Customs launches built in the UK in 1967-68 with the names:
  • Arrakib (C28)
  • Akrama (C29)
Kondor I classP29
 East Germany1997
2004Built 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 classP32
 East Germany19922012
Built at VEB Yachtwerft Berlin in 1971-1972
P33 was decommissioned in 2005 and may be scuttled as an artificial reef.[23]
P32 was decommissioned in 2012, but it is still moored at Hay Wharf along with the other commissioned patrol boats as of 2015.
Litoraneo classP34
 Italy1992Built 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 classP38 (ex-C38)
P39 (ex-C38)
 Yugoslavia1982Donated by Yugoslavia
Search and rescue launches (4 decommissioned)
RAF 1600 seriesC20 United Kingdom1980sEx-RAF Search and Rescue Force 1654. As of 2011, the decommissioned boat lay derelict in a field at Marsaxlokk.
RAF 1300 seriesC21 United Kingdom1980sEx-RAF Search and Rescue Force
RAF 2700 seriesC68
 United Kingdom1978Ex-RAF Search and Rescue Force 2768 and 2771
Landing craft (1 decommissioned)
Higgins boatLC1 United States


  1. "The Swift boats project – A 47-year-old legend!". The Malta Independent. 20 July 2012. Archived from the original on 18 March 2018.
  2. "Ireland to donate offshore patrol ship to Malta". Times of Malta. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  3. "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.
  4. "Malta flag raised on former Irish patrol vessel". Times of Malta. 28 June 2015. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  5. "Outcry over army base structure marring the bastions". Times of Malta. 14 June 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  6. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron SAR Supervittoria 800 Rescue Launches overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  7. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron FB Interceptor Vessel overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  8. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Protector Class Offshore Patrol Vessels overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  9. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Defender Class Boats overview". 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  10. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Austal P21 Class Inshore Patrol Vessels overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  11. "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 17 April 2009.
  12. "New AFM patrol boats launched". Times of Malta. 6 October 2009. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  13. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Protector Class Offshore Patrol Vessels overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  14. "Official AFM website - AFM Maritime Squadron Diciotti Class Offshore Patrol Vessel overview". 11 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  15. "€38 million investment in new patrol boat for Armed Forces".
  16. "Armed Forces of Malta looking to expand Maritime Squadron's assets".
  17. "Commemorative Signing of Contract Ceremony - P71".
  18. "Contract awarded for new AFM flagship - €35m, Vessel will be the AFM's biggest".
  19. "Maltese Navy". Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  20. "Maritime Squadron Armed Forces of Malta". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  21. "Maritime Squadron". Malta Ship and Action Photos. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  22. "Retired AFM P24 boat back in the U.S." US Embassy in Malta. 16 August 2012. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  23. Xuereb, Matthew (3 March 2012). "Patrol boat to be scuttled". Times of Malta. Retrieved 16 October 2014.

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