Dutch, British and American Warships Converge Into Black Sea, Russia Practices Firing Missiles Into It
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa reported that the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon, deployed to the Black Sea on June 11, engaged in passing and communications exercises with two warships assigned to the carrier strike group of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier currently in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The latter ships are the British destroyer HMS Defender and the Royal Netherlands Navy’s De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate HNLMS Evertsen.
Laboon is the fifth American ship sent to the Black Sea so far this year and the fourth guided-missile warship (three destroyers and a cruiser), all four Aegis Combat System vessels equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles.
Last week Queen Elizabeth and its carrier strike group engaged in joint exercises in the Mediterranean with France’s nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its carrier strike group which included 15 ships and 57 aircraft from Britain, France, the U.S., Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. The British group represents the largest-ever deployment of F-35 combat aircraft and the largest fifth-generation fighter carrier air wing in the world.
In addition to Defender and Evertsen, the Queen Elizabeth strike group includes the British destroyer HMS Diamond, the U.S. destroyer USS The Sullivans and the British frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Kent.
Laboon is assigned to the carrier strike group of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower nuclear aircraft carrier as are fellow destroyers USS Mitscher, USS Mahan and USS Thomas Hudner and cruiser USS Monterey. Thomas Hudner and Monterey were deployed to the Black Sea earlier this year.
In addition to the four guided-missile warships assigned to Dwight D. Eisenhower and the one to Queen Elizabeth, the U.S. maintains four more destroyers at the Naval Station Rota in Spain. So the U.S. currently has ten guided-missile ships in the Mediterranean and Black Seas capable of firing 55 Tomahawk cruise missiles apiece and Standard Missile-3 interceptors of the sort that earlier this month was used to conduct “a ballistic missile intercept in outer space.”
The recent exercise in the Black Sea with British, U.S. and Dutch warships was described by its British commander in these anything but modest words:
“This opportunity for ourselves and the HNLMS Evertsen to operate with the USS Laboon in the Black Sea has again demonstrated the agility and flexibility that exists between NATO allies to be able to work seamlessly together on Maritime Security operations in order to defend international order and promote global peace and stability”
Defending the international order in a region where only one adversary is targeted: Russia.
The Russian military has practiced firing missiles into the Black Sea as vessels of the U.S. Navy and allied and partnered forces entered the strategic waters to conduct joint drills.
Personnel of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet deployed Bal and Bastion coastal defense systems to the Crimean Peninsula as part of “an exercise to destroy a simulated enemy’s surface ship in the Black Sea,” the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday. Once in position, crews prepared the launchers to fire, detected the mock target, identified it and locked onto it.
“In the course of the exercise, the servicemen practiced the algorithm of measures to deliver missile strikes against a simulated enemy’s warship by electronic launches,” the ministry added.
The training came shortly after the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it was tracking the movements of warships of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as they joined the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon and other vessels positioned in the Black Sea for Exercise Sea Breeze 2021. This year’s installation of the annual training, led by the U.S. and Ukraine, was set to feature its largest multinational gathering yet.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Bobby Dixon, who leads public affairs for Exercise Sea Breeze, told Newsweek that the combined operation was a display of mutual commitment and capability of the NATO Western military alliance and its partners toward enforcing their vision for the Black Sea and surrounding areas.
“This is the 21st iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze which is held annually in Ukraine and throughout the Black Sea region,” Dixon said. “The continuation of this exercise is a visible demonstration of our enduring commitment to work closely with our NATO Allied and partner nations to enhance maritime security in the Black Sea. The exercise is cohosted by U.S. and Ukrainian navies bringing together over 30 countries to operate within Ukraine and international waters and airspace which aligns with internationally accepted norms and behaviors.”
He said the U.S. and fellow participants were following the rules when it came to operating in the Black Sea, and expected other nations not a part of the current exercises to do the same.
“When operating in the same body of water with any maritime traffic, the U.S. Navy will conduct operations in accordance with international law and customs,” Dixon said. “In addition, should any vessels or aircraft not participating in SEA BREEZE enter the exercise operating area, we would expect those units to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner.”
On Monday the 6th Fleet formally announced its participation in the Exercise Sea Breeze, set to take place from June 28 through July 10. The training “will focus on multiple warfare areas including amphibious warfare, land maneuver warfare, diving operations, maritime interdiction operations, air defense, special operations integration, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations,” according to a statement.
The exercise is to include some “32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams scheduled to participate,” the statement said.
Ukrainian naval forces have already begun live-fire combat training amid heightened geopolitical frictions surrounding the exercise.