20 August 2018

The U.S equips and trains Bulgaria’s Naval Special Operations Forces, at the Black Sea, with fast ships worth $2 million

Daniel Ilie

Bulgaria is the first country from the Black Sea to receive inflatable, high-speed combatant crafts, with rigid hulls, the so-called Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB), from the US Government, under the Black Sea Initiative promoted by The Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS), in fact an US International Training Center operating under the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). In the image above taken from NAVSCIATTS’s Facebook page we can see a 7-meter type RHIB, directed to equip Bulgarian Naval Special Operations Forces (NSOF).

Image source: Mediafax

According to The Special Operations Network news website, which cites the DVIDS media portal of the US Department of Defense, NAVSCIATTS expanded the Black Sea Initiative to training activities outside the US territory. Our neighbour country’s NSOF took advantage of the program and received from the US several RHIBs (either 7, or 11-meter type) worth around $2 million (including auxiliary equipment and crew’s training).

Through this security assistance program offered by the US Government, at the beginning of August 2018, 15 Bulgarian operators graduated from the Patrol Craft Officer Coastal course, held by the NAVSCIATTS’s Mobile Training Team (MTT) at Varna Navy’s training facilities, Bulgaria, the Black Sea coast. To lower the costs, they successfully used the Train the Trainer concept, using prior NAVSCIATTS’ graduates as instructor-cadre during the two-week training initiative.

What is the purpose of Black Sea’s Initiative promoted by NAVSCIATTS?

The purpose of the Black Sea Initiative is to develop, at least by 2020, the multi-lateral maritime domain awareness and strengthen regional cooperation by developing Special Operations Forces (SOF) within the Black Sea region to meet NATO interoperability standards.

For the 2019 fiscal year, NAVSCIATTS plans funds to continue the Black Sea Initiative in order to support Black Sea countries. The next iteration of in-resident training at NAVSCIATTS in support of the Black Sea is scheduled to occur in January of 2019, consisting of NATO allies. These forces will train in a multitude of courses to include: coastal craft training, maintenance courses, tactical communications and intel fusion courses.

The U.S. ambassador in Bulgaria mentioned that the program, part of Black Sea Initiative, will “improve not only Bulgaria’s maritime security and sovereignty, but also promote Black Sea and NATO collective security.” NAVSCIATTS’s Black Sea Initiative will continue also next year (2019) “amid good participation from both NATO allies and Black Sea regional partners”.

What does these initiatives mean for the Romanian (ROU) Special Operation Forces?

For ROU SOF, such an initiative, that comes along with security assistance programs offered by the US Government, together with other initiatives which already have planned funds for 2019, like the European Deterrence Initiative - EDI (former European Reassurance Initiative - ERI) with $6,5 billion planned, the Coalition Forces Support with $1,1 billion planned to support US  coalition partners, Security Cooperation, Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises and others, could be all opportunities in supporting the modernization process of the specific capabilities and reaching Romania’s level of ambition to become a regional model in special operations area.

How could such a support be materialised?

The support could consists of intensifying the military cooperation activities at the regional level, increasing the number of partnered exercises, exchanging specialised expertise, testing common operating procedures, enhancing information sharing, modernising the military equipment, improving the interoperability and reaching NATO’s standards.

As previously mentioned, such potential support could be complemented by other US Defense and Security assistance projects for Europe, to improve the deterrence and increase the defence capability, at the same time reassuring the allies regarding U. S’s commitment for its territorial integrity and security, as members of the Alliance.

As an argument for these are the general provisions of the 2019 US Defense Budget that says the USSOCOM continues to cultivate its premier global training venue, the JCET, and the Department of Defense will continue several lines of effort to accomplish the purposes of the EDI, including: (1) increased US military presence in Europe; (2) additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners; (3) improved infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness; (4) enhanced prepositioning of US equipment in Europe; and (5) intensified efforts to build partner capacity for newer NATO members and other partners.

Will ROU SOF benefit of such programs?

In the past ROU SOF benefitted of the American support through security assistance programs, as the “Section 1206-Train & Equip Authority” which granted the US Secretary of Defense the authority to train and equip foreign military forces and foreign maritime security forces to perform counterterrorism operations and to participate in or to support military and stability operations in which U.S. Armed Forces are participating.

If ROU SOF continue to prove they are trustable partners within the US effort to implement and develop such regional initiatives, and the current leadership communication skills convince the strategic partner about the feasibility and benefits of foreign military funds allocation in support of such regional SOF capabilities, they will most likely receive the needed assistance in their endeavour to operationalise certain peculiar capabilities.

In such a case, the ROU SOF capabilities must be integrated through the national planning, programming, budgeting and evaluation system, and when the specialists build the budget project they must request the necessary funds for the execution of potential equipment acquisitions, through foreign security assistance programs. It is about the VAT payments, transport and storage taxes and charges, customs duties, as well as other obligations legal obligation