Israel, Greece conduct joint naval drill amid ongoing tension with Turkey

U.S. Sixth Fleet also participating in the exercise, which includes simulation of attack on offshore natural gas platforms.

Israel, the United States and Greece are in the midst of a naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, in what Greek media outlets are saying is a message to Turkey following frayed ties with both Israel and Greece.

IAF exercise - Greek air force - 1.4.12 - Photo by: Greek air force

IAF exercise - Greek air force - 1.4.12 - Photo by: Greek air force

The exercise, called “Noble Dina,” involves simulations of combat against submarines, air battles and protection of offshore natural gas platforms. The U.S. Sixth Fleet is also participating in the exercise, which the Greek media, which first reported on it, has described as being meant to send a message to Turkey.

Until 2009, Israel’s Navy and the U.S. Sixth Fleet conducted a large yearly exercise with the Turkish navy called “Reliant Mermaid.” Following the deterioration in Israel-Turkey relations in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decisionto freeze military cooperation with Israel, the exercise was cancelled.

Last April, Israel and the U.S. decided to renew the exercise, but changed its name to Noble Dina. Greece, which was invited to participate instead of Turkey, jumped at the offer, which it saw as a political achievement vis-à-vis Turkey. Relations between the two countries are currently tense due to Turkish threats to act against Cyprus’ natural gas platforms, in which Greece has interests.

IDF sources confirmed that the exercise was taking place, but refused to convey additional details.

The exercise began on March 26 and is scheduled to end on April 5. According to reports in the Greek media, the exercise began at an American military base in Crete. Reportedly participating in the exercise are a Greek navy destroyer and submarine, an Israeli Navy sailing vessel and several U.S. Sixth Fleet battleships, along with Israeli, Greek and American fighter jets and helicopters.

According to a report published on the Greek website, part of the exercise will take place off the coast of Turkey, near the Greek island Mais. The exercise will continue off the southern coast of Cyprus before concluding in Haifa port.

The site reported that enemy forces in the simulation will have characteristics similar to those of the Turkish air force. The site also noted that the exercise would address scenarios involving defense of offshore gas platforms in the Mediterranean from enemy attack, anti-submarine fighting and air battles.

Over last two years, Israel and Greece have intensified their military and intelligence cooperation. A large portion of the Israel Air Force exercises which previously took place in Turkey have moved to Greece as a result of the crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey.

Several weeks ago, incoming Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel visited Greece, where he met with top Greek officials, including the country’s defense minister, chief of staff and air force commander. Eshel currently serves as head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate.

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By Barak Ravid