Norfolk hosts international naval exercise

Ships from the Navies of Russia, France, Britain and the U.S. are gathering off the coast of Virginia for one of the biggest exercises of the year. The vessels are taking part in a five-day training programme to improve maritime security.

In the waters off the coast of Virginia, U.S. sailors looked in awe as foreign destroyers and frigates arrived at the Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base. The ships are part of an exercise programme “FRUKUS”, named after the four participating countries.

Commanders say the five-day joint exercise is extremely useful in improving maritime security and responding to emergencies.  

“The visit of a navy vessel gives an opportunity to restore and maintain friendly relations among sailors in all countries and gives a boost to developing friendship at a higher level. Our experience proves that the arrival of a navy ship helps to reach these goals,” Captain Sergey Grishin, the Commander of RFS “Admiral Chabanenko”, comments. 

The training programme began in 1998 and over the years has become more complex. This year’s scenarios include movements both at sea and on-shore. Senior officers will also hold briefings to exchange ideas and build stronger relationships.

“You never know when you are going to operate with a navy of another nation on the high seas. So, any opportunity you have to get the ships together, to be able to exercise them together, to be able to communicate together, to be able to share information together, I think is a useful exercise,” Commodore John Gelinn, U.S. Navy, believes.

The Russian Navy is represented by the ship “Admiral Chabanenko”, Russia's only multipurpose destroyer.

“The ship was launched in 1992, now it’s based in Severomorsk, the port of the Northern fleet,” Andrey Bashkov, a senior sailor, explains.  

To date, the exchange between the four navies has focused on support roles within the United Nations’ operations. And despite the recent tensions between Russia and the U.S., those taking part say they will not impact the multilateral talks.

“I think at the moment these problems don’t affect training together in any way. I think, it can help improve understanding between the countries,” Captain Grishin says.

At the end of the exercise, the ship will host the closing ceremony during which the U.S. will formally transfer the FRUKUS hosting duties to Russia, when they will welcome their counterparts for naval exercises next year in the Pacific Ocean.