Guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78) entered the Black Sea on Sunday — following three other NATO ships in the last several days — marking a noticeable uptick in activity in the region ahead of military exercises in Bulgaria, according to a Bosphorus Naval News ship spotting site and U.S. 6th Fleet.
Porter crossed the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea on Sunday a day after the Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp (F-803) and Portuguese frigate NRP D. Francisco de Almeida (F-334). Spanish minesweeper ESPS Tajo (M-36) crossed the strait on July 1.
The ships were bound for Bulgaria as part of the annual Breeze 2015 exercise that include ships from Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) and the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). The exercise began on July 3 and is scheduled to run until July 12, according to a release from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.
“Porter’s presence in Bulgaria reaffirms to NATO allies that the U.S. Navy shares a commitment to strengthen ties while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the Black Sea region,” read a statement from 6th Fleet.
The exercise will include 30 ships and around 1,700 personnel from Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey as well as the U.S., according to the MoD.
Outside of the exercise, the French signals intelligence ship Dupuy de Lôme (A759) and guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG-58) recently left the Black Sea as part of an ongoing presence mission since Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March of 2014.
In addition to the NATO ship moves, Russia moved two Project 775 amphibious warships — Korolev (130) and Alexander Otrakovski (031) — into the Black Sea on Friday.
All warships from countries without a coast on the Black Sea operate under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.
Montreux rules call for foreign warships to depart the Black Sea after 21 days.