By John Helmer, Moscow
The US Navy has announced that it has called back its frigate, USS Taylor, from the Souda Bay repair dock in Crete, and ordered her into the Black Sea from April 22. The Navy announcement  says the mission is a routine one “consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law. Taylor’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.”
The Montreux Convention – imposed on Turkey for being the enemy and on the losing side of World War 1 — limits non-Black Sea warships to stays in the Black Sea of no more than 21 days. The Taylor overstayed on its last Black Sea cruise in February, arriving on February 4 and departing on March 9. The reason was that on February 12 it ran aground while berthing at Samsun port, in Turkey. The captain, Commander Denis Volpe, was fired for the incident. The Turkish Foreign Ministry asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to ignore the Montreux violation because the Taylor was in no condition to fight.
Repairs to the propeller and other steering and propulsion equipment were made at Samsun, then added to and tested at Souda Bay. The vessel website has not released  the name of the commander now at the helm. In Washington, the Navy confirmed today that in charge of the Taylor is Commander Chris Cigna. The Navy spokesman described his assignment as “interim until another commander is appointed.”
The Taylor is one of the lightest armed American fighting ships to be deployed in the Black Sea since the US Navy commenced its continuous reassurance and interoperability operations in February. For those stories, click here  and here . The Taylor is equipped with anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, as well as anti-aircraft cannon. This is more firepower than the intelligence and command vessel, USS Mount Whitney, which the Taylor was escorting when it ran into the seabed at Samsun. Since then the more heavily armed destroyers, USS Truxtun and USS Donald Cook, have come, and in the Truxtun’s case gone.
The Cook is today reported by the US Navy to be “under way” in international waters of the Black Sea. It will either make port for refuelling by Friday, or leave the Black Sea. It completed interoperating with, and reassuring the Romanian Navy almost a week ago.
Weighing in on the Montreux scales at 8,900 tonnes the Cook, plus the 4,500-tonne Taylor, qualify for the 35,000-tonne limit set by the Convention. That also requires counting the flotilla of three French warships in the Black Sea at present, too. The French are lightweight at an aggregate of 10,030 tonnes.
The 30-year old Taylor is on her final operational cruise, as she is due for decommissioning in 2015. The 33-year old French frigate Dupleix (above), an anti-submarine warfare specialist, is also, according to Russian sources, on her last sea legs.