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.

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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

Like A Lamb to The Slaughter

On 8th February 2018, three Turkish Navy tugs towed the hulk of an old tanker ex- TCG Bnb. Sadettin Gürcan to the Black Sea.

The tanker was named after the commander of the submarine TCG Atılay that sunk with all hands in 1942. She hit a mine while submerged and never resurfaced.

The tanker was laid down at Gölcük Naval Shipyard in 1968 and commissioned in 1970. She served till 2016.

As there are no shipbreakers in the Black Sea and the markings on the hull of ex- TCG Bnb. Sadettin Gürcan is consistent with a target, she will be used in a sinking exercise.

NATO SNMCMG-2 In Sinop

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 agenda.ge, 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.

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.

Commander Of The Ukrainian Navy Visited Turkey

Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko (left) and his entourage on board of a Ada class corvette. Photo: Turkish Naval Forces.

The Commander of Ukrainian Navy, Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko visited Turkey this week.

As official guest of Turkish Naval Forces, he arrived in Ankara on 19th April. After talks focused on discussions of regional security in the Black Sea, as well as aspects of bilateral cooperation with his Turkish counterpart, Vice Admiral Vorochenko, visited Gölcük Naval Basel and Yıldızlar Training Center.

He has returned to Ukraine on 22th April.

Comments On Live Firings Made During Deniz Yıldızı Exercise

Deniz Yıldızı 2017 naval exercise has ended on 7th April 2017 and participating warships are returning to their home bases.

Live missile firings made this year’s event will one of the best remembered.

During the second phase of the exercise between 31 March and 3 April, in total 6 warships and one submarine launched 8 missiles.

Below is the official video from the live missile firings made during Deniz Yıldızı 2017. Watch the video and then read my comments further below.

What do we see?

  • The submarine TCG Çanakkale performed the first ever submerged UGM-84 Harpoon missile launch in Turkish Navy.
  • Furthermore the corvette TCG Heybeliada fired a RGM-84F Harpoon Blok II missile capable of striking targets on land also a first for Turkish Navy.
  • Frigates TCG Gökçeada, TCG Fatih, TCG Barbaros, corvette TCG Büyükada and fast attack craft TCG İmbat, conducted surface to air missile firings.
  • An unidentified missile -probably RGM-84F Harpoon Block II but nor certainly- hit a specially constructed target area.

What do we not see?

  • The sinking of ex USS Duncan. She was towed to the Black Sea on 26 March to be used as a target. Was she even used?
  • The rumored firing of a Mk-24 Tigerfish torpedo. Turkish Navy had a bad experience with Tigerfish in 2001. Did the history repeated itself?
  • The impact of the second Harpoon missile, if the impacting missile on the video is indeed a Harpoon. If not, we don’t see impacts of both Harpoons.
  • Firings made from land to the sea. The navtex broadcasts of Directorate General of Coastal Safety and the NOTAM broadcasts of Directorate General of Civil Aviation mentioned that missile firings from land toward sea.
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