HMS Trent completes Black Sea exercises as part of NATO mission

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Trent

HMS Trent has completed intensive training on Ukrainian and United States-hosted exercises during her second visit to the Black Sea in a matter of months.

The patrol ship is on an enduring mission to the Mediterranean, having left the UK at the end of March to begin operations that will see her continually be a presence across the Med and south into the tropical waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Guinea. 

The Black Sea has also become familiar waters for Trent – one of five new River-class Batch 2 patrol vessels built for the Royal Navy to be a forward presence in areas of strategic important to the UK –  having made her debut in the region in May. 

Trent returned there for Exercise Sea Breeze, a mission designed to help the Ukrainian Navy improve its ability to work with NATO after it lost its operating base and two thirds of its fleet in 2014 as Russia annexed Crimea. 

This latest mission builds on Trent’s earlier work in the region as part of Operation Orbital – the codename for the UK Armed Forces’ capacity building deployment to Ukraine, which established a UK-led Maritime Training Initiative to prepare the Ukrainian Navy for Exercise Sea Breeze.

Two Royal Navy officers have been deployed to improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Navy to deliver training in a range of skills, while Trent and HMS Defender have both visited Odesa for shore-side exercises, which paved the way for further activity during Sea Breeze. 

“Sea Breeze is a very broad exercise. For us it was very much about operating with partner nations in this region, including Ukraine, where we’re building on a maritime training initiative,” said Trent’s Commanding Officer, Commander Tom Knott.

“We now see training elements at sea in a more complex environment, learning how to manoeuvre our ships together, how to integrate other regional partners into our task group and manoeuvre with them and also build on command and control.”

One of the multi-national task groups was made up of ships from eight nations, including the United States, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Italy, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and the UK.

The warships included those from NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, Arleigh Burke-class USS Ross, Bulgarian ship BGR Bodri, Romanian corvette ROS Macellariu, Ukrainian anti-submarine corvette Hryhoriy Kuropiatnykov and HMS Trent. 

Together they trained in tracking submarines, engaging aerial and surface threats; ultimately increasing their ability to work together.

First Lieutenant Bogdan Yatsko, who was involved in Trent’s training with Ukrainian patrol ship Kostopil, said: “It was useful for us to operate with British colleagues in order to improve our tactical manoeuvring and formation skills at sea and various battle orders for warships.”

Sea Breeze first started in 1997 and brings together NATO allies and partners to increase their ability to operate smoothly together. 

This year’s iteration, which was co-hosted by the United States and Ukraine, saw a total of 31 ships carry out 175 different training scenarios, including Trent simulating towing USS Ross. 

There were also air and land elements of Sea Breeze, with a total of 5,000 troops, 40 aircraft and 18 special operations and dive teams involved from more than 30 different nations.

Following Sea Breeze, Trent sailed to Varna in Bulgaria for a stop and reset ahead of the similarly-named Exercise Breeze, which she has now started, beginning with work alongside Bulgarian Navy ships Bodri and Gordi.

The multinational Bulgarian-led exercises includes participants from Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG 2) and Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG 2).
It will again focus on joint working for future maritime security missions in the Black Sea. 

Operational Orbital’s navy focus has now switched to planning next year’s Maritime Training Initiative with the long-term aim of helping lift the capability of the Ukrainian Navy.