A large fleet of NATO and Ukrainian warships arrived in Glasgow ahead of the 22nd iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze.
The annual multinational maritime exercise, named Alba Breeze this year, is traditionally hosted in the Black Sea by the US Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy.
Still, recent geopolitical developments have shifted the venue to Glasgow.
"I am proud to be in Glasgow today at the opening ceremony of the 22nd
iteration of exercise Sea Breeze, our annual, multinational, Black
Sea-focused exercise designed to enhance interoperability and the combined capabilities of participating nations,” said Ishee
— U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet (@USNavyEurope) June 26, 2023
The U.S. Navy told me:
“Exercise Sea Breeze 23-1 is led by the U.S. and will be held in the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow and Loch Ewe, Scotland, June 26-July 7, 2023. The exercise aims to build maritime security and stability operations with multinational partners to enhance the capabilities of Black Sea and Partnership for Peace maritime security forces while progressively training and preparing the Ukraine Maritime Command staff.
This is the 22nd iteration of Sea Breeze, an annual, multinational, maritime exercise. This year’s exercise is land and sea-based, and will focus on maritime security and stability operations with an emphasis on mine countermeasure and dive operation mission areas.”
NATO warships usually patrol the Black Sea for approximately two-thirds of the year, but current circumstances make this impossible. Turkey closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to all warships following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, affecting even those countries bordering the Black Sea. However, the NATO-Ukraine joint exercise continues undeterred, with Glasgow as its new backdrop.
The U.S. Navy told me:
"Exercise Sea Breeze 23-1 is led by the U.S. and will be held in the Fifth of Clyde near Glasgow and Loch Ewe, Scotland, June 26-July 7, 2023. The exercise aims to build maritime security and stability operations." pic.twitter.com/QRAlWu2900
— George Allison (@geoallison) June 27, 2023
The maritime training activities, beginning today, will test the mettle of Ukraine’s newly acquired vessels, the UNS Cherkasy and Chernihiv, and help build their capabilities.
The fleet, consisting of a range of vessel classes from minehunters to multipurpose vessels, signals the diverse representation of NATO countries. The Dutch HNLMS Vlaardingen, EML Sakala from Estonia, the French FS Sagittaire, and the Norwegian HNoMS Nordkapp formed part of this naval contingent. The Netherlands sent an additional trio of vessels — the HNLMS Mercuur, HNLMS Makkum, and HNLMS Snellius, while the United Kingdom was represented by the HMS Pembroke.
Two standouts in the multinational flotilla mentioned above are Ukraine’s Cherkasy and Chernihiv, formerly Royal Navy Sandown Class Minesweepers. These newly-acquired vessels will face their first multinational trial during Exercise Sea Breeze, a prime opportunity to build their operational capabilities.
In anticipation of the exercise launch ceremony, a temporary flight restriction was established over the dock to “protect the large numbers of persons attending an event.” The restriction, which applied to unmanned aircraft but not manned ones, was enforced from 0600 hours to 1400 hours on June 26, 2023. The no-fly zone prohibited any drone flight below 1000 feet above mean sea level. Luckily, I got there before the restriction as in place.
Vice Admiral Ishee, commander of the US Sixth Fleet, opened the ceremony with words of pride and anticipation, “I am proud to be in Glasgow today at the opening ceremony of the 22nd iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, our annual, multinational, Black Sea-focused exercise designed to enhance interoperability and the combined capabilities of participating nations.”
MSPs, a councillor, and the US and Ukrainian Consuls General were in attendance at the dock, highlighting the importance of Exercise Alba Breeze to the international community.