Sea Lion 2016 Search And Rescue Exercise

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Large OPV’s like SG-701 TCSG Güven here are vital for search and rescue missions in maritime domain.

Turkish Coast Guard will conduct Sea Lion-2016 Search and Rescue Exercise, between 3rd and 6th May 2016, in international waters of the Aegean Sea covered by Turkish Search and Rescue Area. Search and Rescue units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and elements of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry will participate in the exercise.

The aim of the exercise is to improve the co-ordination and collaboration between the military and civilian search and rescue units and co-ordination centers.

Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean? (Part 2)

The year 2015 will be remembered by the horrendous stories of ordinary people who had to leave their homes, possessions, who had to made painful and dangerous voyages to reach Europe just to survive.
If you think the refuge crises was bad in 2015 it will be a lot worse in 2016.

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Numbers of irregular migrants rescued from the sea by Turkish Coast Guard in the frist two months of 2015  and 2016.

First the number of people trying to cross Aegean to go To Europe has increased dramatically. According to the statistics of Turkish Coast Guard number of refuges rescued from the sea in the first two months of 2016 is 14.378. This represents an almost 10 fold increase compared to same period in 2015.

Furthermore to make the things far more worse these numbers will climb higher as thousands of Syrians are running away from their demolished villages and towns because of the indiscriminate bombing of Russian Air Force on behalf of Syrian regime. The high water mark may still to come.

And European countries are not offering the even the lukewarm welcome they have given to the refuges in 2015. Existence of these immigrants are causing sever political tensions in most of the host countries. These tensions will have dire consequences for all political parties in the next election cycle.

Since Europe doesn’t want to harbour any more refugees it is trying to stop the influx by protecting its sea borders more efficiently.

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To hop across the Aegean is still the most convenient way to reach for Europe.

The Aegean Sea offers the most convenient router for the refugees. The close proximate of many Greek island to Turkish mainland makes it possible for thousands of refugees to reach to EU by entering Greece. The sea trip from Turkish mainland to Greek islands on overfilled and unstable RHIBs is often dangerous and deadly. %90 percent of 316 irregular immigration incidents in the first two months of 2016 have happened in Aegean according to Turkish Coast Guard.

Since early February, NATO, EU, Greece  and Turkey are trying to formulate plans how NATO’s assigned maritime task force SNMG-2 will perform its anti-immigration operation in the Aegean Sea.

This operation was conceived right after the German Chancellor Frau Merkel’s visit to Turkey in early February 2016.  Germany, Greece and Turkey proposed and in a record-breaking 3 days’ time NATO’s Foreign Ministers have approved the plan to commit SNMG-2 for this mission.

SNMG-2 currently consists of German Navy flagship FGS Bonn, Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Fredericton, Turkish Navy frigate TCG Barbaros and Greek Navy frigate HS Salamis. France and Great Britain have also disclosed that they are sending warships to reinforce the task force. The units are patrolling in the assigned areas and conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance activities.

According to a press release from 6th March, the commanders of NATO have defined SNMG-2’s area of activity in close consultation and coordination with both Greece and Turkey. Their activities in territorial waters will be carried out in consultation and coordination with both Allies. The purpose of NATO’s deployment is not to stop or push back migrant boats, but to help our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the European Union, in their efforts to tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.

NATO’s Maritime Command has also agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action in real-time.

NATO has gained some knowledge by conducting anti piracy operations in Gulf of Aden and must have the knowledge to differentiate between the small plastic boats full of immigrants and ordinary fishermen. Thus they may apply the lessons they have learned in Gulf of Aden for a good use in Aegean. I have personally talked with a few sailors of Turkish Coast Guard operation in Aegean and they are suffering from various psychological symptoms as they fish day after day dead bodies mostly children and women from the sea. Thus presence of a NATO fleet might ease their burden.

But I still have my misgiving about the intentions of NATO’s mission and I am very sceptical about this whole thing because instead of draining the swamp Europe is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that Europe uses the NATO hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean?

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Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 trains with Turkish Navy. From left to right: F-501 TCG Bodrum, 337 HMCS Fredericton, A-1413 FGS Bonn, F-494 TCG Gökova, F-244 TCG Barbaros

Last week NATO has decided in a very unorthodox speedy way -in a very un-NATO fashion- to deploy one of her naval task force to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.

Dispatching Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2)to the Aegean was not a big deal since the task force spend the previous week near Aksaz Naval Base in Marmaris conducting joint trainings with Turkish Navy. The task force was literally just a few hours away when NATO Defence Ministers agreed that NATO should provide support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis on 11 February 2016.

The SNMG-2 is made up by the A-1413 FGS Bonn, 337 HMCS Frederiction, ITS Libeccio and TCG Barbaros.  The flagship of the task force is the German auxiliary FGS Bonn. She is a combat stores ship capable of underway replenishment and can carry 7,850 tons fuel; 1,330 tons water; 280 tons cargo; 220 tons ammunition; 115 tons lubricants.  The others are frigates from Canadian, Italian and Turkish Navies, build to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and ships.

It is clear that none of these ships are specially designed to the given task of contribute critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stressed that this mission is “not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” but about contributing “critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.” As part of the agreement, NATO will co-operate closely with national coastguards and the European Union. Military authorities are now working out the details of the mission.

And General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said that deployment of SNMG-2 was not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats. NATO will provide critical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance information to others to stop the human trafficking and criminal networks in co-operation with national coastguards and the Frontex. The SNMG-2 will be tasked to do monitoring and other support tasks

The seat of purpose for every naval action is on land. The criminal and human trafficking networks are on land. On the sea are just the migrants trying to survive and cross the sea to the other side. Thus it just does not makes sence for NATO to send one oiler and 3 frigates to fish the helpless migrants from the sea and return them back to Turkey. While the ships of SNMG-2 especially the frigates are capable of gathering information about their enemies through their sensors, I have my doubts if these sensors will be adequate to fulfill the given task in this mission. Searching and locating large metal targets on the surface or submerged is one thing locating small dinghies made from plastic is something else.

If NATO nations really wanted to do anything to stop the these criminal networks they should have sent specialised police officers or other law enforcement forces or may be some specialised intelligence gathering ships.

The migrant crisis has a very destabilising effect on the European nations and indirectly threatens the security. But instead of draining the swamp NATO is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that NATO uses a hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

Greek Navy Heliopter Crashed

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A similar helicopter in Greek colors has crashed in Aegean Sea.

Two pilots and one technician lost their lives when an AB-212 helicopter of Greek Navy has crashed on 11th February 2016. The accident happened in the north Aegean near the island Kinaros.

The Agusta Bell helicopter was taking part in the night military exercise ‘hunder’. It had taken off from a frigate sailing in the area and disappeared from radar around 0045 GMT. Wreckage has been found near Kinaros,” a ministry official said.

Armed forces chief Vangelis Apostolakis said weather conditions had been normal at the time when radar contact and communications were lost.

He said only parts of the wreckage had been found, and that there was little hope that any of the crew would be found alive.

Turkey issued a Notice to Airmen saying the Greek rescue operation was within its maritime search and rescue region and that all efforts should be coordinated with Turkish authorities.

Greek Coast Guard Boat Run Aground In Turkish Territorial Waters

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LS-604 of Hellenic Coast Guard, in one of her better days. Photo: Devrim Yaylalı

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A few meters more that the LS-604 would not be aground but on the ground. Photo: denizhaber.com

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LS-604 finally free again. Photo: denizhaber.com

The Motomarine Pathner 57 MkII class patrol boat LS-604 of Greek Coast Guard ran aground inside Turkish territorial waters on 14 January 2015. The boat was in hot pursuit of the fast motor boat Rüzgar009 which was suspected of smuggling. The incident happened at 00.21 according to Turkish Coast Guard.

The grounding happened near Tuz Burnu north of Didim. Turkish Coast Guard dispatched one plane and several smaller boats to side at night. In the next morning one Dost class OPV and 3 smaller boats from Turkish Coast Guard were deployed to the incident side. The shallowness of the water made the re floating of LS-604 a bit tricky. The boat was however refloated on 15 January 2016 at 11.45.

The hull of the boat did not suffered any damages but her main machinery was not working. LS-604 was towed by a Turkish Coast Guard vessel to the outside of Turkish territorial water where the Greek Coast Gaurd vessel LS-020 resumed the towing.

Below is an official video ofrom Turkish Coast Guard. The first 3 minutes were taken by the coast guard plane at night.

Russian Warship Fires Warning Shots To A Turkish Fishing Vessel

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Smetlivy seen here heading to the Mediterranean in September.

Today the Russian destroyer Smetlivy and the Turkish fishing boat Geçiciler Balıkçılık got dangerously close. The Russian warship had to fire warning shots to the unarmed Turkish fishing vessel to turn away. The incident happened 22 kilometers east of the Greek Island Lemnos in the Norther Aegean.

Earlier today the crew of Russia’s “Smetlivy” destroyer was forced to use firearms to prevent a collision with a Turkish seiner vessel in the northern part of the Aegean Sea, according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
Russian Frigate Uses Firearms to Prevent Collision With Turkish Vessel in Aegean Sea
The destoyer’s crew spotted an approaching Turkish ship at a distance of approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles). The seiner did not attempt to establish radio contact with the Russian ship and did not respond to signal lamps or flairs.
Upon the Turkish seiner’s dangerously close approach to the anchored “Smetlivy” at a distance of 600 meters (656 yards), the Russian patrol ship fired a shot beyond the hitting range of the firearms to avoid collision.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Turkish vessel immediately changed its course and, without contacting the Russian crew, kept moving by the “Smetlivy” destroyer at a distance of 540 meters (590 yards).

The above was the Russian version of the event. The Turkish version is different:

However, Muzaffer Gecici, who is the owner of the Turkish vessel Geciciler Balikcilik, has flatly denied the Russian claims saying that his boat and the Russian warship had a distance of at least 1 mile (1.6 km). 
He also stated that the Russian warship was not on the move and nobody heard any warning shots from the destroyer, adding that his vessel is technologically well-equipped and that he has already given footage from the incident to the Turkish Coast Guard. 
Meanwhile, the Russian ministry has released another statement after it summoned Turkey’s military naval attache in Moscow, Rear Admiral Ahmet Gunes, saying that the Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov had “a conversation” with Gunes.  
The statement has puzzlingly tried to link the latest incident in the Aegean with Russia’s “counter-terrorism tasks in Syria” blaming Turkey with “reckless actions” against “the Russian military contingent” in the country.
The statement has also claimed that the Turkish vessel, which is a small civilian fisher boat, was able to provoke the Russian military guard ship Smetlivy.

The Russian Navy should start to use acoustic hailing devices. These devices have a very powerful audio output capability with a vert focused narrow beam. They can make your message, be heard in large distances miles away. With the aid of these devices a warship can hail and warn any other vessel in her vicinity that does not respond to radio contact, to signal lamps or flairs before starting to shot.

Egemen 2015 Naval Exercise Kicks Off

LHD-3 USS Kearsarge in Rote, Spain. Photo: US Navy

LHD-3 USS Kearsarge in Rote, Spain. Photo: US Navy

Today Turkish led amphibious exercise Egemen 2015 kicked off in Aegean Sea. This is the 3 simultaneous exercise Turkish naval units are taking part. The others are Trident Junction 2015 and Nusret 2015. The exercise will end on 28 October 2015.

Turkish Navy is participating with one frigate, two corvettes, four patrol boats, one submarine, one tank landing ships, 6 landing craft and numerous auxiliary vessels, two helicopters, one maritime patrol aircraft, one search and rescue aircraft and 1 amphibious marine infantry battalion. Turkish Air Force will contribute two F-16 fighter jets.

US Navy amphibious ship LHD-3 USS Kearsarge and on board deployed units from 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are going to take part in Egemen 2015 too.

The exercise will include tactical level training ashore and a combined amphibious landing, flexing all elements of amphibious warfare.

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit team, comprised of the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington and embarked Marines from the 26th MEU. USS Oak Hill and USS Arlington are currently taking part NATO’s Trident Juncture 2015 Exercise off Spanish coast.

For further reading:

Egemen 2009 (Part I)

Egemen 2009 (Part II)

Egemen 2009 (Part III)

Nusret 2015 Mine Warfare Exercise Started

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Romanian mine sweeper Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axentel heading to Northern Aegean for Nusret 2015 Exercise.

Each year Turkish Navy organises a mine warfare exercise named after the famous minelayer Nusret.

This year the exercise will be held between 21 and 27 October 2015, in Saros Bay, northern Aegean.

The aim of the exercise is to provide training for the planning and execution of mine warfare and to improve the interoperability in mine warfare, between warships from participant countries.

Turkish Navy will provide 14 warships, 6 planes and helicopters and one EOD team. Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek mine hunters/sweepers will also take part in the exercise.

The Romanian participant is Musca class mine sweeper Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente. The Bulgarian participant is Briz class mine sweeper Shkval. I have no information about the Greek participant yet.

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Bulgarian mine sweeper Shkval heading to Northern Aegean for Nusret 2015 Exercise. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

There will be EOD teams from Greece and Romania as well as an unmanned underwater vehicle team from US Navy taking part.

 

Further reading:

Nusret 2014

Nusret 2013

Nusret 2012

Nusret 2011

Nusret 2010

The Remains Of My Holiday

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A small interception boat of Greek Coast Guard, LS-1004

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A small interception boat with a cabin of Greek Coast Guard, LS-129

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The Antoniou class patrol boat of Greek Navy, P-287 HS Kelefstis Stamou

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The Arun 60 class lifeboat of Greek Coast Guard, SAR-519

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The Motomarine Patnher 57 7MkII class boat of Greek Coast Guard, LS-611

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The fast patrol boat of Italian Coast Guard, CP-292

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The fast patrol boat of Italian Coast Guard, CP-287

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The Kaan 19 class fast intervention boat of Turkish Coast Guard TCSG-24

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The Kaan 19 class fast intervention boat of Turkish Coast Guard TCSG-28

The Search For The Body Of Captain Nail Erdoğan Is Suspended

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A-589 TCG Işın. This old photo was taken on Bosphorus.

Turkish Navy stopped its search for the body of Turkish Air Force Captain Nail Erdoğan and the wreck of his plane a F-16D Fighting Falcon Block 40 of the 192nd Squadron with serial number 91-0023.

The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Osman Çiçekli survived by using his ejection seat but Captain Nail Erdoğan died on 8 October 1996 when his F-16 D fighter plane crashed into the Aegean south of Samos island after a dog fight with Greek airplanes.

Turkish Navy was conducting a detailed search activity where the plane was assumed to have crashed. Aydın class mine hunters M-266 TCG Amasra and M-268 TCG Akçakoca, and the salvage ship A-589 TCG Işın were searching for the wreck of the plane since 14 April 2014, while fast attack craft P-341 TCG Martı provided escort.

The mine hunters cruised the search area for 614 hours. During this time they made sonar scans for 420 hours and used their PAP 104 Mk5 ROV’s for 19 hours. TCG Işın cruised for 260 hours and during this cruise she used her ROV for 48 hours. The divers on TCG Işın used the  ADS-1600 atmospheric diving suit for 19 hours.

During the deployment of these ships, 101 underwater contacts were investigated and most of them turned out to me geological objects. The few man-made object brought to surface was examined by Air Force experts and it was determined that these artifacts were not related to the missing plane.

According to a statement made by Turkish General Staff, the search has been finished at least for now until new information about the position of the airplane surfaces.

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