Thursday, June 26, 2008

NATO, Turkey and Pakistan Join Together for Maritime War Games in Exercise Mavi Balina

The Turkish Navy Invitational Exercise MAVI BALINA ’08 took place last week off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The Turkish Navy invited the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG-2) and Pakistani Navy to participate in various naval exercises driven by synthetic tensions between fictionalized opposing forces. SNMG-2 is currently comprised of warships from Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands. The mission of SNMG-2 is to provide an operationally ready force while serving as part of the Standing Maritime Element for the NATO Response Force (NRF). The SNMG-2 Task Force is commanded by Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul, Turkish Navy, embarked on the SNMG-2 flagship, TCG Salihreis.

The main objective of Mavi Balina was to provide operational training for units and staffs in planning and conducting anti-submarine, anti-surface, and anti-air warfare. The exercise enabled the staff and ships of SNMG-2 to hone their combat skills in a complex multinational environment, better preparing the force for combat operations in support of the NATO Response Force. Exercise Mavi Balina consisted of four phases: Force Assembly, Combat Enhancement Training/Force Integration Training, Tactical Exercises, and Force Disassembly.

The Force assembled in Aksaz, Turkey on March 7 in order to conduct pre-sail conferences and working group meetings in preparation for the exercise. The SNMG-2 ships comprising the Brown Forces included TCG Salihreis, USS Gonzalez, HMS Somerset, HNLMS Amsterdam, FGS Niedersachsen, ITS Euro, and HS Hydra. The Blue Forces were commanded by Rear Admiral Fikret Gunes, Commander of the Turkish Southern Task Group. The Blue forces were comprised of Turkish and Pakistani ships, including TCG Kemalreis, TCG Gelibolu, TCG Zafer, TCG Bartin, TCG Preveze, TCG Yildiray, PNS Tariq, and PNS Moawin.

The CET/FIT phase took place over the first three days of the exercise. The aim of this phase was to enhance interoperability in the principal maritime warfare areas through individual and mission-oriented events, including basic/intermediate anti-submarine warfare training and submarine vs. submarine operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. The final three days of the exercise consisted of the Tactical Exercise. The events during this portion of the exercise involved a wide spectrum of advanced anti-submarine training in a multi-threat environment, including convoy operations and advanced submarine vs. submarine operations. Exercise Mavi Balina culminated in a port visit to Antalya, Turkey, where the force conducted event debriefings and enjoyed some time ashore.

In addition to preparing ships and staff for complex maritime warfare training, Mavi Balina provided an opportunity for strengthen the NATO bonds between warships and their crews. The exercise demonstrated the solidarity and cohesiveness of coalition organizations such as SNMG-2. During the Force Assembly phase, Rear Admiral Gunes hosted a reception onboard his flagship, TCG Kemalreis, where Sailors from every ship in both forces joined together to celebrate the spirit of cooperation. Additionally, many Sailors spent time on other ships before, during, and after the exercise, giving them a chance to see how their NATO shipmates operate on a day-to-day basis. Sailors were quick to learn that while they may be of different nationality, they are very much alike, as they share a common bond of being mariners dedicated to their countries and families.

SNMG-2, previously known as NATO Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean, is a permanent, peacetime, multinational, naval squadron composed of destroyers, cruisers and frigates from the navies of various NATO nations. The Force operates and trains as a group, exercising NATO maritime tactics and procedures. Since it’s creation in 1967, the group has involved a total of over 500 ships and more than 150,000 service-men and -women. It annually schedules a series of NATO and national exercises designed to maintain readiness and foster interoperability.

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