The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf helped kick-off the at-sea phase of the Bulgarian-led maritime training exercise in the Black Sea, July 9.

The exercise includes naval units from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey and P-3 aircraft from Patrol Squadron 4. The exercise will consist of air defense, surface warfare, mine swept channel, naval gunnery and anti-submarine warfare drills among others.

“Exercises such as this are vital to maintaining and strengthening partnerships with our allies across the world, as well as allowing us to remain proficient in all warfare areas,” said Capt. Robert Katz, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer. “We are excited to have the opportunity to participate in this exercise in conjunction with a wide array of our NATO allies.”

Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, is conducting naval operations with partners and allies in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in order to advance security and stability in Europe.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.