Bulgarian Navy To Exchange Sea Sparrow With Helicopters?

The Bulgarian navy will modernise three of its frigates by 2014, Defence Minister Anyu Angelov said on April 12 2011, as quoted by the Bulgarian news agency BTA.

By the end of 2014, several ships will be decommissioned from the Bulgarian navy, including a submarine and several “missile boats” and mine sweepers, Angelov said. The measures are taken to “improve the technical efficiency of the navy”.

As part of the overhaul, the frigates will be equipped with landing pads, allowing helicopters to land and take off from from the ships’ decks.

I have emphasized the the fact with the landing pads as it is a very important point. Bulgarian Navy has 3 Mil-14 PL Haze A and and 6 AS 565 MB Panther helicopters in service. However currently there is no single Bulgarian warships that has ability to land, house and supply a helicopter.

As we all know the on board helicopters have become a major force multipliers for naval forces. Thus the lack of on board helicopters is a major obstacle for the Bulgarian Navy. This did not hurt till now as most of the operations conducted by Bulgarian navy were in Black Sea and with in the range of the land based helicopters.

But as Bulgaria wishes to take part in NATO operations in further regions such as Operation Unified Protector off  Libya, the lack of on board helicopters becomes more obvious. Therefore the project to modify the ships with a landing pad is a right decision. But at what price?

The three warships mentioned by Mr. Angelov must the Wielingen class frigates Bulgaria bought from Belgium in the 2000s.  These compact and well armed frigates were designed by and for Belgian Navy. The most important distinction of these class is the lack of helicopter facilities.

There is a Mk 29 Sea Sparrow launcher at Y position and 4 Exocet launcher at X position on this class.  Below is a photo of one of the three frigates to be upgraded. F-43 BNS Gordi passing through the Bosphorus. The missile launchers at the stern of the ships can be clearly seen.

If these frigates are going  to get heli pads this means that Mk 29 Sea Sparrow launcher must be removed as the stern is the most suitable place for this change. The ships might look like this after the modernization. I have painted a heli pad with a generic naval helicopter landed.

It is very obvious that the Mk 29 is standing just in the middle of the future helicopter pad. It is not very reasonable to scrap the most potent air defense weapon of these ships just the land a helicopter. Therefore I suspect that the Mk 29 launcher will be replaced; may be removed to the position of the Exocet missiles. Another available spot for the Sea Sparrow launcher is the B position to replace the Bofors ASW mortar.

The details of the proposed modernization plans for the Weilingen class frigates is not made public yet. But it is safe to assume that they will be comprehensive.

>Russian Submarine Alrosa Back To The Sea

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© RIA Novosti. Igor Chuprin

This is an interesting coincidence. Little did I know when I wrote almost one week ago that the operational status of Russian submarine Alrosa was doubtful.

Today the Russian news portal RIA Novosti ran an article about that submarine. It seems that the repairs work is finished and the submarine is back at the sea again for trials.

She had fire broke out in her engine department in November 2009 and she was in dry dock for the repairs ever since.

The Alrosa (originally Varshavyanka), a Kilo-class Project 877 diesel submarine, entered service in December 1990. It was renamed Alrosa in 2004 after it was “adopted” by Russia’s largest diamond company of the same name.

She is the only submarine in active service with the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It is based at a Russian naval base in Sevastopol on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The Montreux Convention Regarding The Regime Of The Straits: A Turkish Perspective

The Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the Turkish Straits was signed on 20 July 1936 in Montreux. With this convention, the Republic of Turkey managed to end the issue of Straits, which was resolved temporarily with the Treaty of Lausanne, so as to protect its own safety and interests.

Considering the historical developments, Turkey had to allow the Straits as a gun-free zone to be administered by the Straits Commission under the Treaty of Lausanne. This situation which threatened Turkey’s absolute sovereignty and security over its territory had to be corrected due to the increasing political tensions in Europe in the late 1930s. The Montreux Convention was the result of the political and diplomatic efforts that were made in this direction.

Through this convention that was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Japan, France, Romania, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s limited rights were given back. Turkey gained sovereignty over the Straits Zone. The USA was also invited to the conference that was held before the convention. However, the Washington Government preferred not to participate and thus couldn’t become a signatory.

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svg

Northwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The channel passing between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara is named the İstanbul Boğazı, more commonly called the Bosporus. Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey is positioned at the south end of the Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is connected to the Aegean Sea by a channel called the Çanakkale Boğazı, also known as the Dardanelles. The Turkish Straits, comprising the Strait of Canakkale, the Strait of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara, are unique in many respects. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of the river. It is an established fact that the Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous waterways in the world for marines. All the dangers and obstacles characteristic of narrow waterways are present and acute in this critical sea lane.

The Montreux Convention guarantees free passage of civilian merchant ships without any restriction through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus in peacetime. Therefore, the adoption of the Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services System, which was put into practice by Turkey when the number and tonnages of vessels passing through the straits increased dramatically, became possible after serious diplomatic negotiations between the signatories of the Montreux Convention.

Six out of 29 articles of the Montreux Convention were related to the civilian merchant ships while 16 of them were related to warships and aircraft. Provisions regarding the passing of warships through the Straits vary depending on whether these ships belong to a country with or without a shore on the Black Sea. Also, these provisions vary depending on whether Turkey is belligerent or sees itself under a close war threat.

The definition of “ton” in the Montreux Convention, unless otherwise specified, refers to the long ton, which is equal to 1016 kg (2240 pounds) instead of the metric ton that is equal to 1000 kg.

Passage of warships
The Black Sea riparian countries have the right to transit their warships and submarines through the Straits without any tonnage restriction provided that Turkey is notified eight days prior to the transit passage through diplomatic channels

Ships that have a greater tonnage than 15.000 tons may pass through the Straits one by one and be escorted by not more than two destroyers.

Only submarines belonging to riparian states can pass on the surface and singly through the Turkish Straits, for the purpose of rejoining their base in the Black Sea for the first time after their construction or purchase, or for the purpose of repair in dockyards outside the Black Sea.

There are severe restrictions in terms of type, number and tonnage for the transit through the Straits of warships that belong to the non-Black Sea countries. These non-riparian countries are required to notify Turkey 15 days, prior to the transit through diplomatic channels.

The total number and the maximum aggregate tonnage of all foreign naval forces which may be in course of passage through the Turkish Straits are limited to 9 and 15.000 tons respectively. The maximum aggregate tonnage that non-riparian States may have in the Black Sea is 45.000 tons. In this regard, the maximum aggregate tonnage of the vessels of war that one non-riparian State may have in the Black Sea is 30.000 tons. The non-riparian states cannot keep their warships for more than 21 days in the Black Sea.

Due to its date of signing, the Montreux Convention does not have a clear statement with regard to nuclear-powered vessels. In fact, in the convention, there is not a statement with regard to the engine types of the ships that will pass through the Straits. In theory, the transit of a nuclear-powered ship through the Straits is not restricted. However, today nuclear-powered warships are either submarines or aircraft carriers with huge tonnage.

The transit of a submarine or an aircraft carrier belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea is not possible. Therefore, a nuclear-powered warship has not passed through the Straits officially so far.

The only type of warship that is exclusively banned from passage through the Turkish Straits is the aircraft carrier.

Turkish Straits during a War or Crisis
In the time of war Turkey not being belligerent, the peacetime rules apply for the warships belonging to non-belligerent parties. Warships belonging to the waring states cannot pass through the Turkish Straits, The only exception of this is that if the warships belonging to belligerent countries with or without a shore on the Black Sea have already left the ports that they are affiliated to before the war, they have the right to transit in order to return to their ports.

In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the passage of warships is entirely left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

Similarly, if Turkey considers itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war, the transit of warships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

By means of this authority, Turkey can prohibit the transit of warships belonging to the countries that cause Turkey to consider itself to be threatened with the danger of war while it can allow the transit of warships belonging to countries that do not cause that such situation.

With the Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the straits, which we have tried to summarize above, the number, type and size of the warships that can reach the Black Sea have been restricted. These restrictions increased the security of the riparian states. However, the same restrictions prevent the desire of countries with powerful naval forces to be present and cruise in all seas all around the world.

Turkey has been trying to implement the Montreux Convention with great precision since 1936. Therefore, occasionally Turkey is exposed to criticism from countries both with and without a shore on the Black Sea. The first big test of the Montreux Convention was, no doubt, the Second World War. Turkey closed the Straits to the warships of the belligerent countries during this war in which Turkey remained neutral. This situation served the purpose of the Soviet Union since the transit of German submarines and warships through the Straits was prevented. Axis countries couldn’t bring new warships to the Black Sea except for those that were already in the Black Sea before the war. Submarines were transferred in pieces by land or through the Danube River so that they could be assembled in Romania.

This however also prevented the military aid convoys coming from its allies, the UK and the USA, to pass through the Straits. Therefore, much of the military aid from the USA and UK had to be carried to Russia either over Iran or over the North Pole route.

Montreux During The Cold War
During the Cold War, Turkey was exposed to criticism both from the Soviet Union and the NATO allies from time to time due to its way of implementation of the Montreux Convention.

In 1976 when Turkey allowed the warship Kiev to pass through the Turkish Straits, many NATO allies including the USA protested Turkey. The Kiev, constructed in the Nikolayev Shipyard in the Black Sea in 1972 was considered as the first aircraft carrier constructed in the Soviet Union. However, having been quite aware of the fact that violating the Montreux Convention would not be good for its own benefit, the USSR classified Kiev as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser.

The Montreux Convention, defines aircraft carriers as surface warships, regardless of their tonnage, designed and constructed mainly to carry aircraft and enable their operation of them. If a warship was not designed or constructed with the sole purpose of carrying and operating aircraft, is not considered as an aircraft carrier even if the ship has a suitable deck for the aircraft’s take-off and landing.

Kiev and her sister ships had long-range anti-ship and air defence missiles as well as anti-submarine warfare rockets. Thus, the Soviet Union was able to classify these ships as heavy anti-submarine cruisers. All the ships of this class, Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk and Baku passed frequently both northbound and southbound through the Turkish Straits while they were commissioned.

This is not a carrier. Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov passing through Bosphorus

A similar crisis happened in 1991 when Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, still commissioned in the Russian Naval Forces, passed through the Turkish Straits. Although this ship looked like a classical aircraft carrier in terms of its structure, the Soviet Union classified it as a heavy cruiser due to weapon systems deployed onboard. Again some NATO members put serious pressure on Turkey not to allow this ship to pass through the Straits, but they didn’t succeed in this effort.

Unlike Kiev class ships, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov didn’t pass through the Straits ever, after leaving the Black Sea in December 1991.

Montreux in the New World
After the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the U.S. Government requested help from the NATO countries within the scope of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. According to this article, an armed attack against a NATO country is considered an attack against all of the NATO countries.

In this context, on 26 October 2001 Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) the first anti-terror operation of NATO was launched. The operation began with the patrols of the warships belonging to NATO countries in the Eastern Mediterranean was later on expanded so as to search the suspicious ships and their loads.

Upon the success of the OAE in the Eastern Mediterranean, the operation was expanded to the whole Mediterranean in March 2004. At the same time, the Turkish Naval Forces launched Operation Black Sea Harmony (OBSH). The purpose of OBSH was to ensure security in the Black Sea, create situational awareness and control suspicious merchant ships. The recognized maritime picture obtained within the scope of the operation, which is still ongoing, is shared with the NATO authorities and headquarters.

Initially, only units of the Turkish Naval Forces participated in OBSH. Later Turkey invited all littoral countries in the Black Sea to participate in the operation that was launched with its own initiative, and Romania, Russia and Ukraine responded positively to this invitation. The most important effect of the OBSH was that all the pressure exerted to modify the Montreux Convention and expand the OAE into the Black Sea was neutralised. Otherwise, if OAE was extended into the Black Sea, warships belonging to non-riparian NATO countries would be regularly present in the Black Sea and successful implementation of the Montreux Convention would be jeopardised.

After the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, the Montreux Convention was widely discussed again. Turkey received a lot of flak for refusing the transit of the hospital ship USNS Comfort. The USA wanted to dispatch the ship with a 69.552 displacement to Georgia to show solidarity and provide aid. However the article of the Montreux Convention is very clear about the sizes of the ships to be sent for humanitarian reasons: “In the event that one or more countries without a shore on the Black Sea desire to send naval forces into the Black Sea, for a humanitarian purpose, the said forces cannot exceed 8.000 tons.” The neo-conservative U.S. government was not happy with this decision.

The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, and NATO’s anti-ballistic missile defence system were the most recent times when Ankara faced pressure on how it implemented the Montreux Convention in dealing with foreign navies’ requests for transit to and from the BlackSea.

What Now?
Turkey will face challenges regarding the implementation of the Montreux Convention, especially after Ukraine calls on Turkey to close its airspace and the Black Sea access to Russian vessels on 24 February 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine showed that Russia indeed is the major challenge in terms of the security and stability of Europe in general and the Black Sea region specifically.

Turkey created a security architecture in the Black Sea with the riparian states. This apparatus keep the security in the region and keep the warships of the non-riparian states out. This architecture worked when the Russian Black Sea Fleet was weak and the NATO’s enlargement toward the east was slow. It even survived the Russian attack on Georgia in 2008. However, in 2014, Russia’s annexation of Crimea meant the collapse of the regional security architecture.

In recent years, Russia displayed its discontent towards the existence of foreign warships in the Black Sea by shadowing them constantly and flying military planes aggressively low and close to these vessels of war. On the other hand, NATO is trying to find ways to keep more warships of non-riparian States in the Black Sea and keep them longer.

When determining ways to bring stability to the Black Sea region and to answer the security challenges caused by Russian aggression it is important to remember that the Montreux Convention is simply far more than just a treaty that regulates the passage of commercial and naval ships through the Turkish Straits.

The Montreux Convention completes the Treaty of Lausanne, allowing Turkey to have full and absolute sovereignty and security over its territory. Therefore it is vital for Turkey to keep the convention alive and relevant.

Note: I have first written this text in 2014 for the Turkish online defence magazine C4 Defence in Turkish. It was published in the March 2014 Issue. Since then it was also published on web site Second Line of Defense. I have changed the original text in light of the recent Russian attack on Ukraine.

A Primer On The Montreux Convention

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svgThis is just a short primer on the Montreux Convention that regulates the passage of Merchant and warship through the Turkish Straits.

Signed on 20 July 1936, The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits gives Turkey full control over the Turkish Straits, guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime and permits Turkey to remilitarise the Turkish Straits.

  1. The aim of the Montreux Convention is to regulate the passage of civilian and military ships through the Turkish Straits.
  2. The term Turkish Straits covers the Dardanelles, the Marmara Sea and the Bosporus.
  3. The Convention makes a clear differentiation between Black Sea countries (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia) and non-Black Sea countries.
  4. Merchant vessels enjoy total freedom of passage through the Turkish Straits.  Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services Centre regulates the passages according to the Maritime Traffic Regulations for the Turkish Straits dated 1998.
  5. The Black Sea Countries;
    • cannot pass warships solely designed to carry airplanes through Turkish Straits.
    • can pass submarines if they are joining their base in the Black Sea for the first time after their construction or purchase, or if they are returning from a repair in dockyards outside the Black Sea.
    • can pass their warships through Turkish Straits by notifying Turkey through diplomatic channels 8 days before the passage.
  6. The Non-Black Sea Countries;
    • cannot pass warships solely designed to carry airplanes through Turkish Straits.
    • cannot pass submarines.
    • can pass warships, but the aggregate displacement of the foreign warships in the Black Sea may not exceed 45.000 tons.
    • cannot hold their ships in the Black Sea longer than 21 days.
    • cannot have more than 9 ships in the Black Sea at the same time
    • can pass their warships through Turkish Straits by notifying Turkey through diplomatic channels 15 days before the passage.

For further reading:

  • The full text of the Montreux Convention can be found here.
  • The official Turkish stand of the implementation of  the Montreux Convention can be found here.

Doğu Akdeniz Naval Exercise 2019

Doğu Akdeniz 2019 -Eastern Mediterranean- naval exercise has started in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The biannual exercise is organized by the Turkish Navy will be held between 9 and 20 November 2019. This year 16 nations are taking part in this exercise by various means. Some are sending observers (Azerbaijan, Brazil, Georgia, Italy, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico) some are sending ships, airplanes, and units (Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Canada, Pakistan, Romania, Jordan, USA, and Greece)

According to the press releases, 4700 personnel, 44 ships and submarines participating in this exercise.

Furthermore, the following institutions are taking part in the exercise:

  1. Turkish Land Forces Command with attack and transport helicopters.
  2. Turkish Air Force Command with fighter planes, airborne warning and control planes, and CBRN defense team.
  3. Gendarmerie General Command with search and rescue teams.
  4. Coast Guard Command with one OPV and various small vessels.
  5. Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Transport, Maritime and Communications Ministry, Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, and Turkish Red Crescent

An important part of the exercise will be the attempts to provide coastal safety during disasters by means of disaster and emergency operations, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and air sanitary evacuation procedures.

The most noteworthy aspect of the exercise is the fact that countries such as Greece and Italy are taking part in this exercise, although they are in a power struggle regarding the natural resources below the Eastern Mediterranean.

Here is the list of the participating units as far as I could find it. The list of foreign participants is complete but the names of 13 Turkish naval assets are missing.

Number Name Type Nation Fleet
42 BGS Verni Frigate Bulgaria
S-532 ITS Prini Submarine Italy
260 PNS Alamgir Frigate Pakistan
F-221 ROS Regele Ferdinand Frigate Romania
A-5329 ITS Vesuvio Auxilliary Italy SNMCMG-2
M-268 TCG Amasra Mine hunter Turkey SNMCMG-2
M-32 ESPS Sella Mine hunter Spain SNMCMG-2
M-5557 ITS Numana Mine hunter Italy SNMCMG-2
330 HMCS Halifax Frigate Canada SNMG-2
A-14 ESPS Patino Auxilliary Spain SNMG-2
F-103 ESPS Blas de Lezo Frigate Spain SNMG-2
F-459 HS Adrias Frigate Greece SNMG-2
F-491 TCG Giresun Frigate Turkey SNMG-2
A-543 TCG Işın Auxilliary Turkey
A-580 TCG Akar Auxilliary Turkey
F-244 TCG Barbaros Frigate Turkey
F-490 TCG Gaziantep Frigate Turkey
F-491 TCG Giresun Frigate Turkey
F-494 TCG Gökçeada Frigate Turkey
F-495 TCG Gediz Frigate Turkey
F-497 TCG Göksu Frigate Turkey
F-500 TCG Bozcaada Corvette Turkey
F-501 TCG Bodrum Corvette Turkey
F-511 TCG Heybeliada Corvette Turkey
F-512 TCG Büyükada Corvette Turkey
L-402 TCG Bayraktar Amphibious Turkey
L-403 TCG Sancaktar Amphibious Turkey
M-265 TCG Alanya Minehunter Turkey
M-270 TCG Akçay Minehunter Turkey
P-334 TCG Rüzgar Fast attack Turkey
S-353 TCG Preveze Submarine Turkey

What Does The Exercise Mavi Vatan Mean?

Today, 96 ships of various types and 7 submarines sailed away from their ports this morning as the naval exercise Mavi Vatan started. Mavi Vatan means Blue Motherland (or Fatherland or Homeland depending your own orientation) and refers to the seas around Turkey.

The break down of the participants in number and percentage.

The exercise is held in the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and in the Black Sea simultaneously and is the largest naval exercise ever held in Turkey. The exercise will continue till 8th March 2019.

In addition to the above-mentioned assets, helicopters, planes and special forces teams of Turkish Navy, attack and transport helicopters from Turkish Land Forces, fighter and early warning planes from Turkish Air Force, and boats and helicopters from Turkish Coast Guard are also participating in this exercise.

Turkish Navy usually conducts its spring exercise a few weeks later, usually in late March, early April or in May when the seas are less demanding and the winds are fairer. These wargames are more compact in size and in their scopes.

In many aspects, this is not a standard annual wargame played by the Turkish Naval Forces. And when nations stage grandiose military games it is usually a kind of a signal.

There was one such major exercise the Turkish Navy had held in June 1998, Turkish naval elements spread over the Mediterranean. One group was deployed east of Malta and the other west of Crete before launching a virtual battle with the participation of the Turkish air force. That was the largest exercise ever held by the Turkish navy in the Mediterranean and was meant as a response to the tension with Greece at that time.

The Turkish media say the exercise is actually a message to the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), a coalition formed recently by Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The alliance plans to explore energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including disputed areas. This show of force on the maritime domain will surely be closely watched by these nations.

So what makes this exercise novel if we would skip the most obvious part:

  • Unmanned aircraft and autonomous unmanned vehicles will be used together with the manned systems. The short ranged Bayraktar and the longer range ANKA UAV’s are in service with the Turkish Navy. Bayraktar can carry smart micro munition. ANKA can be controlled via satellite thus enabling it to fly long-range missions. The Gavia autonomous unmanned vehicles can detect mines down to 1000m depth. Previous systems on board of the mine hunters were limited down to 270m. The integration of these modern systems into existing capabilities must be tested.
  • The usage of command, control, communication, and intelligence systems. Turkish Navy has been trying to increase its awareness over the maritime domain. A lot has been invested in land-based long-range radar systems, airborne early warning aircraft and in data linking ability. These have to be tried and assessed.
  • In the pre-exercise briefing, it has been announced that a locally developed computer-based naval warfare simulator (game) will be used during this exercise. With the help of this system, the commanders will be able to make decisions based on the played scenarios rendered from real-life situations.
  • The validation of the effectiveness of the Naval Warfare Center established last year. 165 strong staff will be running this large exercise.

Not much left sitting in the port.

It has been announced that live firings will be conducted during the Mavi Vatan 2019 exercise. Though at this stage it is not clear what type of ammunition will be tested against what kind of target(s). Only UMTAS, long-range anti-tank missile, and CİRİT, 2.75” laser-guided missile has been specially mentioned. Both munitions are specially made to be used from attack helicopters. We will have to wait to learn why these two missiles are mentioned. Are they integrated into a naval platform or will they be fired from army attack helicopters?

More than %80 of all corvettes, fast attack craft, and patrol boats, currently not deployed to a mission are taking part in this exercise. An impressive %93 of all frigates have sailed away.  To keep so many ships for 10 days at sea requires also a good and strong logistical support. The test the logistical support Turkey can provide to its deployed forces is one of the important issues of this exercise.

For me, the most important part of the exercise will be the port visits made by the Turkish warships. Between 6th and 8th March, 40 ports will be visited by 67 participating naval units, 7 of which are foreign ports.

Turkish warships will visit, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Georgia and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The simultaneous visits to the Black Sea riparian states have a high symbolic value. Turkey is the only nation that can perform such a diplomatic show of force. It is not a small event to do port visits in 5 different nations at the same time.

In conclusion, this exercise is a military drill to turn the concepts of Turkish Armed Forces into doctrines as indicated by Mr. Metin Gürcan, an independent security analyst. This exercise is a political act to show that Turkey will protect its interests on the high seas.

NATO Naval Taskforces End Their Deployment To The Black Sea

The flagship of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two FGR Rhein, during her southbound transit through Istyanbul.

Turkish contribution to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two, TCG Anamur making her southbound passage through Istanbul as the taskforce departs from the Black Sea. A new minehunter will replace her for the future deployment of SNMCMG-2.

On early July, flagships of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) HNLMS De Ruyter and FGS Rhein arrived in Bulgarian port Burgas for the Bulgarian led exercise Breeze 2018. Replenishment ship FS Marne of Marine Nationale and Greek fast attack craft HS Daniolos followed them. BREEZE 2018 from 13 to 20 July.

The exercise was designed to enhance the interoperability of the participating units and strengthen cooperation by practicing different warfare techniques in a multi-dimensional scenario. Multinational participating forces and their crews will be tested in a wide range of warfare tactics focusing on regional security.

Bulgaria as host took part with 16 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 2 helicopters and staff of 930 members. Two aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force and units of the Land Forces were also involved in the exercise with most ships. Turkey was the second largest contributor to the exercise with TCG Fatih for SNMG-2 and minehunter TCG Anamur for SNMCMG-2, submarine TCG Gür, fast attack craft TCG İmbat and one patrol plane.

In total 25 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 1 submarine, 4 aircraft, 5 helicopters and 2,340 service members from the navies of Bulgaria, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the USA, Turkey, France, the Netherlands took part in the exercise, which was held from 13th to 20th July.

Following the conclusion of the exercise Sea Breeze Greek fast attack craft HS Daniolos and French replenishment tanker, FS Marne exited the region while the remaining ships of both NATO Standing Maritime Groups made a port visit in Odessa between 23rd and 25th July. During this port visit, the warships were warships were open to the public. According to the Turkish Navy, TCG Fatih and TCG Anamur have hosted 2413 visitors for 6 hours when they were open to the public.

After the port visit, all NATO warships conducted a passing exercise (PASSEX) with Ukrainian naval forces. The flagship of the Ukrainian Navy Hetman Sagaidachny and warships BerdyanskVyshgorod, Kremenchuk, Lubny, and Pochaiv also took part in this PASSEX.

Upon leaving Odessa, NATO naval task forces separated. While SNMCMG-2 sailed towards Constanta Romania to conduct mine warfare exercise with Romanian Navy, SNMG-2 sailed to Samsun Turkey.

On the first day of August 2018, both HNLMS De Ruyter and FGS Rhein departed from the Black Sea ending their deployment in the region.

Notes On Deniz Yıldızı 2018 Naval Exercise

On 26 March 2018 Turkish Navy started its spring exercise Deniz Yıldızı 2018. Ships departed from their ports and the first phase of the exercise was held in the Marmara Sea. On 27 March 2018 Turkish warships passed northbound through Istanbul and continued the exercise in the Black Sea. The exercise will end on 5th April

Though it has not been officially announced, the decommissioned oiler ex Binbaşı Saadetin Gürcan, that was observed being towed to the Black Sea in February is believed to be sunk as a target.

This weekend these warships are dispersed all over the ports in the Black Sea for a well earned weekend break. Turkish warships are simultaneously visiting Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine. It is neither an easy nor a simple act of sending 8 warships to foreign cities for port visits and small scale exercises at the same time.

The list of the warships taking part in the exercise and their port of call for the weekend is below:

Number Name Type Port Country
S-360 1. İnönü Submarine Varna Bulgaria
P-1207 Tekirdağ Patrol Boat Varna Bulgaria
A-578 Darıca Tug Varna Bulgaria
F-242 Fatih Frigate Batumi Georgia
P-343 Volkan Fast Attack Craft Batumi Georgia
F-504 Bartın Frigate Constanta Romania
P-331 Kalkan Fast Attack Craft Constanta Romania
Novorossiysk Russia
Novorossiysk Russia
A-572 Yüzbaşı İhsan Tulunay Tanker Giresun Turkey
F-240 Yavuz Frigate Hopa Turkey
P-341 Martı Fast Attack Craft İğneada Turkey
S-350 Yıldıray Submarine Karadeniz Ereğli Turkey
A-580 Akar Tanker Karadeniz Ereğli Turkey
F-245 Oruçreis Frigate Rize Turkey
F-247 Kemalreis Frigate Samsun Turkey
S-349 Batıray Submarine Samsun Turkey
F-243 Yıldırım Frigate Sinop Turkey
F-500 Bozcaada Corvette Trabzon Turkey
P-335 İmbat Fast Attack Craft Trabzon Turkey
P-336 Zıpkın Fast Attack Craft Zonguldak Turkey
F-246 Salihreis Frigate Odessa Ukraine
F-512 Büyükada Corvette Odessa Ukraine

It is interesting to note that Novorossiysk, Russia was declared the fifth foreign port of call by Turkish Navy on 16th March 2018, in the pre-exercise press release. However, Novorossiysk was not mentioned by the daily dispatch of Turkish General Staff on 31st March 2018, as one of the ports where Turkish Navy ships are conducting a visit.

On the other hand, the same dispatch mentioned 23 warships are taking part in the Deniz Yıldızı exercise but only disclosed names and location of 21 warships. So there could be two warships conducting a port visit in Novorossiysk, Russia or not.

Another interesting thing to note is the absence of Gabya ex-Perry class frigates. Turkish Navy operates 8 Gabya class frigates. None was observed to pass to the Black Sea recently.

Here are the photos of some of the participants:

A-572 TCG Yüzbaşı İhsan Tulunay.

A-580 TCG Akar

F-243 TCG Yıldırım. Note the new ESM mast.

F-245 TCG Oruçreis

F-247 TCG Kemalreis

F-500 TCG Bozcaada

F-504 TCG Bartın. Both TCG Bozcaada and TCG Bartın have their original MM-38 Exocet missiles still installed.

F-512 TCG Büyükada

TCG İmbat

P-343 TCG Volkan

Doğu Akdeniz 2017 Naval Exercise Started In Eastern Mediterranean

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook arrives in Aksaz, Turkey. Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

Doğu Akdeniz 2017 naval exercise kicked off yesterday at Turkish Naval Base in Aksaz, Marmaris

The biannual, invitation exercise will take in areas near Aksaz in the Eastern Mediterranean between 7 and 16 November 2017.

Turkey has invited the NATO Standing Maritime Task Force-2 (SNMG-2), the United States and Romanian Naval Forces. They will join the Naval Forces, Air Forces and Coast Guard elements from Turkey.

25 warships and submarines 27 helicopters and airplanes and 3500 personnel from 5 participating countries will take part in the exercise. The exercise is a multinational maritime exercise designed to improve combined combat capabilities, increase operational capacity and strengthen relationships among NATO allies.

This is the list of the participating ships and submarines as far as I could comply:

Number Name Type Nationality Fleet
F-245 TCG Oruçreis Frigate Turkey
F-24X TCG XXX Frigate Turkey
F-24X TCG XXX Frigate Turkey
F-24X TCG XXX Frigate Turkey
F-24X TCG XXX Frigate Turkey
F-511 TCG Heybeliada Corvette Turkey
P-344 TCG Rüzgar Fast attack craft Turkey
P-345 TCG Poyraz Fast attack craft Turkey
P-347 TCG Fırtına Fast attack craft Turkey
P-338 TCG Bora Fast attack craft Turkey
P-33X TCG XXX Fast attack craft Turkey
S-35X TCG XXX Submarine Turkey
S-35X TCG XXX Submarine Turkey
S-35X TCG XXX Submarine Turkey
A-580 TCG Akar Tanker Turkey
A-XXX TCG XXX Tanker Turkey
L-402 TCG Bayraktar LST Turkey
A-XXX TCG XXX Tug Turkey
SG-703 TCSG Yaşam OPV Turkey CG
L-12 HMS Ocean LSH UK SNMG-2
F-244 TCG Barbaros Frigate Turkey SNMG-2
41 BGS Drazki Frigate Bulgaria SNMG-2
265 ROS Admiral Horia Macelariu Corvette Romania
75 USS Donald Cook Destroyer USA

Furthermore following military and civilian search and rescue and emergency responce teams will tke part in the exercise:

 

  1. Turkish Land Forces Command Natural Disaster Relief teams and ambulance helicopters,
  2. Turkish Air Force Command, search and rescue helicopter and AKİP (Search and Rescue Specialist Staff) team,
  3. Ministry of Interior (Gendarmerie General Command), JAK (Gendarme Search and Rescue) teams,
  4. Transport, Maritime and Communications Ministry, Coastal Security General Directorate, Nene Hatun emergency response ship,
  5. Ministry of Health mobile hospital, command control instrument and UMKE (National Medical Rescue Team) teams,
  6. The Turkish Red Crescent

An important part of the exercise will be the attempts to provide coastal safety during disasters by means of disaster and emergency operations, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and air sanitary evacuation procedures.  The command, control and communications capabilities of the newest amphibious ship of Turkish Navy, TCG Bayraktar will be tested and evaluated in this scenario extensively.

 

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
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