Ukraine, Turkey Plan Joint Exercises in Black Sea

Turkish Navy vessels are docked at a military port base in the Bosporus strait, in the outskirts of Istanbul, close to the Black Sea, Thursday, April 27, 2017. A Russian naval reconnaissance ship sank Thursday after colliding with a freighter off Istanbul, but all crew members were rescued, the Defense …
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Ukraine and Turkey will hold joint military drills in the Black Sea in late 2021, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense announced Saturday.

Representatives from Ukraine and Turkey’s armed forces met virtually on April 24 to coordinate plans for the exercises.

Ukraine’s naval forces command “took part in the initial conference on training planning” of the Turkish Navy’s “Dogu Akdeniz 2021” or “Eastern Mediterranean 2021” drill, “which is to take place at the end of the year in the Western Mediterranean,” according to a press release by Ukraine’s defense ministry.

“Representatives of the Ukrainian Navy discussed the format of Ukrainian participation, in particular, the involvement of Navy officers in the work of the exercise’s multinational headquarters, as well as their training onboard the Turkish Navy’s ADA class (MILGEM) corvettes,” the statement read.

Turkey’s MILGEM initiative is a national warship program involving the production of four ADA-class corvettes and four frigates. Turkey launched its first locally built frigate, the I-class TCG Istanbul, through the MILGEM program on January 23.

“The Istanbul was built under a 2019 contract awarded by the government procurement agency SSB to STM, a [Turkish] government-controlled defense company. The warship will be used in advanced air defense, naval warfare, and patrolling missions, and it will support underwater warfare missions. It will be delivered to the [Turkish] Navy in 2023,” Defense News reported on January 25.

“The [Turkish MILGEM] I-class frigates will feature weapons systems including a locally made 16-cell MDAS vertical launching system (a total of 64 surface-to-air missiles yet to be specified); four-by-four SSM launch canisters for the Atmaca weapon; an Aselsan-made 76mm Gokdeniz close-in weapon system; two Aselsan-made 25mm machine guns; and a HIZIR torpedo countermeasures system,” according to Defense News.

“The MILGEM program dates back to [the] early 2000s. But it is delivering critical platforms just when needed, i.e., when Turkey needs hard power to support its assertive foreign policy in the eastern Mediterranean,” Turkish defense analyst Ozgur Eksi told Defense News at the time.

The announcement of Ukraine and Turkey’s upcoming joint military drill in the Black Sea follows news on Saturday that Russia plans to close off areas of the Black Sea near Russian-occupied Crimea to foreign ships from April 24-October 31, 2021 to accommodate Russian naval exercises.

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, located north of the Black Sea, from Ukraine in 2014 and recently increased its military presence in the region, though the Russian armed forces said they would begin recalling a large number of their troops from Crimea on April 23. Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet announced the launch of maritime drills in the Black Sea and accompanying air support off the coast of Crimea on April 20, days before the troop drawdown was announced. The Black Sea drills were scheduled through April 24.

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