A Dolphin-class submarine will be among the ships Israel will send to participate in the Noble Dina exercises with Greece and the US. (Agence France-Presse)
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TEL AVIV — Israeli, Greek and US military personnel are slated to meet in Crete Tuesday to kick off Noble Dina 2014, a two-week, trilateral exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.
This year’s annual multimission drill, the fourth conducted by the three nations, will involve hundreds of military personnel deployed on advanced surface ships, air assets and submarines, Navy sources here said.
In addition to search and rescue, sea maneuvering, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and coordinated command-and- control missions, which have been practiced in previous years, Noble Dina 2014 will feature undersea divers and other specialists deployed for joint port protection.
The Israel Navy’s Snapir Unit, a relatively new and highly specialized force trained for persistent surface and underwater port security, will support the newest element of the drill scheduled for later this week at a Cretan port.
“This is something new that reflects common, critically important operational requirements,” said Rear Adm. Yaron Levi, chief of staff of the Israel Navy.
Noble Dina, sources here said, is the result of routine cooperation among the three navies and many months of focused planning.
“It’s a long, complex and extremely substantive exercise aimed at enhancing the already significant coordination and interoperability among the three navies,” said Levi.
Israel’s contingent for the trilateral drill set sail Monday morning for the 24-hour trip to Crete, where it will join counterparts and other assets from Greece and the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, based in Naples, Italy.
It includes a Dolphin-class submarine, a Sa’ar-5 Corvette-class ship, two Sa’ar 4.5 missile boats and ASW capabilities in addition to the Snapir Unit.
In a March 24 interview, Levy insisted that despite widespread perceptions, Noble Dina is not a replacement for Reliant Mermaid, a trilateral exercise that Israel had conducted for 10 years with the US and Turkey.
Since 2010, Ankara has refused to allow Israel to participate in the annual drill due to the diplomatic fallout over Israel’s seizure of a Turkish civilian ship bound for Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals died in violent clashes with Israeli commandos deployed to enforce Israel’s naval blockage of Gaza.
“Noble Dina didn’t replace Reliant Mermaid, which was a trilateral exercise that became a bilateral exercise. I would be very happy to have this return to a trilateral exercise,” the Israel Navy’s number two-ranking officer said of ongoing, US-facilitated efforts to reach an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement. ■