Bulgarian Navy Frigate Set for Crete Vacation during Libya Mission
Shortly after it started patrolling off the Libyan coast within NATO's United Protector operation to enforce a UN arms embargo, the Bulgarian frigate Drazki is set for its midterm break.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov held a video conference Thursday with the commanders of the Bulgarian military contingents stationed abroad including the crew of the Drazki frigate of the Bulgarian Navy.
In two weeks, the Bulgarian frigate will have a three day break on the Greek island of Crete for refueling and fresh food and water supplies.
The captain of the Drazki frigate, Pancho Panchev, reported that the vessel has been patrolling in the Mediterranean as instructed by the NATO command but has not been given the task yet to inspect cargo ships or fishing boats.
Captain Panchev further reported to the Bulgarian Defense Minister that the crew are in good condition, and the frigate has no technical issues.
Panchev stressed that the Bulgarian Navy crew has found that its training to be adequate for the international mission in the Mediterranean. The range of activity of the Bulgarian Navy is traditionally confined to the Black Sea; the only time it operated outside the Black Sea was in 2009 when a Bulgarian crew brought from Belgium via the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean three vessels that Bulgaria bought second-hand.
The Bulgarian navy frigate set out on April 27 to join NATO's Operation "United Protector" patrolling off Libya's coast to enforce a UN arms embargo.
Drazki will stage two patrol courses with a break in the port of Suda on the island of Crete to recharge with fuel and food.
The mission, which is Bulgaria's only military contribution to the NATO efforts against the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, will cost the state budget about BGN 1.5 M.
The frigate is manned by a 160-member crew who will receive bonuses of EUR 51-53 per day for the duration of the mission.
The Bulgarian government has approved sending the frigate for three months to the Mediterranean Sea to take part in the NATO operation, but it will not stay there during the whole period. The length of stay of each ship in the Mediterranean is one month in general before rotation is done.
In 2009, Bulgaria purchased three second-hand frigates from Belgium - Drazki, Gordi ("Proud"), and "Verni" ("Faithful") and the Tsibar minesweeper. Interestingly, one of the frigates, Gordi, under the name F910 Weilingen as part of the Belgian Navy joined the UN maritime embargo against Iraq - Operation Southern Breeze during the First Gulf War - in 1990-1991 - a naval operation similar to the one in Libya.
Neighboring Romania participates in the NATO naval operation off Libya's coast with the King Ferdinand frigate. The Romanian frigate is manned by 205-member crew.
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