The USS Donald Cook joined the carrier strike group of the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, pictured, during NATO's Dynamic Manta drills this week off the Italian coast. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
March 3 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer part of a French aircraft carrier's escort in a NATO exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Wednesday.
The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is an element of NATO's two-week Dynamic Manta 2021 exercises, off the coast of Sicily.
On Wednesday, the ship's Carrier Strike Group took tactical command of the USS Donald Cook as "part of an integration and interoperability between the U.S. Navy and French navy," a U.S. Navy statement said.
Ships of the Belgian and Greek navies are also participating in the strike group exercise, which began on Feb. 22.
"The participation of an American escort ship into the French carrier strike group illustrates the excellent level of cooperation between our two navies, long-time allies," said French Admiral Marc Aussedat, commander of Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group.
"France and the United States, the only nations having catapult and recovery nuclear aircraft carrier, take advantage of each exchange to consolidate their high-end interoperability," Aussedat said.
The Dynamic Manta drills this year are designed to enhance interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills.
The exercise involves submarines, surface ships, maritime patrol ships and addition support vessels from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
The USS Donald Cook concluded similar, but less expansive, drills with NATO partners in the Black Sea in February.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet conducted exercises near Morocco with the Moroccan navy and air force this week.
The exercises involved the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, the Moroccan frigate Tarnk Beh Ziyad and helicopters and F-16 and F-5 fighter planes of Morocco's air force.
The drills concentrated on surface and anti-submarine warfare, air and strike warfare and maritime interdiction operations.
"Exercises like Lighting Handshake enhance the foundation of our interoperability and continued support of our long-term commitment to security in the region," said Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, commander, Carrier Strike Group Two.