Final preparations are underway for the deployment of the first Ukrainian ship to the Mediterranean in support of Operation Active Endeavour, NATO`s maritime counter-terrorist operation. The URS Ternopil, a corvette, is expected to be deployed in May, according to NATO web site.
A group of experts from Allied military commands visited the Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters at Sevastopol in mid February to assess progress. It was the latest in a series of visits, which have been taking place regularly since April 2005, when an exchange of letters established the legal framework for Ukrainian support to Operation Active Endeavour. Such visits have helped to establish good communications at the working level and work out practical issues to facilitate Ukraine’s efforts.
Training and certification are the two main elements of pre-deployment preparations, which aim to ensure that Ukrainian ships are able to participate effectively in the operation. NATO has been sending mobile training teams to Ukraine to help familiarise Ukrainian navy personnel with NATO standard procedures and communications. Another key issue has been to improve English language skills among Ukrainian navy personnel.
Training at sea with Allied ships participating in Operating Active Endeavour is also required in order to practise joint manoeuvering and the boarding of suspect ships. The URS Ternopil successfully completed this "mission oriented training" in the Mediterranean in November 2006. The ship is due to take part in final "force integration training" in May. Once that has been successfully completed, the ship will need to be certified by NATO as ready to join the operation.
If all goes well, the URS Ternopil will support Operation Active Endeavour from the end of May through June. The deployment of a second corvette, the URS Lutsk, is expected in the autumn. A third vessel, the frigate URS Sagaidachnyi, is expected to be deployed in 2008.
Ukraine`s active support for Operation Active Endeavour is a demonstration of its determination to cooperate with the Allies in the fight against terrorism.