Over 2,000 forces and 27 ships are taking part in exercise Breeze 2019 in the Black Sea. The Bulgarian-led maritime exercise, which began on 12 July, involves forces from 12 NATO Allies – Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
The exercise aims to enhance interoperability among participating units and strengthen NATO’s readiness in the Black Sea region. It is an annual exercise, dating back to 1996. This year, two of four NATO fleets are participating - Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2).
On Tuesday (16 July), SNMG2 conducted seamanship and communication drills, as well as training to counter threats from the sea and air. The minehunters of SNMCMG also led vessels through a fictional minefield, testing their ability to keep sea lanes open and safe for navigation.
Commodore Josée Kurtz of the Royal Canadian Navy currently commands SNMG2. “The purpose of this exercise is to build our interoperability, that ability to work together as Allies, coming from different countries, and being able to conduct operations with a standardized set of procedures,” said Commodore Kurtz.
SNMG2 includes the flagship Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto, Turkish frigate TCG Turgutreis and Romanian frigate ROS Regele Ferdinand. SNMCMG2 is composed of the flagship, Italian auxiliary ITS Vesuvio, French minehunter FS Orion, Turkish minehunter TCG Enez and Romanian minesweeper ROS Nicolescu.
NATO ships routinely patrol and exercise in the Black Sea. Prior to exercise Breeze, SNMG2 conducted patrols in the Black Sea and participated in exercise Sea Breeze, a multinational exercise co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States.