Globe and Mail, 05 March 2015
The Royal Canadian Navy recently revealed the design of its future Harry DeWolf-class Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS), as well as the Government of Canada’s larger vision for its future operations in the High North. Up to six of the 6,440-tonne, 103-metre-long ships will be constructed, each with a crew complement of 65, a range of 6,800 miles, and the capacity to break through metre-thick first-year ice. Ottawa intends the ships to boost Canada’s surveillance and situational awareness capacity in the Arctic while also promoting Canadian sovereignty over the archipelago and its approaches. A fuelling station to be built at Nanisivik, on Baffin Island, will allow the ships to extend deployments from their main bases on either coast, though the majority of the vessels will be stationed at Halifax, given the added distance involved in reaching the Arctic from the west coast base at Esquimalt. Navy and government officials say that successful deployment of AOPS to the Arctic will be done in conjunction with other government agencies, including the Coast Guard, which is more experienced in Arctic operations. The first ship of the class, HMCS Harry DeWolf, is expected to enter service in 2018, with subsequent vessels arriving at nine-month intervals.
Channel News Asia, 04 March 2015
Colombian authorities detained the Hong Kong-flagged, China state-owned and operated vessel Da Dan Xia in the northern port of Cartagena on Saturday on suspicion of illegally transporting ammunition and explosives materials, and will charge the ship’s captain with weapons trafficking. Da Dan Xia was bound for Cuba with a cargo manifest of grain products, but Colombian officials instead found 100 tonnes of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and 3,000 cannon shells in crates from the state-owned China North Industries Group (Norinco), bound for the Tecnoimport company in Havana. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that the shipment does not violate any of China’s international obligations and that China is communicating with relevant parties on the matter. In August 2003, Norinco was sanctioned by the US for allegedly selling missile-related parts to Iran.
Stars and Stripes, 04 March 2015
NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), which is currently comprised of six warships from Canada, Germany, Italy, Romania, Turkey, and the US, entered the Black Sea on Wednesday to conduct defence drills with regional allies. The SNMG2 ships had previously visited Italy and Croatia, and patrolled under NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor in the Eastern Mediterranean, while also exercising alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was en route to join combat operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The ships are scheduled to undertake further exercises with the militaries of Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey in a range of areas, including anti-submarine and anti-air warfare, as well as defending against small boat attacks. The deployments to the Black Sea are seen as a reassurance measure for NATO allies in the region following Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula last Spring. The ships involved are the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton, the Turkish frigate TCG Turgutreis, the German tanker FGS Spessart, the Italian frigate ITS Aliseo, the Romanian frigate ROS Regina Maria, and the American cruiser USS Vicksburg.
Japan / United States: “U.S., Japan Increase Warfighting Capabilities through Fleet Synthetic Training”
US Navy press release, 02 March 2015
Task Force 70 of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet conducted a Fleet Synthetic Training – Joint (FST-J) exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force on February 23rd to 27th. The FST-J focused on ballistic missile defence scenarios in order to improve interoperability at the individual sailor level, and this year’s FST-J expanded the number of participants involved. The FST-J highlights both the concern and cooperation that the US and Japan have over North Korea’s missile capabilities, as Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan earlier this week in protest of an annual US-South Korea drill.
DoD Buzz, 02 March 2015
The US Navy (USN) is deploying Seaglider unmanned underwater vehicles beneath the ice in the Arctic Ocean to gain measurements on ice melt, in preparation to deploy more ships in coming years as the region opens up. Seaglider drones convert their buoyancy and vertical movement into horizontal movement, giving them a range and endurance much beyond electrically-powered underwater drones (at the expense of speed), allowing them to gather ice melt and water salinity data for computer models over a longer period. The USN is predicting that rapidly melting ice in the Arctic will require a corresponding increase in maritime agencies’ presence in the region, and the USN gathering information and intelligence on the region so it can respond appropriately, as per the its 2014 Arctic Road Map policy.
Reuters, 01 March 2015
The Italian navy resumed its annual exercise, Mare Aperto, on Monday after the drill was suspended last year amid the large-scale Mare Nostrum operation to rescue migrants fleeing from Africa to Europe. Mare Aperto features traditional naval activities, including anti-ship, anti-submarine, and anti-air drills, in the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas off Italy’s west and east coast. Mare Aperto comes as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has threatened to use Libya, a mere 300km from Italy, as a staging point for infiltrating militants into Europe by boat.
South Korea / United States: “S Korea, US hold navy drill despite North threats” & “North Korea fires missiles as US-S Korea drills begin”
Channel News Asia, 27 February 2015 & BBC News, 02 March 2015
The Republic of Korea Navy and US Navy conducted a joint 10-ship naval drill last Friday, including support from aircraft, in an effort to enhance the two navies’ interoperability. The drill came just ahead of the annual South Korea-US Key Resolve computer-simulated exercise, set to run from March 2nd to 13th, and the annual South Korea-US Foal Eagle exercise, scheduled for March 2nd to April 24th, which involves joint ground, air, naval and special forces drills to practice capabilities in the event of another war on the peninsula. North Korea was informed of the events in advance to prevent misunderstanding, but Pyongyang rattled its own sabre nonetheless by firing two short-range missiles – probably C or D Scud variants – from Nampo into the Sea of Japan.
Japan News, 23 February 2015
Residents of Yonaguni Island, the southernmost isle of Japan’s Ryukyu chain in the East China Sea, held a non-binding referendum on February 22nd on whether to allow Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to be stationed on Yonaguni. Voting rights were extended to junior high school students and permanent foreign residents, resulting in voter turnout of 85.74 percent, with 58 percent of voters in favour of the deployment. Although the referendum was non-binding, it was an effort to secure local support for the deployment of around 150 SDF troops and a surveillance station on Yonaguni, an effort informed by popular discontent such as the kind seen on Okinawa over the stationing of US forces there.