Just days after Russian warships reportedly fired warning shots that were directed at the Royal Navy frigate HMS Defender, Russian Su-30 fighters and Su-24 bombers had repeatedly made low flying “mock attacks” over the Dutch Navy’s frigate HMLS Evertsen. The Dutch Defense Ministry said the Russian actions to “repeatedly harass” its warship were “unsafe,” “aggressive” and “irresponsible.”
The ministry added that the Russian jets “flew dangerously low and close by, performing feint attacks.” Moscow has claimed the warship was sailing through its waters and that the aircraft head been scrambled to prevent the Dutch warship from violating the Russian border in the Black Sea.
It may not be the last such incident involving a NATO partner and the Russian military in the neutral waters that border Europe and Asia.
Russia’s National Defense Control Center announced that it was closely monitoring the Italian Navy’s guided-missile frigate Virginio Fasan (F 591), which entered the waters on Thursday.
“The Black Sea Fleet’s forces and capabilities have started to track the Italian Navy’s guided-missile frigate Virginio Fasan that entered the Black Sea on July 1,” the National Defense Control Center said in a statement, reported Tass.
The Italian Defense Ministry responded that the guided-missile frigate, which is part of the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2, one of the alliance’s four multinational rapid reaction forces – was in the Black Sea as part of NATO’s ongoing naval exercises that began earlier in the week.
It isn’t entirely clear why the Italian warship was singled out by the Russian control center.
“The warship is taking part in NATO’s drills in the Black Sea as part of routine activity under the control of the alliance’s rapid reaction forces,” a statement from the Italian ministry to Tass stated. “In particular, the frigate Virginio Fasan is participating in the Sea Breeze 2021 drills.”
The Sea Breeze 2021 exercises are scheduled to last until July 10, and are taking part in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, south of Ukraine. The maneuvers involve thirty-two NATO countries and partners from around the world, with some 5,000 personnel, thirty-two warships, forty aircraft and a dozen and a half land- and sea-based special operations groups.
“The command of the Fasan, like the command of the group’s other warships guarantees the commitment to building up the relations of cooperation with other countries of the region, the Italian ministry added.
The Italian vessel is a European multi-purpose frigate (FREMM) – known as the Carlo Bergamini-class in Italy –developed as part of a joint French-Italian program involving the French Naval Group and Italian Fincantieri. France currently operates seven of the vessels, while Italy has eight in service. The U.S. Navy’s upcoming Constellation-class frigates – the first of which is scheduled to begin construction this year – is based on the FREMM design.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.