Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The destroyer USS Donald Cook became the seventh U.S. Navy ship this year to enter the Black Sea on Monday in support of NATO allies, the Navy reported.
The ship began its "straits transfer," moving through a narrow Turkish waterway between the Mediterranean and Black Seas, early Monday morning.
Bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, the Black Sea is regarded as a critical waterway despite the difficult passage to reach it.
U.S. warships routinely patrol the area. The last ship to visit the region was destroyer USS Roosevelt, in September.
"While in the Black Sea, Donald Cook will conduct routine maritime security operations that support regional stability," a Navy statement said.
One of four Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, the ship is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, 505 feet long and carrying a crew of about 300.
Donald Cook's armaments include five-inch and 20 mm guns, Harpoon, Tomahawk and ASROC vertical launch missiles, and three models of torpedo.
The ship returned to sea in September after a 55-day upgrade, known as a Surface Incremental Availability, at the Rota base.
"Operating in the Black Sea signifies our commitment to partners and allies in the region," said Cmdr. Kelley Jones, commanding officer of the ship. "It is an important diplomatic mission, and Donald Cook has enjoyed the hospitality of Black Sea countries many times before."