Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan leads NATO task force in large Black Sea exercise

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet

Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan led a NATO task force through one of the largest naval exercises staged in the Black Sea.

Hosted in and off the Bulgarian port of Varna, Breeze 17 tested naval forces from more than half a dozen nations and their ability to safeguard Black Sea shores and shipping.

Demonstrations culminated with Royal Marines and their Bulgarian counterparts taking down 'terrorists' who'd seized a ship in Varna.

Elsewhere sailors had to deal with a major fire ravaging a merchantman in port, the illegal trafficking of migrants, and a large-scale rescue of people in distress at sea.

The exercise also allowed Portsmouth-based Duncan to work alongside an old friend, as the Romanian involvement was led by Regele Ferdinand, also known as the former Type 22 frigate HMS Coventry.

Breeze 17 was the first major exercise for Duncan since she took charge of Standing Maritime Group 2, one of two task forces for larger warships operated by NATO to maintain the freedom of the seas, deter illegal migration, ensure the partner nations of can work together seamlessly and remind nations of the importance and strength of the alliance.

Duncan received the flag of command in Souda Bay, Crete, where Commodore James Morley relieved the German Navy's Rear Admiral Axel Deertz and his flagship, frigate FGS Brandenburg.

From Crete, the Type 45 led her force of frigates, patrol ships and fast attack craft through the Dardanelles to Istanbul, where the Turkish frigate TCG Yildirim joined the NATO group.

The frigate and destroyer swapped two junior officers and a chief petty officer for 24 hours to get to know each other better.

"I was made to feel very welcome by our Turkish friends and was able to share ideas on how we communicate together. I can't wait to go back," said Sub Lieutenant Aaron Boyce.

Sub Lt Wesley Jobin was one of Duncan's crew asked to show his Turkish counterparts around Britain's newest surface ship.

"It was great fun to show my Turkish counterparts around but more importantly it makes it so much easier to work together when you have had a chance to meet," he said.

Standing Group 2 is one of two NATO naval task forces in the Mediterranean, both of which are under Royal Navy command presently.

HMS Enterprise is acting as flagship of Mine Countermeasures Group 2 which performs a similar mission in the same waters, but with the emphasis on dealing with mines and unexploded ordnance past and present.

I was made to feel very welcome by our Turkish friends and was able to share ideas on how we communicate together

Sub Lieutenant Aaron Boyce, HMS Duncan