June 21 (UPI) — The Sea Breeze 2021 naval exercise, starting next week in the Black Sea, will involve over 5,000 troops, 32 ships and 40 aircraft, the U.S. Navy said on Monday.
Cohosted by the Ukrainian Navy and the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet, the event has been held annually since 1997.
This year’s 12-day iteration will include “amphibious warfare, land maneuver warfare, diving operations, maritime interdiction operations, air defense, special operations integration, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations,” a Sixth Fleet statement on Monday said.
Including observers, 32 nations will be involved, making it the largest joint exercise in the event’s history.
While largely a NATO training event, numerous non-NATO countries will be involved, as participants or observers.
The list includes Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States.
Tunisia and Senegal are represented in the 2021 exercises for the first time.
The U.S. Navy has not identified which of its ships will be involved.
“The United States is proud to partner with Ukraine in co-hosting the multinational maritime exercise Sea Breeze, which will help enhance interoperability and capabilities among participating nations,” said Chargé d’affaires Kristina Kvien, U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
“We are committed to maintaining the safety and security of the Black Sea,” Kvien said.
Ukraine’s navy, national guard and other military agencies are also involved in the exercise.
A statement in May from the event’s planners in Odessa noted that “the purpose of the exercise is to raise the level of compatibility of Ukraine’s armed forces with those of NATO allies.”
Although it is in NATO’s enhanced opportunity partner interoperability program, Ukraine is not a formal member of the military bloc.
Russia, one of seven countries bordering the Black Sea, has already announced that it will closely monitor the proceedings.
“The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation will closely follow the preparations for and the course of the Ukrainian-American exercise Sea Breeze with the involvement of NATO countries,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on June 2.
Russia “will, if necessary, react appropriately to the developing situation in the interests of ensuring Russia’s military security,” Konashenkov said.
He added that the drills will be held “amid the Western countries’ incessant accusations of Russia’s alleged efforts to build up its military potential in the country’s southeastern frontiers.”