By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
This year marks the 20th iteration of exercise Sea Breeze, which brought together eight sovereign nations who share U.S. 6th Fleet’s commitment to security and stability in the Black Sea. The 27 ships and 19 aircraft all working together toward our common goal of strengthening cohesion across the Black Sea region and improving the capabilities of all participants. They did this while adhering to all protocols required to keep Sailors healthy and safe.
Exercise Sea Breeze 2020 is a defensive exercise for NATO Allies and partners to strengthen and fortify cooperation that is essential to defend our national security priorities and maintain stability in the Black Sea. The exercise’s theme for 2020 is: “Over 20 years of friendship in the Black Sea.” It captures what Sea Breeze is all about: TRUST. Our regional allies and partners believe in a free and safe Black Sea region, where surrounding nations adhere to international laws and respect borders and sovereignty.
“I am confident we will leave this exercise having achieved a greater level of integration and coordination with increased participation and leadership from the Ukrainian Naval Headquarters South, which continues to grow in capacity and capability through the professionalism of the Ukrainian Navy, as well as the contributions from our allies and partners,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. "Working side-by-side, we will continue to share experiences, learn valuable lessons and grow stronger together. Our 20-year friendship cultivated during Sea Breeze is only beginning. We will continue to build on our trust for decades to come.”
The Black Sea is a vital waterway critical to maritime commerce and stability throughout Europe. For this reason, many NATO Allies and partners outside the Black Sea routinely participate in exercise Sea Breeze. It is in the world’s best interest to maintain a stable, prosperous Black Sea region and deterring aggressive actors who seek destabilization for their own gain.
This year focused on sea and air operations enabling us to train and build on our interoperability while also warfighting safely in this new normal with COVID-19. Collective training objectives for exercise Sea Breeze 2020 include maritime interdiction operations, air defense, anti-submarine warfare, damage control, and search and rescue. In addition, this year we conducted more “free play,” meaning participants had more freedom to accomplish training objectives outside the confines of scripted exercise injects. This will enable participants to fine tune the skills they have developed during previous Sea Breeze exercises.
Intense, realistic training is ultimately what fortifies an enduring alliance consisting of sovereign, independent countries with one common goal: PEACE. U.S. 6th Fleet has been part of this noble goal for 70 years.
Three weeks ago, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and her crew participated in two exercises with naval forces from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Turkey. While Sea Breeze is an important annual exercise, Porter’s recent operations in the Black Sea further demonstrate our standing commitment to the region and our recognition that trust and cooperative relationships require consistent nurturing. The maritime capabilities 6th Fleet continues to build on with our increasingly capable partners are indicative of our mutual commitment.
Beginning in 1997, exercise Sea Breeze brings Black Sea nations together to train and operate with NATO members in the pursuit of building increased capability. The exercise took place exclusively at sea this year. This precaution allowed units to enhance multinational operational cooperation, while ensuring that crews remain healthy and ready. All participating nations carefully considered participation in the exercise and took appropriate measures to ensure the safety and health of participating military personnel.
U.S. participation included one P-8A Poseidon from maritime Patrol Squadron VP-47 and USS Porter. Total service member participation from the U.S. was approximately 400 Sailors.
Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
VP-47 is currently assigned to commander, Task Force (CTF) 67 and is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. CTF 67 is composed of land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate over the waters of the Mediterranean in anti-submarine reconnaissance, surveillance, and mining roles.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with joint, allied, and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.