US, French joint drills off Greece

Harry S. Truman and Charles de Gaulle aircraft carriers to conduct exercises in Ionian, Adriatic

US, French joint drills off Greece

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raging relentlessly, a flurry of activity is expected off the western Greek coast in coming days as the USS Harry S. Truman and the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carriers conduct joint exercises in the Adriatic and Ionian with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force.

The Charles de Gaulle escort team is already connected with the Greek navy’s Hydra frigate and the Papanikolis submarine. The exercises will also be joined by Greek aircraft from western Greece.

Last weekend, the Harry S. Truman sailed to the northern Aegean. From there, EA-18G Growler aircraft appear to have carried out surveillance missions in NATO member-states, such as Bulgaria and Romania.

The US aircraft carrier arrived in the area as part of an effort to get as close as possible to the Black Sea, given that the Bosporus strait has been closed by Turkey due to the war in Ukraine.

It wasn’t the first time the US aircraft carrier sailed in the northern Aegean, but the frequency with which the US Navy has been moving into the area in recent months is indicative of concerns about developments in Ukraine. 

Tellingly, the USS Harry S. Truman has been sailing the area around Greece for almost three straight months, demonstrating how seriously Washington took the Ukraine crisis long before the Russian invasion began.

The presence of the Charles de Gaulle in the area, which was recently in Cyprus, is also quite prolonged. It is reportedly expected to dock at Piraeus at the end of March.

Russian warships such as the Admiral Kasatonov frigate and the Admiral Tributs destroyer and others, had also entered the Aegean Sea when the Harry S. Truman was in the area, albeit at a considerable distance. 

The Russian warships are now located either in the south of Crete or in the south of Cyprus, with their point of reference being the port of Tartus in Syria, which is their base in the Mediterranean. 

The movements of the American and French naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean are part of the effort to monitor Russia and its Kilo-class submarines. Due to agreements between Athens and Moscow, the Russian navy has anchorages off the islands of Astypalaia and Kythira.

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