NATO air assets were on hand to guard the entry of the US Navy’s Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) into the Black Sea on November 4, with US Air Force (USAF) fighters and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft from Turkey and Greece participated in the mission.
The airpower on task to escort the USS Mount Whitney comprised USAF Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, which are currently forward deployed in Romania and Bulgaria on training exercise Castle Forge.
Gen Jeff Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command said: "Multinational air-maritime missions demonstrate NATO's ability to form a responsive joint force. Allied AEW platforms ensure NATO forces maintain critical situational awareness in all domains, allowing crews and commanders to react effectively to any potential threats."
Providing air surveillance and command control of the escort mission was a Hellenic Air Force EMB-145 Erieye and a Turkish Air Force Boeing E-7T Wedgetail AEW aircraft. Both aircraft observed the region whilst the USS Mount Whitney commenced her northbound transit into the Black Sea.
Both AEW aircraft being present provided enhanced situational awareness to the air and maritime units during the escort. The participating units also conducted integrated training scenarios to enable freedom of navigation in international air and water spaces.
NATO assets, both air and sea, operate regularly in the Black Sea to work with allied nations such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. The Black Sea is a critical waterway for maritime commerce and stability throughout Europe.