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AKIPRESS.COM - Four NATO warships are in the Black Sea for annual Sea Breeze military drills with regional navies, but this year the number of participants has fallen significantly due to the civil war in Ukraine, which hosted the exercises in previous years, RT reports Friday.
The ships form NATO’s rotational Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO formation led by Italian Navy captain Giovanni Piegaja.
The group’s flagship is an Italian Navy frigate, the ITS Aviere, accompanied by another Italian battleship ITS Rimini, Turkish TCG Akçay and British HMS Chiddingfold.
The task force is expected to be beefed up by American and Greek warships. The US has also provided a patrol warplane.
Last year the number of participants was much greater. It included Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US, with France, Germany, Libya, Lithuania, Qatar, and UAE sending observers.
The group’s mission in the Black Sea consists of organizing training with Bulgarian and Romanian navies. The force is set to call at the Bulgarian port of Burgas on July 4 for the first stage of the Exercise BREEZE drill this year led by the Bulgarian Navy.
Later the force will move to Romanian waters for additional joint training.
The main objective of the exercise is to improve collaboration of the naval forces of different NATO member states. Bulgarian Naval Forces’ staff will be certified for independent operations planning conformity, according to NATO criteria.
“During SNMCMG2’s deployment in the Black Sea, we look forward to working with international partners in Exercise BREEZE to improve our operational and tactical capacity and interoperability in a multi-threat environment,” NATO’s website cited Capt. Piegaja as saying.
“Our deployment is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the Alliance’s strong solidarity and collective defense,” he said.