United States: “Report suggests fewer Marines needed on Guam”
Guam Pacific Daily News, 28 July 2012
The Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American think-tank, submitted a report to the United States Congress last week with independent recommendations on how to best position American military forces throughout the Asia Pacific region. The report was commissioned to help inform congressional members on the issues facing defence reorganization in the Pacific region, particularly in regards to moving Marines from current bases in Okinawa to the US bases on Guam, a decision that has proved controversial; the CSIS report suggest that these “plans are at the center of a logjam between the Department of Defense (DoD), which would like to implement them, and Congress, which is reluctant to authorize funding absent better details about cost and long-term master plans.” The report suggests that the plan of moving 5,000 Marines from Okinawa could be scaled back due to budgetary limitations and the scale of the facilities that would have to be built to accommodate them. At the same time, the report suggests that equipment should be moved to the American bases at Guam, including three attack submarines, a more established presence of B-52 strategic bombers, and an enhanced missile defence capability. Analysts suggest that interest in the small but strategically important Pacific island will increase as China becomes more assertive in the Western Pacific.
United States: “New System Expands Ships’ Tracking Range”
Defense News, 24 July 2012??The US Office of Naval Research has modified existing technologies to develop Rough Rhino, a tracking system which allows ships to locate vessels that are not transmitting Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals, reports say. AIS is a locating signal which all commercial ships weighing more than 300 tons must carry, though many vessels transporting illicit cargo turn off their AIS transmitters in order to avoid detection. Current technology allows ships to track other vessels not transmitting AIS only if they are within 40 to 55 km, and must receive assistance from special aircraft in order to see further. But Rough Rino will give Navy ships the ability to see ships from much farther away, finding the vessels with radar and using optics to identify them. Rough Rhino was tested in an operational environment off the coast of West Africa earlier this month as part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership exercise, allowing the host nations to track more than 600 illegal fishermen, drug smugglers, and human traffickers per day, as well as helping navies identify 24 ships that were eventually boarded. Although some elements of Rough Rhino are already being put to use, many of the updates to sensors are still several years away from being integrated into the US fleet.
Gulf of Guinea Piracy: “Oil worker dead after pirate attack in Nigeria”
Defence Web, 30 July 2012
One oil worker is dead and at least two others are missing after armed pirates ambushed an oil vessel transiting the Niger Delta on Thursday. According to media reports, a Nigerian man drowned shortly after gunmen stormed the Italian-owned vessel, MV Terra, which reportedly had no security personnel on board. Though details of the attack are limited, regional operatives of the Joint Military Task Force have been deployed to the scene and are currently searching for the suspected pirates. Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have increased in recent months as the area, spanning a dozen countries, is a growing global source of cocoa, metals, and crude oil.
Ottawa Citizen, 31 July 2012 & Barents Observer, 31 July 2012 & Reuters, 27 July 2012 & BBC News, 27 July 2012
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin vowed to boost his country’s nuclear naval forces while overseeing the beginning of the construction of a new submarine on Monday. The vessel is the fourth Borei-class submarine, designed to carry the country’s troubled Bulava submarine launched intercontinental ballistic missile. Putin has pledged USD $621.31 billion to be spent over the next eight years in order to increase Russia’s naval capacity by 51 vessels; eight of which will be Borei-class nuclear boats. It is noted that Russia’s naval buildup is related to the country’s supposed plans to redraw the Arctic map, giving itself significantly more territory, an area which potentially holds huge deposits of oil, gas, and mineral resources. Moscow is also planning to clean up the Franz Josef Archipelago – an island chain that housed a Soviet military base – a project on which the government promises to spend $70 million on over the next two years, and will include “strengthening [Russia’s] military component” in the Arctic, according to the Russian president.
In related news, Russia’s Defence Ministry has denied reports that indicate the country is eyeing Cuba, Vietnam, and the Seychelles to create its first foreign naval base since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, who was in Russia on Friday, reportedly said that Vietnam has “no intention of cooperating with any country with the aim of military use of the port of Cam Ranh”. The Soviet Union had a naval base in Vietnam, but post-Soviet Russia decided to leave the Cam Ranh base in 2002 due to costs. Also, the fate of Russia’s naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus – which, as well as the base in Ukraine, is one of only two Russian navy facilities abroad – is uncertain because of the conflict in Syria. Analysts say that Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore the force’s blue water capability.
Russia / Syria: “Russian Flotilla Headed for Syria Enters Mediterranean”
Defense News, 24 July 2012
A flotilla of Russian warships reportedly entered the Mediterranean last week, getting closer to their destination at the Syrian port of Tartus. Led by the Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine destroyer, the three vessels are due to be joined in the Mediterranean by the Russian patrol ship Yaroslav Mudry as well as an assistance vessel. Although Russia’s defence ministry said the deployment is not related to the ongoing violence in Syria, analysts note that Moscow has been concerned about the safety of its personnel and equipment at the base after Syrian rebels reportedly threatened to attack the Tartus facility in response to Russia’s continued support for the embattled Syrian president.
Israel / Iran: “Inmarsat warned over alleged dealings with Iran”
Naval Technology, 27 July 2012
An Israeli legal group has accused the London-based mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of selling prohibited satellite communication guidance services to Iranian government-controlled oil tankers and military vessels. The Shurat HaDin Israel Law Centre reportedly issued a warning letter to Inmarsat on Wednesday, warning that it would face criminal prosecution from those affected by Iran’s nuclear program and its alleged global terrorist network if it failed to cease its illegal operations. According to the legal group, Inmarsat’s activities do not comply with the US Treasury Department’s regulations that were recently imposed on maritime vessels found to be supporting the Iranian regime. Though Inmarsat officials have denied any wrongdoing, observers note that the accusations come just one year after the telecommunications giant was charged in a US district court for providing communication to the Mavi Marmara and other ships that were involved in violating Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010.
Times of India, 31 July 2012
The Indian Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has apparently developed the country’s first submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The Indian press suggests that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will present an award to a DRDO scientist for the “successful development” of an SLBM, despite the scant public evidence of the project testing. Previously known as the Sagarika (Sanskrit for ‘Ocean’), the missile has been designated the K-15, and has an apparent range of 750 km. Reports suggest that test launches of the missile from submersed test beds have been successful, but the domestically produced nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant is still undergoing acceptance trials, and it will be some time before the systems are integrated and tests are conducted.
Sri Lanka / Australia: “Sri Lankan navy: 28 illegal migrants rescued after boat engine fails on way to Australia”
Vancouver Sun, 30 July 2012
A French tanker rescued 28 people who were stranded in the ocean for 11 days about 300 nautical miles off Sri Lanka’s eastern coast after their boat’s engine failed on the way to Australia, Sri Lanka’s navy said on Monday. The 23 men, four women, and one child – all Sri Lankans – are being held by police custody pending an investigation. Observers say that Australia has become a hub for illegal migrants seeking refuge from war-torn and impoverished countries, as 620 people from several nations have been arrested just in Sri Lanka so far this year for trying to travel to Australia illegally.
Indonesia / China: “China, RI begin missile talks”
Jakarta Post, 27 July 2012
China and Indonesia are said to be in talks related to the production of C-705 anti-ship missiles in Indonesia as part of Jakarta’s efforts towards gaining independence in their weapons production capabilities. This apparent growing cooperation between the two countries is seen as notable given the rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea, where China has generally been at odds with Indonesia’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations counterparts, though observers suggest that Jakarta is more interested in technological partnerships than it is in getting embroiled in the regional dispute. The C-705 missile is said have a range of up to 170 km and can be equipped with infrared, TV, and radar guidance systems, as well as satellite targeting capabilities, using either GPS or the independent Chinese system. Chinese and Indonesian special forces have conducted joint exercises, and the Chinese government has offered training facilities to Indonesian pilots. Indonesia has defence cooperation agreements with a wide range of countries, including with South Korea to build jet fighters and submarines, the Netherlands to build frigates and Spain to build medium transport aircraft.
Navy Recognition, 26 July 2012
Preliminary reports suggest the the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is preparing to start negotiations with the French shipbuilder DCNS for the possible purchase of 4 Scorpene-class attack submarines in a deal that could include provisions for technological transfers. DCNS has declined to comment on the speculation, though the source of the information is said to be credible. The RSN currently fields four submarines of the Challenger-class, which is a more modernized version of an older Swedish design, as are their slightly older Archer-class boats. Sources suggest that the RSN will opt to have the Scorpene equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, similar to the Archer boats, which would enable the submarines to stay submerged for up to three weeks.
China / South China Sea: “China Launches the Country’s Largest and Most Advanced Patrol Vessel”
Maritime Executive, 30 July 2012
China recently launched its largest and reportedly “most advanced” patrol vessel at a shipyard in the province of Hubei over the weekend amid escalating disputes with neighbouring countries over various islands in the South China Sea (SCS). The 5,400-ton, 129 metre-long vessel, Haixun 01, will reportedly be used as the new flagship for a future patrol fleet of 300 vessels. TMany observers have described Haixun 01 as a central part of China’s intentions to assert its claims over territory in the highly contentious SCS.
China / South China Sea / Gabon: “Shell, Cnooc to Explore for Oil Off China, Gabon”
Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2012
Europe’s largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, recently signed several production sharing contracts (PSCs) with China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOCC) to conduct resource exploration activities in the Yinggehai basin in the South China Sea (SCS) and off the coast of Gabon. According the agreements, Shell will conduct seismic surveys in the Yinggehai basin and hold a 100 percent working interest in the exploration operation, which will reportedly be reduced to 49 percent following development. Meanwhile, under the Gabon deal, CNOOC will acquire 25 percent in two offshore exploration sites whereby CNOOC will reimburse Shell for a quarter of the western oil major’s past exploration costs and partially pay for future exploration. While analysts were initially skeptical that foreign partners would sign any exploration agreements for sites located in what Vietnam said were disputed waters, the offshore deals comes as CNOOC attempts to improve its deep-water expertise and technology by inviting foreign partners to jointly explore and develop deep water blocks in the SCS.
South China Sea “Nations at Impasse Over South China Sea, Group Warns”
New York Times, 24 July 2012
According to a report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG), the probability of a conflict between China and four of its Southeast Asian neighbours -Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines – in the South China Sea (SCS) is increasing. The report attributed tensions to increasingly assertive positions taken by claimants driven mainly by declining fish stocks, expanding military capabilities, increasing oil and gas exploration activities in the SCS, and the vagueness of China’s claims to islands and energy resources in the region; Beijing reportedly lays claims to approximately 80 percent of the SCS. The report came shortly after the Philippine president announced plans to buy military aircraft, including attack helicopters, that could be used in territorial disputes in the SCS, and just days after China’s Central Military Commission reportedly authorized the People’s Liberation Army to form a military garrison in Sansha city, a city created last month to govern the disputed Paracel Islands, claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
More information on the ICG report can he found here.
Japan / China: “Japan concerned by Chinese naval activity, lack of transparency in decision-making process”??Washington Post, 31 July 2012
In its annual defence report released on Tuesday, Japan voiced concern that China’s increased naval operations in the western Pacific, coupled with a lack of transparency over who sets the country’s military agenda, are posing a heightened security threat to the region. Citing China’s alleged aggressiveness regarding territorial disputes in the East China Sea (ECS), the paper reported a “record number” of Chinese operations near Japanese islands, with at least one exercise involving an unmanned aerial vehicle. The report also noted that uncertainty over how much power the military has in the decision-making process compared to the Communist Party leadership – which is set to undergo its once in a decade leadership transition this year – makes it difficult to understand the military’s motives. Though Japan has long expressed unease about China’s lack of transparency in regards to military spending and troop positioning, this was the first time its Defense Ministry has commented on the Chinese leadership’s actual decision-making process. Though the report drew a sharp response from Beijing, where a Defense Ministry spokesman called Japan’s statements regarding the territorial disputes “irresponsible,” Tokyo reportedly plans to beef up its surveillance presence in the disputed region despite the latest flare-up over a contested and uninhabited island chain in the ECS.