Operation Sharp Guard

Joint NATO / WEU Operation

June 15, 1993 - October 1, 1996

NATO ships belonging to the Alliance's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED), assisted by NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), began monitoring operations in the Adriatic in July 1992. These operations were undertaken in support of the UN arms embargo against all republics of the former Yugoslavia (according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 713) and the sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 757.

NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft began monitoring operations in October 1992, in support of UNSC Resolution 781, which established a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Data on possible violations of the no-fly zone passed to the appropriate UN authorities on a regular basis.

In November 1992, as an extension of the maritime monitoring operations, NATO and WEU forces in the Adriatic began enforcement operations in support of relevant UN sanctions, designated Operation Maritime Monitor and Operation Sharp Vigilance respectively. After both operations were amplified in scope to include the enforcement of UNSC resolutions, both operations were re-designated Operation Maritime Guard and Operation Sharp Fence. Operations were then no longer restricted to registering possible violators and included stopping, inspecting and diverting ships when required.

On 31 March 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 816 authorizing enforcement of the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina and extending the ban to cover flights by all fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft except those authorized by UNPROFOR. In the event of further violations, it authorized UN member states to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance. A NATO enforcement operation, called Operation Deny Flight, began on 12 April 1993. It initially involved some 50 fighter and reconnaissance aircraft (later increased to more than 200) from various Alliance nations, flying from airbases in Italy and from aircraft carriers in the Adriatic. By December 1995, more than 100,000 sorties had been flown by fighter and supporting aircraft.

At a joint session of the North Atlantic Council and the Council of the Western European Union on 8 June 1993, the combined NATO/WEU concept of maritime operations was approved for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 820, which strengthened the existing embargoes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia & Montenegro).

This concept included a single command and control arrangement for the combined Operation Sharp Guard under the authority of the councils of both organizations. The operation began on June 15, 1993.

Commencing Sharp Guard

The joint NATO/WEU Operation Sharp Guard began on 15 June 1993 replacing the separate NATO and WEU operations Maritime Guard and Sharp Fence.

Operation Sharp Guard includes a single command and control arrangement under the authority of the Councils of both organizations. Operational control of the combined NATO/WEU Task Force was delegated, through NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), to the Commander Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (COMNAVSOUTH). Since November 1992, more than 63,000 ships have been challenged and, when necessary, diverted and inspected.


After the UN Security Council strengthened the embargo against Serbia and Montenegro with Resolution 820 in April 1993, no ship has been able to break the embargo and six ships have been caught while attempting to do so.


May 24, 1996

The overall operational control was delegated to Admiral Mario Angeli, Italian Navy, as Commander, Combined Task Force 440 (CCTF 440). He was assisted by Rear Admiral Gianfranco Coviello, Italian Navy, as Deputy CCTF 440. Admiral Angeli is the Commander of Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe. As CCTF 440, his staff was complemented by a WEU staff element.

Surface ships could operate within two operational combined task groups (CTG) at sea while conducting operations in the Adriatic sea. A third task group had responsibility for ships conducting training or port visits. Operational responsibilities rotated among the task group commanders. At the time of the last update these were:

Operational Task Groups

440.01 Rear Admiral Nicola Azzolini (Italian Navy)

440.02 Commodore Frank Ropers (German Navy)

Training Task Group

440.03 Commodore Andrew Gough (UK Navy)

Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) operated under operational control of CCTF 440 through the Commander of Combined Task Force 431, Rear Admiral John R. Ryan, US Navy.


Operation Sharp Guard was initiated to conduct operations to monitor and enforce compliance with UN sanctions in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) (713, 757, 787, 820 and 943). Combined Task Force 440, in particular, prevented all unauthorized shipping from entering the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and all arms from entering the former Yugoslavia. As a consequence of UNSC resolutions 1021 and 1022, the Sharp Guard mission was then limited to arms embargo enforcement. In particular, UNSC resolution 1022 suspended indefinitely, subject to certain provisions, the commercial embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; Sharp Guard units remained ready to resume, at short notice, full implementation of sanctions if the conditions set by the resolution were not met. As per United Nations Security Council Resolution 1021, the weapons and military equipments embargo against the former Yugoslavia remained in effect until the conditions set out in the resolution were fully met.

Following The Peace Agreement

Following the initialing of the Bosnian Peace Agreement on 21 November 1995, NATO and the WEU adapted Operation Sharp Guard in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions suspending economic sanctions (UNSCR 1022) and phasing out the arms embargo, subject to certain conditions (UNSCR 1021). In accordance with UNSCR 1022, NATO and the WEU stopped enforcing the economic sanctions, although this enforcement can be reinstated if the Parties do not meet the conditions specified by the UN. The arms embargo have been lifted gradually from 14 March 1996 on (90 days after signature of the Peace Agreement), and the enforcement was discontinued in a phased manner, in accordance with UNSCR 1021.