Reuters, 10 March 2015
The US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, has said that spending cuts have left the US Navy and the Marine Corps (USMC) less capable of responding to crisis situations. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Greenert voiced his support for reinstating defence funding in excess of federal spending limits that were enacted during the financial crisis. USMC leaders said that funding cuts had resulted in “personnel, equipment, and training shortfalls” to about half the Corps’ units. Greenert reported similar problems for the Navy, which has extended deployments and delayed maintenance as a result. Some have suggested that a failure to rectify the spending shortfalls could mean abandoning the current military strategy which directs the military to be capable of winning a major conflict in one theater while deterring an aggressor in another.
Naval Technology, 12 March 2015
On March 9th, the Iranian Navy inducted the second-in-class Mowj frigate/destroyer Damavand into its Caspian Sea fleet at the northern port city of Bandar-e-Anzali. Damavand is 90 metres long, displaces 1,300 tons, has a top speed of 30 knots, features four Qaderanti anti-ship cruise missiles, two Mehrab anti-air missile batteries, and a 76mm naval gun, and can host a helicopter. Damavand will reportedly be tasked with anti-drug smuggling and counter-terror missions in the Caspian, though how these will be executed is yet to be seen, as the Caspian’s littorals have not established a governance regime. Foreign observers suggest that the small size of the ships would lead to be classified as light frigates by most other navies.
Bloomberg, 09 March 2015 & India Express, 12 March 2015
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a tour of Indian Ocean nations this week to increase his country’s strategic relationships at a time when China is also said to be eyeing expansion into the region. The visits to the Seychelles and Mauritius both involved signing deals to build sea and airport infrastructure on isolated islands, as well as other agreements for the provision of Indian assistance. The moves were partially prompted by signs of growing Chinese involvement in the Indian Ocean, including extended submarine deployments which raised concerns in India that it was falling behind in the race to secure strategic assets in the area. Modi will also visit Sri Lanka later this week, marking the first time in 28 years that an Indian Prime Minister has visited the country. A recent change of government in Sri Lanka has lead to some reconsideration of the country’s relationship with China, which had previously seen visits by Chinese submarines, prompting further concerns in Delhi. India signed a maritime security agreement with Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 2011 that included sharing radar coverage, and Mauritius and Seychelles have shown signs of interest in joining the agreement.
The Diplomat, 12 March 2015
Although it has been an open secret for some time, top People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) officers publicly confirmed this week that China is building an indigenous aircraft carrier, and offered some slight details on its capabilities. Rear Admiral Ma Weiming, an “expert in naval propulsion and naval engineering” said that Chinese engineers have made breakthroughs in an electromagnetic catapult launch system that will be incorporated into the new carrier, while Admiral Liu Xiaojiang, a former PLAN political commissar, said that the PLAN will eventually have no fewer than three carriers in service – one in maintenance, one being used for training, and one on active duty. If the admirals’ remarks are correct, especially RAdm. Ma’s comment on an electromagnetic launch system, the PLAN will have greatly increased its seaborne aircraft capabilities – the PLAN’s current carrier, Liaoning, uses a ski jump launch system, which reduces the weight of weapons and fuel that aircraft can carry. Similar systems have been developed for the US Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class carriers.
United States: “Officials extend F/A-18 Hornet service lives”
Navy Times, 09 March 2015
The US Navy (USN) is continuing in its efforts to refurbish its F/A-18 A-D Hornets in a bid to extend the service lives of the aircraft alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which are expected to operate until the 2030s. The F/A-18 variants are expected to form the bulk of the USN’s carrier strike capacity during that period, despite the adoption of the F-35 and potential unmanned aircraft into carrier operations, though the older A-D models will likely be phased out within the next decade. The USN has been the smallest American F-35 buyer so far, leading some to speculate that the service is skeptical as to the capabilities of the aircraft; the slow planned F-35 procurement is apparently the cause of the decision to extend the older Hornet variants, though budgetary issues were also cited.
Sputnik News, 09 March 2015
French shipbuilder DCNS is expected to begin sea trials of the second Mistral-class amphibious assault ship that was built to fulfill a Russian order, but will do so without the involvement of any Russian personnel. The trials, which are expected to begin next week, appear to be a sign that the builder is proceeding with construction of the vessels, despite uncertainty as to who might take delivery of the ships. Observers are still waiting on news of the future of the deal, however, as the French government has not commented on whether the ships will be delivered since it announced the decision to temporarily suspend delivery of the vessels last autumn. Speculation as to potential third-party buyers for the ships has quieted in recent months, and no official word on alternate plans is likely until the Russia deal is either concluded or cancelled.
Channel News Asia, 10 March 2015
Two Chinese citizens, one surnamed Han and the other Zhang, were sentenced to at least six years imprisonment in January-February for selling military secrets to foreign intelligence services, including photos of the Liaoning aircraft carrier. Both reportedly had access to Dalian military bases, but Zhang was also convicted of taking photos at a Beijing air show in Summer 2014 and passing them along to a foreign agent who posed as a journalist. China’s state secrets law is very broad, encompassing information such as photographs of military equipment and top leaders’ birthdates, and can be applied retroactively.