American Destroyer Steaming Into Possible Crimea Confrontation
USS ‘Truxtun’ by far the most powerful warship in the Black Sea
One day after the Pentagon announced it was sending an extra six F-15C fighters to help defend the Baltic against Russian warplanes, the U.S. Navy said its destroyer USS Truxtun was headed into the Black Sea for long-planned exercises with the Romanians and Bulgarians.
Truxtun’s deployment is another clear statement of America’s opposition to Russia’s bloodless invasion of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region. Turkey gave Truxtun permission to enter the Black Sea through the Turkish Straits on March 5.
510 feet long, displacing 9,200 tons of water and armed with 96 long-range missiles, Truxtun will be by far the deadliest warship in the vicinity of Crimea. She and her 300 crew will join the much smaller and less heavily-armed frigate USS Taylor—currently docked in a Turkish port after accidentally scraping the seafloor on Feb. 12—as the only American warships in the Black Sea.
International agreement permits foreign ships to remain in the Black Sea just three weeks at a time, meaning Taylor must depart soon.
The Black Sea is fast becoming a crowded place. Besides the American ships, Russia nominally bases as many as five surface warships and seven small amphibious vessels at a facility in Crimea that Moscow leases from Kiev. Russian access to that strategic base, in the city of Sevastopol, lies at the heart of the current conflict.
The Russian Black Sea fleet is aged and poorly-maintained. “It’s not a particularly powerful force,” Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, told The Washington Post. “The Italian navy alone could easily destroy it.”
To be fair, the Italian navy is not in the Black Sea. The Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Romanian navies are. The Romanian fleet has three frigates—two of them very capable British-built Type 22s—plus some missile boats and patrol vessels.
The Bulgarians also have three frigates, these acquired from Belgium, plus an assortment of patrol boats. Ukraine’s single Russian-made frigate Hetman Sahaydachny returned from counter-piracy patrols on March 5 and docked in Odessa, out of reach of Russian occupiers.
With Truxtun in the lead, the non-Russian Black Sea states can deploy more combined naval power than Moscow’s regional fleet can—which is not to say an ocean battle is imminent.
Still, Truxtun’s war game with the Romanians and Bulgarians is a forceful statement, and part of a slow mobilization of American forces in eastern Europe in the wake of Moscow’s aggression. “U.S. military operations and exercises are a part of a forward-presence posture to strengthen our transatlantic security and economic relationships,” the Italy-based U.S. 6th Fleet stated.