Breeze 2016 Naval Exercise

Bulgaria is hosting the Breeze 2016 naval exercise from 8. July till 17. July 2016.

As many as 25 naval vessels from Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Spain and Turkey, two aircraft and two helicopters, and 1700 troops will take part in the exercise.

Turkish led NATO mine task force SNMCMG-2 is also in Bulgaria for this occasion.

This is the list of the participating warship That I could find:

Number Name Nation Type
A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa Turkey Tender
M-260 TCG Edincik Turkey Mine hunter
M-34 SPS Turia Spain Mine hunter
62 ROM Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente Romania Mine sweeper
 S-356 TCG Anafartalar Turkey Submarine
P-1207 TCG Tekirdağ Turkey Patrol boat
P-337 TCG Atak Turkey Fast attack craft
F-222 ROM  Regina Maria Romania Frigate
190 ROM Lastunul Romania Corvette
P-70 HS Y. Grigorpoulos Greece Fast attack craft

Syrian Express Deployments Taking Toll On Russian Ships?

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Russian landing ship Azov, last seen on 19th February 2016 making a northbound passage. Photo: Yörük Işık.

Turkish maritime news portal Deniz Haber Ajansı ran a story about the Russian naval exercise scheduled in the Black Sea. According to the news Russian Navy has to cancel at least the amphibious landing part of the exercise due to the fact that Ropucha class landing ships Azov and Yamal were unavailable due to malfunctions. The Turkish portal quotes Ukrainian as their source and I was not able to verify content of the story through other means. But there is no smoke without fire.

Yamal made 3 Syrian deployments in this year and she was last seen on 22th February 2016 sailing north. Whereas Azov made only 2 Syrian deployments in 2016 and she was last seen sailing north on 19th February 2016. So both of them were absent for the last 68 days. This is a long pause suggesting that there actually might be some problems with these ships.

The arduous Syrian Express deployments seems to be taking toll on the auxiliary cargo ships of the Russian Navy as well. According to 7 Feet Beneath the Keel blog half of them are in non-operational status:

“Dvinitsa-50” — operational
“Kazan-60” — non-operational; to undergo repairs – possibly until this fall – following a machinery room fire in late March
“Kyzyl-60” — non-operational
“Vologda-50” — operational
“Aleksandr Tkachenko” — non-operational; after conducting roundtrip missions in February and March, vessel pulled into Feodosiya in mid-March where it probably remains today
“Yauza” — returning to Murmansk

 

Port Visits of Turkish Warships During The Weekend

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TCG Salihreis arriving in Varna, Bulgaria. Photo: Nikolay Zlatev.

The Deniz Yıldızı 2016 naval exercise continues in Black Sea. According to Turkish General Staff, 25 warships and submarine plus 11 aircraft and helicopter takes part in the exercise.

As reported earlier, over the weekend the ships conducted port visits in many cities both in country and abroad. Here is the list of the ships and the ports they have visited during the weekend:

Name Type City Country
TCG Karayel Fast attack craft Varna Bulgaria
TCG Kemalreis Frigate Varna Bulgaria
TCG Kilimli Patrol boat Varna Bulgaria
TCG Yavuz Frigate Batumi Georgia
TCG Heybeliada Corvette Constanta Romania
TCG Kılıç Fast attack craft Constanta Romania
TCG Giresun Frigate Constanta Romania
TCG Ayvalık Mine hunter Amasra Turkey
TCG Yüzbaşı İhsan Tulunay Auxiliary İnebolu Turkey
TCG İmbat Fast attack craft İnebolu Turkey
TCG Turgutreis Frigate İnebolu Turkey
TCG Karadeniz Ereğli Patrol boat Kefken Turkey
TCG Akar Auxiliary Samsun Turkey
TCG Tufan Fast attack craft Samsun Turkey
TCG Barbaros Frigate Samsun Turkey
TCG Ertuğrul Landing ship Samsun Turkey
TCG Büyükada Corvette Sinop Turkey
TCG Göksu Frigate Zonguldak Turkey
TCG Bartın Corvette Odessa Ukraine
TCG Salihreis Frigate Odessa Ukraine

Deniz Yıldızı 2016 Naval Exercise Started In Black Sea

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TCG Tekirdağ

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TCG Karamürselbey

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TCG İmbat

The annual naval exercise Deniz Yıldızı (Sea Star) has started in Black Sea today. The exercise will end on 5th April 2016.

The scope of the exercise shows that Turkish Navy intends to show a strong presence in the Black Sea. According to Turkish Navy website There will be live firings against high-speed airborne and seaborne targets. For me the most noteworthy aspect of this exercise will be the simultaneous port visits of Turkish naval units in Varna, Constanta, Odessa and Batumi. 4 out of 5 Black Sea nations will be visited on the next week-end on 3rd and 4th April 2016 by various Turkish warships. This is an impressive way of showing the flag, an important message.

The following ships along with two submarines were observed making a northbound passage through Bosphorus in the last couple days:

Number Name Type
S-XXX TCG Submarine
S-XXX TCG Submarine
P-337 TCG İmbat
P-1207 TCG Tekirdağ
M-262 TCG Enez Mine hunter
M-267 TCG Ayvalık Mine hunter
M-268 TCG Akçakoca Mine hunter
L-401 TCG Ertuğrul Landing ship
NL-124 TCG Karamürselbey Landing ship

NATO SNMCMG-2 In Istanbul

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The ships of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 in one photo. From left to right: A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa, M-33 ESPS Tambre (inside), 62 BGS Shkval, M-261 TCG Edremit.

Turkish led NATO mine warfare task force Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 arrived in Istanbul for a port visit on 5th February 2016. The last time when the SNMCMG-2 visit the town was in July 2014.

The task force spend the previous week in Marmara Sea practising mine sweeping and hunting operations. Duration of  the port visit in Istanbul was not disclosed. But presumably the task force will leave Istanbul on 8th February or on 9th February latest and will sail to the Black Sea.

According to the previously announced schedule the task force will visit Georgian port Batumi and at the end of the month will take part in the Bulgarian led mine warfare exercise Poseidon. Currently the task force is made up with these ship:

Number
Name
Nation
Type
A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa Turkey Flagship
M-261 TCG Edremit Turkey Mine hunter
M-33 SPS Tambre Spain Mine hunter
62 BGS Shkval Bulgaria Mine sweeper

The Romanian MoD announced that their mine sweeper 30 ROS Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente will join the task force. Since this mine sweeper is not present in Istanbul I believe she will participate when the task force is in the Black Sea.

The Spanish mine hunter is the only non Black Sea nation warship of the task force. Her presence in the Black Sea is subject to the rules of Montreux Convention. The convention limits the duration of stay of non Black Sea nation warships to 21 days.

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M-261 TCG Edremit

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62 BGS Shkval

 

Recent Russian Deployments From The Black Sea

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The Baltic Fleet warship Minsk is back. She was last seen on 17.04.2014 going south.

The tensions between Turkey and Russia are still in an aggravated level after the shooting down of a Russian Su-24M fighter-bomber by a Turkish F-16C.

As reported earlier, most of the tension remains on politic and economic front. Both sides are trying to keep their military reactions to a minimum.

According to Montreux Convention any Black Sea nation must inform Turkey 8 days before the passage of its warship. 14 days has passed since the shooting of the Russian fighter plane. If Russia wanted to reinforce its fleet off the coast of Syria with warships from the Black Sea Fleet these ship would have been passing through the Turkish Straits in last 5 days.

We have seen the southbound passage of 3 military landing ships (Korolev, Saratov, Tsezar Kunikov) and northbound passage of 4 military landing ships and 2 auxiliary cargo ships (Tsezar Kunikov, Yamal, Minsk, Korolev, Yauza, Dvinitsa-50) in last 15 days.

One of the most documented and discussed passage was the one of Tsezar Kunikov. During the southbound passage of this ship on 4th December 2015, a single sailor carrying what appears to be a 9K38 Igla (SA-18 “Grouse”) was photographed. The commanding officer of a warship has the duty to take all necessary precautions to protect his ship and his crew. But the show with the single Sa-18 was neither funny nor logical. If the missile was against Turkish Air Force it was definitely not enough, if the missile was against Daesh Air Force it was too much since they do not have any planes yet. So it was just a gesture to annoy

What we have not seen are the southbound passages of the destroyer or frigates from the Black Sea Fleet. This means either Russia is more interested in keeping their troops supplied in Syria or the conditions of Black Sea Fleet warships are not suitable for such deployment.

What Will Happen On Maritime Front After The Shooting Of The Russian Fighter?

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Russian warship Korolev passing through Bosphorus on 28th November 2015

On 24 November 2015, one Turkish F-16 fighter, shoot down a Russian Su-24M fighter-bomber violating Turkish airspace.

The events happening after this incident are beyond the scope of this blog. I am going to try to explain this recent Turco-Russian crisis from a maritime point of view.

So what is going to happen on maritime front after the shooting down of the Russian fighter? The short answer is: Nothing.

The first reaction on Russian side, in maritime domain was to withdraw the naval officer working as a liaison between Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and Turkish Navy and suspend participation in the Black Sea Force (BLACKSEAFOR).

In accordance with the decision by the Russian Defense Ministry on terminating military contacts with Turkey, the participation of our Black Sea Fleet in the BLACKSEAFOR drills has been suspended,” said Komoyedov who was previously commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
“Also, a representative of the Russian Navy in charge of coordination between the Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Navy has been recalled from Turkey,” Komoyedov said. “He has returned home,” he added.

The withdraw from BLACKSEAFOR is purely for the Russian public consumption. The BLACKSEAFOR was created by Turkey as a call of naval task force very similar to NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups. The Purpose of the BLACKSEAFOR was to develop the interoperability between the Black Sea nations and the create a mutual trust and cooperation between the navies. But the BLACKSEAFOR was stabbed in the back by Russia with the Georgian – Russian war in 2008. That conflict destroyed much of the work done by then. The annexation of Crimea by Russia was the final nail in the coffin. Since that event BLACKSEAFOR was in coma and the yearly activations of the task force were cancelled.therefore Russian decision of leaving BLACKSEAFOR has no value.

Another reaction was the deployment of the Slava class cruiser Mosvka off the coast of Syrian town Latakia.

“Cruiser” Moskva “, armed with air defense system” Fort “, on Wednesday morning took the position area in the region of Latakia. His means of radar and missile system will be able to provide cover videoconferencing Russian air group in Syria, “- a spokesman said.

On the eve of the chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy told reporters that the cruiser “Moskva”, equipped with air defense system “Fort”, takes the area near Latakia to strengthen defense. The exact date when not given.

Besides Mosvka, the following Russian ships are in the region:

  • Kashin class destroyer Smetliviy
  • Nanuchka III class corvette Mirazh
  • Vishnya class intelligence-gathering ship Vasiliy Tatischev
  • Tanker Ivan Bubnov
  • Tug MB-31
  • Amur class repair ship PM-56
  •  Oceanographic research ship Admiral Vladimirsky

And the following Russian ships are on the way to the region:

  • Ropucha class large landing ships Korolev and Tsezar Kunikov
  • Auxiliary cargo ship Vologda-50

Mosvka has passed through Turkish Straits on 25 September 2015 and she remained in the Eastern Mediterranean since that day.  Moskva has 8 vertical launcher for SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ surface to air missiles with 8 rounds for each launcher. The SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ also known as S-300F (Fort) is a navalised version of the S-300 surface to air missile system.  The ship based missile is the 5V55RM which has a minimum range of 5 kilometers and a maximum range on 75 kilometers.

The deployment of the cruiser, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, off the coast of Latakia will increase the protection for air base used by Russia and is more or less for the Russian public consumption.   I am quite sure that the captain of Moskva is not happy to act as a picket fence. As a picket fence the cruiser will be the first line of defence and there are not enough Russian warships to escort this capital ship should the crisis escalate.

In the unlikely event of escalation of the crisis between Turkey and Russia the cruiser Mosvka is alone and very vulnerable to the most potent Turkish weapon to be used: submarines.

According to the website of Turkish General Staff two submarines are conducting patrols in Eastern Mediterranean. TCG Dolunay is in the region since 11th November 2015 and TCG Burakreis since 7th November 2015.

Both sides have many warships in the Eastern Mediterranean in close vicinity and the tensions are high at the moment. But never the less I think any military escalation is very unlikely as this could potentially led to a large confrontation and in such event Turkey may evoke its right to close the Turkish Straits according to the article 20 of Montreux Convention.

Article 20. In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

The Montreux Convention dictates a 8 day notification period for the Black Sea Powers. This means if any Black Sea nation wants to move their ships through Turkish Straits, they have to notify Turkey 8 days prior this crossing. Therefore if Russian Navy has decided on 24th November  after the shooting down of Su-24M, to send more warships to Syria, 2nd December 2015 is the earliest day these ships can pass through Turkish Straits.

Russia must have an unlimited access to Turkish Straits. The so called Syrian Express deployments of Russian Ropucha and Alligator class landing ships and auxiliaries are vitally important to keep Russian troops inside Syria supplied. If Russia cannot send its ships through Turkish Straits for any reason, the Russian soldiers deployed in Syria may find themselves in a very similar position of General Paulus’ Army. This is an important reason, why the Russian counter aggression to the shooting of its plane is (and will remain) asymmetrical. This is why Russians are trying to hurt Turkey with diplomatic and economical responses rather than military actions.

Like A Sheep To The Slaughter

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The hull of an old patrol boat. Photo: Alper Böler. Used with permission.

A commercial tug was towing this old hull of a former Turkish patrol boat to the Black Sea. As far as I know there are no ship breakers in Black Sea, this means she is about to get sunk.

The hull belonged to one of the 4 former Turkish gun boats TCG AB-21 to TCG AB-24. All of the fours were build in 1967 in USA by Peterson Builders, Sturgeon Bay, WI. The first pair was delivered in late 1967 and the second pair in early 1968.

They stayed in Turkish service well beyond 2000’s. I have no record of their exact decommissioning dates but must be later than 2005.

HMS Duncan Ended Her Black Sea Visit

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HMS Duncan heads to the Mediterranean Sea. TCSG-312 passes by.

Royal Navy warship HMS Duncan made an official visit to Romania between 8 and 11 November 2015.

HMS Duncan entered the Black Sea on 7 November and exited on 15 November.

The visit of HMS Duncan to Constanta, Romania was not just a cordial visit. The Embassy of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Northern Ireland in collaboration with the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organization organized 9 November on Board of HMS Duncan an exhibition promoting British defence industry technologies.

During the event UK Ambassador Paul Brummell thanked the 13 UK companies participating the event and emphasised that UK companies can provide technology and products that may help Romania to fulfil its ambitious plan to modernise its navy.

Romanian Navy currently operates two Royal Navy Type 22 frigates ROS Regina Maria (ex London) and ROS Regele Ferdinand (ex Coventry). These ships were overhauled in UK before their delivery to Romania in 2003 -2004 period. But further upgrade is needed. Armed with only guns and torpedoes these ships lack long-range offensive weapons and adequate air defence systems.

Sea Breeze 2015 Naval Exercise Concludes In Ukraine

TCG Bozcaada arriving ODeesa for Sea Breeze 2015 exercise.

TCG Bozcaada arriving Odessa for Sea Breeze 2015 exercise. Photo: Igor More.

The Ukrainian led exercise Sea Breeze 2015 finished today. The exercise had stared on 31 August 2015 and had a land and a sea phase.

Warships from Romania, Turkey, USA and Ukraine has participated to the sea phase of the exercise. The exercise was attended by 2,5 thousand military personnel not only from the United States and Ukraine, but also from Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, the UK, Romania, Sweden, Turkey and Moldova. According to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the purpose of the exercise is to develop of a multinational security operations in crisis region.

This is the list of the participating ships. The number of the ships was vague. Some publications cited 19 ships other 14 ships. Some even wrote that there would be submarines. But since Turkish Navy did not deployed a submarine to this exercise the anti submarine warfare training had to be done by a simulator.

Number Name Type Nationality
111 Mărăşeşti Frigate Romania
264 ROS Cam. Eustaţiu Sebastian Corvette Romania
F-500 TCG Bozcaada Corvette Turkey
U-130 Hetman Sahaidachny Frigate Ukraine
U-153 Priluki Missile boat Ukraine
U-360 Genichesk Mine sweeper Ukraine
U-401 Kirovgrad Landing ship Ukraine
BG-109 BG-109 Patrol boat Ukraine
U-120 Skadovsk Patrol boat Ukraine
U-705 Kremenets Tug Ukraine
BG-63 Pavel Derzhavin Patrol boat Ukraine
BG-50 Grigory Kuropiatnikov Patrol boat Ukraine
75 Donald Cook Destroyer USA
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