The Eastern Mediterranean today is a cauldron of conflict and military tension. America’s dubious NATO ally – increasingly authoritarian Turkey – appears hell-bent on forging its own new imperial path throughout the region, while Putin’s Russia is aggressively intervening in North Africa. One of the few strategic constants in this critical region is America’s other NATO ally – Greece.
To reinforce defense ties with this democratic stronghold in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is now completing several days of surface warfare exercises with the Hellenic Navy. According to a tweet by @USNavyEurope, “the exercises included formation steaming, tactical maneuvers, and communications drills, and allowed the participating forces to test and refine command and control” between the two Navies.
The Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS San Jacinto (CG-56) a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103), joined the Hellenic Navy’s frigate, HN Aegean (F460) for the live fire drills.
The Greek Reporter noted that the HN Aegean “was assigned as an air defense unit, locating and identifying air contacts around the CSG and serving as a horizon reference unit for the CSG’s aircraft as they landed,” adding that, “As a helicopter aircraft control unit, the ship checked aircraft in and out of the carrier’s air space.”
Capt. Edward Crossman, commanding officer of the USS San Jacinto said of his Greek ally:
The Hellenic Navy has outstanding naval capabilities. We look forward to any chance to work with them as an opportunity to learn and fine-tune our tactics and procedures. It’s an absolute win for San Jacinto’s ‘Gunslingers’ to operate with our NATO partners. This training makes us stronger as an allied force, dedicated to maintaining regional stability, and sustaining freedom of the seas.
Additional Greek military assets reportedly participating in these exercises included a Hellenic Navy submarine and Hellenic Air Force F-16 jet fighters. A July 28 tweet from @e amyna who describes itself as “News & Analysis on Defense, Economy and Foreign Policy, Emphasis on Greece and Cyprus” showed a photo of the HN Aegean performing “high speed maneuvers” during the joint exercise.
Capt. Zoah Scheneman, commander, US Destroyer Squadron 26, stated, according to the Greek Reporter:
Exercises like this enhance our professional relationships and improve overall coordination with allies and partner militaries during times of crisis. The opportunity flexed our ability to be postured with our NATO partners to be ready with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our interests in an increasingly complex security environment.
Earlier this year, another NATO ally, France, joined with Hellenic forces in a very specific exercise on the Aegean island of Skyros. The exercise, dubbed “Alexander the Great 2020,” involved air and naval units as well as special forces from both nations. During the exercise, the French amphibious assault ship Dixmude, a helicopter carrier, supported troops simulating the recapturing of a Greek island from enemy forces.
France has been increasingly supportive of Greece recently in the face of Turkish hostility and other tensions. But this latest U.S.-Greek exercise should demonstrate that the United States is also a steadfast ally to Greece in these dangerous times.