The last time the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) crossed the Bosphorus was three weeks ago to depart the Black Sea, following the end of the Bulgaria-led NATO exercise Breeze 2014. Back then, the departure of the cruiser left no American ship in the Black Sea but the numbers of NATO ships have been on the rise since March. Ahead of Vella Gulf’s departure, there were nine NATO ships in the Black Sea on July 9, according to Russian state news service RIA Novosti.
The reason for the departure: all warships from countries without a coast on the Black Sea operate under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, whose rules call for foreign warships to depart the Black Sea after 21 days.
It's time to reboot the Montreux 21 day countdown, and following a rest in the Mediterranean and as a result of the most recent deterioration in second Cold War, the USS Vella Gulf has re-entered the Black Sea, the ship's third trip to the Black Sea. The reason: "to promote peace and stability in the region."
Here is how Vella crew was killing time before its re-repeat entry into the Black Sea.
From the US Navy:
Vella Gulf’s mission is to improve interoperability and work toward mutual goals, demonstrating the United States’ commitment to strengthening the collective security of NATO allies and partners in the region.
The U.S. Navy’s forward presence in Europe allows us to work with our allies and partners to develop and improve ready maritime forces capable of maintaining regional security.
Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Va., is deployed in a multi-mission role in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to contribute to regional maritime security, conduct bilateral and multilateral training missions, and to support NATO operations and deployments throughout the region.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Meanwhile, considering the rest of the world is as much a powder keg as it was a hundred years ago, here is the full breakdown of the US fleet around the globe courtesy of Stratfor.
Carrier Strike Groups
- The USS George H.W. Bush CSG with CVW 8 embarked is underway for a deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR supporting maritime security operations and conducting theater security cooperation efforts.
- The USS Ronald Reagan with CVW 2 embarked is underway in the Pacific Ocean participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2014 naval exercises.
- The USS George Washington CSG with CVW 5 embarked is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR for its summer patrol.
- The USS Nimitz is on a scheduled port visit to Naval Magazine Indian Island in Port Townsend, Wash., for ammunition offload.
Amphibious Ready Groups/Marine Expeditionary Units
- The USS Bataan ARG with the 22nd MEU embarked is underway for a deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR supporting maritime security operations and conducting theater security cooperation efforts.
- The USS Peleliu is underway in the Pacific Ocean participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2014 naval exercises.
- The USS Essex is on a scheduled port visit to Seattle, Wash., for Seattle Seafair Fleet Week.
- The USS Kearsarge is underway in the Atlantic Ocean for routine training.
- The USS Iwo Jima is underway in the Atlantic Ocean for routine training.
- The USS Makin Island is underway in the Pacific Ocean for a scheduled deployment.