US Navy sends USNS Grapple to support NATO in Aegean Sea

The U.S. will back NATO’s efforts in the Aegean Sea by deploying rescue and salvage ship USNS Grapple to the area, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during the NATO defense ministers conference this week.

NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 has been trying to curb people smugglers’ activities in the Aegean Sea since February 2016.

Reconnaissance and monitoring activities are conducted in support of cooperative efforts of Turkey, Greece, and European Union border agency FRONTEX to tackle human trafficking and criminal networks.

NATO has been active in the waters off the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos and the Turkish coast.

Grapple is one of Military Sealift Command’s four rescue and salvage ships. Typically these ships, their crews and – in the case of salvage operations – embarked Navy divers operate at sea to recover objects from the ocean floor, towing stranded vessels and providing firefighting assistance.

The 77.7 meter ships displace 3,282 tons (3,334.67 metric tons) at full load and reach speeds of 14 knots. They have a range of 8,000 miles (12,872 km) at 8 knots.

Rescue and salvage ships are usually crewed by 26 civil service mariners and 4 Navy personnel.