NATO Task Forces Arrive In Bulgarian Ports

Romanian frigate ROS Regele Ferdinand (left) and Turkish frigate TCG Gaziantep (right). The mast of the HMS Duncan is visible at the background. Photo: BTA

After meeting up in Constanta, Romania last week, the both UK led NATO maritime task forces  SNMG-2 and SNMCMG-2 have arrived in Bulgaria.

The mine countermeasure warfare task force made a port call in Burgas while the naval task force arrived in Varna.

Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group Two (SNMCMG2), under the command of Royal Navy Commander Justin Hains, will depart from Burgas on 11th February. The task group consists of the Romanian minesweeper ROS Lupu Dinescu, Turkish mine hunter M-270 TCG Akçay and  H-88 HMS Enterprise the flagship of the task force.

Standing NATO Group Two (SNMG2), under the command of Royal Navy Commodore Mike Utley OBE, will depart from Varna on 11th February. The task group consists of the Romanian frigate F-221 ROS Regele Ferdinand, Turkish frigate F-490 TCG Gaziantep and D-37 HMS Duncan the flagship of the task force.


TCG Akçay Discovers An Old Mine Off Romanian Coast

M-270 TCG Akçay, seen here passing northbound through Istanbul 16 days ago.

Aydın class minehunter TCG Akçay has discovered a mine probably a relic of Second World War, as she was conducting training operations with SNMCMG-2 off the coast of Romania.

The NATO task force made its northbound passage through Turkish Straits 16 days ago.

The mine was discovered at 8 A.M. local time while TCG AKÇAY, under the command of Turkish Navy Lieutenant Commander Abdulla Yildiz, was using her mine hunting sonar to scan the sea bed and the water below her. The crew detected an object, which was thought to be a potential mine.  TCG AKÇAY then used her Remote Controlled Mine Discovery Vehicle (RCMDV) to investigate the possible mine further.  The RCMDV is remotely controlled from the mine hunter and used to identify mine-like objects using an onboard camera. If necessary, the RCMDV can also lay a 100kg explosive charge to destroy the mine.

SNMCMG2 was conducting mine countermeasure training with the Romanian Navy just off the Romanian coast near Constanta when the historic ordinance was discovered.  The area in question is shown on maritime charts as a formally mined area and this means that this is likely to be an historic mine.  The mine sits on the seabed at approximately 40 metres depth.  Images show that the mine is still attached to the ‘sinker’ or weight, which means that it likely didn’t deploy correctly when it was laid. Normally these mines were suspended mid water, attached to the weight on the seabed.

“Finding this historic mine demonstrates NATO’s capability to find uncharted mines in the Black Sea,” said Royal Navy Commander Justin Hains, Commander of SNMCMG2. “We work hard to practice our skills to ensure safe sea lanes. Identification and disposal of historic ordnance is just part of the mission.”

NATO is liaising with the Romanian authorities with regards to the neutralization or disposal of the mine


M-270 TCG Akçay the Turkish contribution to SNMCMG-2, passing through Istanbul.

The flagship of the SNMCMG-2, H-88 HMS enterprise passing through Istanbul

The UK led NATO mine warfare task force Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 made a northbound passage through Turkish Straits last week and arrived in Sinop, Turkey on 25th January for a 4-day port visit.

The SNMCMG-2 is Romanian minesweeper ROS Lupu Dinescu, Turkish mine hunter M-270 TCG Akçay and  H-88 HMS Enterprise the flagship of the task force.

French Frigate In Batumi

French La Fayette class frigate F-714 FS Guépratte transiting toward the Black Sea.

According to Georgian website, French frigate FS Guépratte will make a port visit in Batumi Georgia between 22nd and 25th November.

The ship was met with a welcoming ceremony at the Batumi port. Following the ceremony, French Ambassador to Georgia Pascal Meunier and Commander Jacques Mallard have met local authorities and officials of the Georgian coastguard department.

During the visit of the frigate French and Georgian sailors will conduct joint diving, search and rescue, firefighting exercises on 23rd and 24th November.

The French frigate will leave Batumi on November 25.

The Sinking Of Ex-USS Duncan

A Mk-24 Mod. 2 Tigerfish hits ex-USS Duncan. Photo: Turkish Naval Forces.

Ex-US Navy frigate Duncan has found her watery grave after all.

She was bought from US Navy as a spare part source for the 8 existing Gabya class frigates in service, a procedure also known as cannibalization.

The hull of Duncan was observed being towed through Istanbul towards the Black Sea on 22nd March 2017.

At that time, it was speculated that she would be sunk as a target during the coming naval exercise Deniz Yıldızı as the markings on the hull left nothing to the imagination. She somehow survived the exercise that was held between 29th March and 9th April.

According to Turkish Navy, ex-USS Duncan was sunk in the Black Sea on 4th October 2017, by a Mk-24 Mod. 2 Tigerfish torpedo, fired from TCG Sakarya, a Preveze class submarine.

The Nature Of The Beast

This is a photo of TCG Yıldıray, during a transit through Istanbul. TCG Batıray is identical.

Russian website inforeactor published a post about the Sea Breeze 2017 naval exercise, held in Ukraine, between 10. and 23. July 2017.

According to the post Turkish submarine TCG Batıray was able succesful ambushing Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny and US Navy cruiser USS Hué City.

So, an incidental situation developed during the training search for a submarine in the coastal waters of Odessa. According to the plan of the exercises, the Turkish diesel-electric submarine S349 Batiray lay in ambush, waiting for the passage of a large warship. She was searched by US cruiser CG66 Hue City and the flagship of the Ukrainian fleet, the “Hetman Sagaidachny” frigate. However, already at sea it became clear that both ships were not capable of detecting submarines.

On an American vessel, the towed hydroacoustic station was absent, since it was sent for repair. And in general, Americans positioned themselves as observers and advisers. On the Ukrainian ship, the situation was no better – after the “overhaul”, the GAS simply disappeared, and there were no others in the warehouses. Almost 7 hours the flotilla was looking for a Turkish submarine, until it was decided to lift the aircraft into the air. But even here the Americans did not use their equipment, leaving the search for the conscience of the Mi-14PL. On board the Ukrainian helicopter still preserved several sonar buoys, but they were without power supplies. As a result, the search was carried out purely theoretically. “Intruder” was discovered only after ascending to periscope depth….


TCG Batıray is an old submarine in service since 1978. She represents the first generation of Type 209 boats in service. Never the less, TCG Batıray being a conventional submarine and a knowing the area well has a distinct advantage against Hetman Sahaidachny and USS Hué City. The former is a Krivak III class frigate originally constructed for Soviet Border Guard forces. She is old and desperately needs replacement, something Ukraine currently can’t afford. USS Hué City is a Ticonderoga class cruiser, primary an air / ballistic missile defence ship with better underwater sensors than Ukrainian frigate.

This year Sea Breeze exercise did not  had a predetermined scenario. This year the exercise was held in a “free play” mode. Thus Turkish submarine took the necessary actions to hide itself and hunt its targets.

The Russian is a blatant propaganda site. They published this post not to praise Turkish Navy but to ridicule the Ukrainian Navy and it’s largest supporter US Navy. But to be honest what else could be the outcome of the described encounter?  That is the nature of the submarine warfare.

Ukranian Naval Exercise Sea Breeze 17 Has Started

US Navy cruiser USS Hue City and Turkish frigate F-241 TCG Turgutreis, off the coast of Ukraine. Photo: US Navy

Sea Breeze 2017 naval exercise has started in Odessa, Ukraine. This is the 17th edition of exercise which takes place in the Black Sea between 10. and 23. July 2017.

This year over 3,000 military personnel, 31 ship and 29 aircraft from the following nations is taking part: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Unlike previous events this year’s exercise will have no previously written scenario.

The specifics of the Ukrainian-U.S. exercise Sea Breeze 2017 are an altered structure of the headquarters, which this year will make up the exercise control headquarters and a separate naval command headquarters, which is developed in compliance with NATO standards. The method used in holding the exercise will be different from that of the previous exercises as well: the international maneuvers will be held in a “free play” mode,” the press center quoted the head of the working group on planning the exercise nominated by the Ukrainian Navy, Deputy Navy Commander on Training Captain Oleksiy Neizhpapa, as having said.

Neizhpapa added that during the Sea Breeze-2017, the multinational naval command headquarters will exercise planning and control of forces under given conditions, as well as decision-making and supervising with regard to ship tactical groups and coastal and air force components. This will allow for testing the advanced naval command headquarters’ capability of managing forces and operations to meet NATO standards, he said.

Every year, we complicate the exercise program. It’s like in sport. After so many years of cooperation and practice, we are ready for a “free game”. We will work out various scenarios , – said the head of the Sea Breeze-2017 from the American side, Navy Captain Tate Westbrook, the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet’s Task Force 65 and of the U.S. forces on scene.

Under the scenario, as explained by Captain Westbrook, the fleet of surfaces ships will conduct anti submarine warfare, try to find and neutralise the enemy submarine, the role played by the Turkish submarine TCG Batıray.

Well good luck to the ships in their effort against TCG Batıray.  This exercise shows  Turkey as the only NATO nation that can deploy submarines to the Black Sea. Romania has one Kilo class submarine on its naval register but no one has seen that boat deployed and Bulgaria disband its submarine force in 2013.

Here is the list of the participants as far as I could find:

Number Name Type Nationality
S-343 TCG Batıray Submarine Turkey
NL-124 TCG Karamürselbey Landing ship Turkey
F-241 TCG Turgutreis Frigate Turkey
CG-66 USS Hue City Cruiser USA
DDG-64 USS Carney Destroyer USA
265 ROS Contraamiral Horia Macellariu Corvette Romania
111 Maresesti Frigate Romania
U-130 Hetman Sahaidachny Frigate Ukraine

Bulgarian Naval Exercise Breeze 2017 Has Started

Super Vita class fast attack craft, HS Anthypoploiarchos Ritsos passed through Turkish Straits to participate in Breeze 2017 naval exercise.

Naming of military operations and exercises has always been a controversial topic. So it does not help much when Bulgaria names the naval exercise as Breeze when there is Ukrainian – USA joint exercise called Sea Breeze. It is not easy to distinguish between them two. The timing of these exercises makes it even more difficult.

Breeze 2017 is the Bulgarian exercise. The warships participating to this exercise have gathered in Varna.The exercise started on 14 July 2017 and will end on 23 July.

The purpose of the exercise is to develop cooperation and interoperability by performing actual maritime training among the multinational forces in the Black Sea. Besides the host, Turkey, USA, England, Italy, Poland, Romania and Greece are participating After Bulgaria, Turkey has the second largest number of units taking part in the exercise.

Here is the list of the participants as far as I could find:

Number Name Type Nationality
S-343 TCG Preveze Submarine Turkey
P-330 TCG Kılıç Fast attack craft Turkey
P-1214 TCG Karadeniz Ereğli Patrol boat Turkey
F-241 TCG Yıldırım Frigate Turkey
D-37 HMS Duncan Destroyer UK
P-71 HS Anthypoploiarchos Ritsos Fast attack craft Greece

Bulgarian Naval Helicopter Crashed

F-41 BS Drazki during her northbound transit in Bosphorus, on 3 June 2011.

On 9. June 2017, a Panther helicopter of Bulgarian Navy collided with the frigate Drazki and crashed into the sea. The two of the 3 strong crew were rescued. The pilot unfortunately lost his life.

Bulgarian Navy purchased 3 AS 565MB Panther helicopters from Airbus in 2011. The Panther has replaced older Soviet era helicopters for naval operations. Since none of the Bulgarian warships have landing platforms or hangars, all the helicopters are land based.

On 9 June the helicopter was conducting a naval training with the frigate Drazki and other warships when the helicopter collided with the mast of the frigate and crashed. The pilot Captain Georgi Atanasov died while the Captain Pavel Simeonov and captain Anatoly Apostolovwere rescued by the sailors from the ship. The survivors are in stable condition.

With this accident Bulgarian Navy lost %30 percent of her aviation assets.

Russian Intelligence Gathering Ship Liman, Sunk Off The Coast Of Istanbul

The stricken Liman look very much just like this ship, her sister Kildin. Here Kildin moving northbound in November 2016.

On 27th April 2017 the Russian intelligence gathering ship Liman sunk off the coast of Istanbul.

The Project 861 / Moma class ship of Russian Black Sea Fleet was approximately 17 nautical miles northwest of the northern entrance of Istanbul Strait when Togo flagged livestock carrier Youzarsif H hit Liman. The accident happened at 08.41 UTC (11:41 local time). There was fog and the visibility was limited. This part of the Black Sea is usually used as a staging area for the ships as the wait for their turn to sail the Bosphorus. Thus there are usually many ships either adrift or sailing with very slow speed.

It was apparently Youzarsif H that hit Liman since Russian ships hull was  breached below the waterline. Both ship are similar in displacement around 1.500 tons and size. The damage to the Russian ship has overwhelmed the damage control party and the ship sunk at 11:48 UTC (14:48 local time).

The proximate location of the incident.

Turkish Directorate General of Coastal Safety dispatched life boats Kıyı Emniyeti 3, Kıyı Emniyeti 6, Kıyı Emniyeyi 8 and tug Kurtarma 3 to the accident site.

Of the 78 sailors on board of Liman, 26 were rescued by life boat Kıyı Emniyeti 3, 37 by Kıyı Eminyeti 8 and 15 by Youzarsif H. There are no casualties.

Liman was one of the 3 Project 861M / Moma class intelligence gathering ships. All are based in the Black Sea. The ship was deployed to the Mediterranean in Winter 2016 and was last seen passing northbound through Istanbul on 26 January 2017.

Liman was not expected to pass southbound through Istanbul Strait. This means she was sailing just outside of the Turkish territorial waters for collecting intelligence.

Intelligence gathering ships are equipped with highly sensitive sensors, special eavesdropping hardware and software to record and decipher the collected data. Some of the sailors on board must be “scientist” specialized gathering and interpreting data. A good question is whether the Russians had time to destroy the sensitive equipment before abandoning the ship. Another question is whether there will be any efforts to raise the ship or salvage any sensitive equipment that was not destroyer by the crew.

Though we don’t have details, how the accident ever happened and who was right according to COLREG, it is kind a ironic, that a ship with a mission to gather all the intelligence around it, fails to see an ungainly merchant ship sailing directly on it.

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