July 20 (UPI) -- Twenty-seven vessels from 10 countries are gathering this week in the Black Sea for "Sea Breeze 2020," an annual naval exercise.
Co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States, the exercise is in its 20th year, and this year brings together ships and aircraft of NATO members Bulgaria, Norway, Romania, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States, and non-member Georgia.
It will focus this year on maritime interdiction operations, air defense, anti-submarine warfare, damage control, and search and rescue operations, a statement on Monday from the U.S. 6th Fleet said.
Participating U.S. units include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter, an P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron 47. About 400 U.S. Navy personnel, and about 2,000 more representing the other countries, are expected to participate.
The event was reduced to seven days because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It typically includes land exercises, but this year will take place exclusively at sea and in the air.
"The main goal is to conduct an international naval security operation in the crisis area," said Rear Adm. Oleskiy Neyizhpapa, commander of the Ukrainian Navy said in a telephone briefing. "The Black Sea has long ceased to be stable. Exercises such as Sea Breeze prove that the United States and NATO partners support peace and stability in the Black Sea region."
"The sea is not an obstacle, but a way to communicate, so the task of all fleets is to make sea links easier and safer," Neyizhpapa said. "Not all countries understand these principles. This is especially true of the Russian Federation."