Moscow Frets over US-French Naval Maneuvers

The Russians are growing more and more frustrated at the sight of American and French naval activity in the Black and Caspian Seas in conjunction with the littoral states of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.

The USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), flagship of the American Navy’s 6th Fleet, and control ship for Commander Joint Command Lisbon and Commander Striking Force NATO, was seen taking on in Souda Bay, Greece, 70 crews from these countries.

For five days, from Sept. 24 to Sept. 29, they are laying on for these crews four workshops – helicopter control operations, noncommissioned officer development, interoperability discussions and an oil spill table top discussion. Other workshops cover shipboard medical procedures, exercise analysis and force protection.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Moscow sources report that the Russians are furiously watching the Americans carry out an exercise which looks to them like the training of intelligence officers in the six navies to work with their own naval intelligence. The Mount Whitney, the platform of the exercise, is the most sophisticated command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) ship ever commissioned.

Moscow has lodged a protest with the governments of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine through its military attaches in their capitals, accusing them of abetting US preparations of which the workshops are suspected to be a part, for deploying anti-missile missile batteries and radar stations in Poland and the Czech Republic against Russian wishes.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report a separate Russian complaint to Bulgaria about a transaction to be signed during French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Sofia for the purchase of three or four French Gowind-class corvettes.

They will endow Bulgaria with a fleet more sophisticated by far than any other Black Sea nation.

These corvettes can deploy unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles and underwater unmanned vehicles, with an aft deck for a 10-ton class helicopter.

Its weaponry is build around multifunctional radar and 16 Aster 15 or Mica vertical launch surface-to-air missiles. It has a choice of arms between MM40 Exocet or Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

The French company Armaris offers to build the first ship in Lorienne and the rest in the Bulyard Shipbuilding industry of Varna. Dozens of Bulgarian engineers and technicians will be trained in France.

This deal meets a plan common to NATO and the Bulgarian naval commander Rear Admiral Minko for Varna to become a major shipyard center for building advanced western warships for the nations of the Black and Caspian regions.

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