The Belgian frigate Leopold I will be the flagship of the UN Interim Force In Lebanon Maritime Task Force (UNIFIL MTF) between 1 March and 31 May. The Leopold I will leave the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on 16 February to relieve the French frigate De Grasse, the current flagship of the UNIFIL MTF.
For the next three months, the UNIFIL MTF will be commanded by Belgian navy captain Thierry Pynoo, who has been commissioned as an admiral for the occasion. He will lead a multinational staff of 20 afloat and two ashore at Naquorah.
The Leopold I will be supported by an Alouette III helicopter from the Belgian navy's Heli Flight based on board. Members of the Belgian army's 12/13th Line Regiment will be integrated into the Leopold I's protection teams and boarding parties.
The UNIFIL MTF's mission is to prevent illegal arms smuggling which could reignite the conflict in Lebanon. The Leopold I's deployment illustrates how stretched the Belgian navy is; the frigate already participated in the UNIFIL MTF from the end of August to the beginning of December 2008, checking 500 ships and handing over eight to the Lebanese navy for inspection ashore. Some 90 per cent of the frigate's current crew participated in that last mission.
Belgian navy photos