Sea Breeze 2016 takes off in Ukraine

The U.S.-Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise Sea Breeze 2016 started in Odessa, Ukraine on July 18.

First Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Rear Adm. Andrii Tarasov welcomed the United States and the participating nations at the opening ceremony.

“We are delighted to host our maritime partners and look forward to a successful exercise,” Tarasov said through an interpreter at the ceremony.

The at-sea phase of the exercise will focus on maritime interdiction operations as a primary means to enhance maritime security. Other warfare areas to be tested include air defense, anti-submarine warfare, damage control, search and rescue, and other tactical maneuvers.

This year’s exercise will cost $4.5 million, not including cost of U.S. ship participation, and is primarily funded by the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

Nations scheduled to participate include Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

U.S. participation includes approximately 400 Sailors, dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), a P-3C Orion (antisubmarine and maritime surveillance) aircraft, members of the Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) and embarked Marines aboard USS Whidbey Island among others.

U.S. Exercise Chief of Staff, Cmdr. Ken Engle emphasized that in addition to the regional stability and maritime security aspects of Sea Breeze, the exercise was critical to building partnerships.

“Our job here goes beyond security, stability and safety,” Engle said. “We are here to build partnerships and to forge lasting friendships.”