United States / Singapore: “US to base four warships in Singapore as China flexes military muscles”
Guardian, 18 February 2015
The United States Navy says that by 2018 up to four of its littoral combat ships (LCS) will operate from Singapore on a rotational basis. The ships, which will be part of the US Seventh Fleet headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, will expand on the current deployment schedule in which USS Freedom was recently replaced by USS Fort Worth following an eight month deployment. Fort Worth will remain in the region for 16 months, participating in various multinational exercises throughout East Asia.
The Diplomat, 19 February 2015 & Bloomberg, 18 February 2015
The Indian government has approved a plan to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines and seven frigates at the cost of an estimated USD $16 billion. Plans to build six conventional-powered submarines were announced last fall, and it suggested that this decision to build nuclear powered boats will replace, rather than augment, that decision. The project to procure six Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines is still underway, however. Sources suggest that the submarines will be of the Russian-designed Akula-class, similar to the INS Chakra, which is currently leased from Russia, but will be built at an Indian shipyard. The frigates are expected to be further vessels of the 6,200-ton Shivalik-class of multi-role stealth vessels, of which India currently has three in service. The plan is also said to include funds for the refit of India’s current fleet of conventional Sindhughosh-class (Russian Kilo-class) and Shishumar-class (variant of the German Type-209) conventional submarines. India is currently the world’s largest weapons importer, and in recent years has put great effort into expanding its own domestic capabilities to lessen its reliance on foreign suppliers.
Philippines / United States: “US pays out $2m after minesweeper damages protected reef”
Guardian, 18 February 2015
On Wednesday, the Philippine government received USD $2 million from the United States for damages caused when the Avenger-class minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea back in January 2013. The 1,300 ton vessel took two months to be dismantled, a decision made to prevent more harm to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The US Navy and the American ambassador apologized for the grounding and 25,000 square feet of coral damage, which had sparked a minor incident with the Philippines government. The funds will reportedly be used to rehabilitate and protect the reef as well as to enhance current monitoring to prevent a repeat incident by other vessels. The US government will also assist the Philippine Coast Guard in upgrading is station near the reef. The US Pacific Fleet relieved the ship’s commanding officer, executive officer and navigator, assistant navigator and officer on deck after initial findings indicated they had failed to adhere to standard navigation procedures at the time of the grounding.
Defense News, 14 February 2015
The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is investigating the lease of commercial at-sea replenishment vessels in order to fill the gap in this capability that was opened with the retirement of the RCN’s two resupply ships, HMC Ships Preserver and Protecteur, last year. Ottawa has earmarked CAD $2.6 billion for the construction of two new Joint Supply Ships (JSS) to replace Preserver and Protecteur, but the JSS are not projected to be operational until 2021. RCN commander Vice-Admiral Norman has said that the US Navy has offered replenishment assistance, but this solution would be feasible for a year at most, given heavy demand for the American ships. Meanwhile, Canadian officials are pursuing the commercial lease option, with the ability to transfer fuel to the RCN’s frigates at the very least, and for civilian crews on the leased ships to eventually be replaced by RCN personnel.
Guardian, 16 February 2015
Over the weekend, a joint mission between the Italian coast guard and the Italian Navy rescued 2,600 seaborne migrants from a dozen distressed vessels between the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Libyan coast. Coast guard personnel were reportedly threatened by armed men who approached them by speedboat from the Libyan coast, forcing the coast guard to return one of the emptied boats. Separately, Friday saw the rescue of 600 migrants by the Italian coast guard and merchant vessels 50 miles off the Libyan coast. Analysts note that the increasing number of migrants, linked to rising instability in Libya and Syria, is challenging Italy at sea and on shore as the Navy, coast guard, and migrant processing centres struggle to deal with the sheer number of unauthorized maritime arrivals.
Barents Observer, 17 February 2015 & Defense News, 24 January 2015
Russia’s Sevmash shipyard at Severodinsk is reported to be building four nuclear submarines as part of the country’s largest shipbuilding effort since the end of the Cold War. The Sevmash yard is currently working on two Yasen-class attack boats, Kazan and Novosibirsk, and two Borei-class ballistic missile submarines, including Knyaz Vladimir and Kynaz Oleg. One of twelve planned Yasen subs is currently in service with the Russian Navy, while three of the 12 Borei boats are presently active. Two other classes of conventional submarine, including Kilo and Lada-class boats, are currently also being produced for the Russian Navy and for export. Analysts and expert observers have noted the ambitiousness of Russia’s recent naval modernization drive, and have suggested that the shipbuilding projects are likely to be successful in replacing aging and retired platforms while not greatly expanding the size of the force. Skeptics have also suggested that the Russians are well-known for later abandoning projects, or greatly reducing the scale of acquisition programmes following their initial announcement. Growing economic uncertainty in Moscow as a result of lower oil prices and Western economic sanctions is also expected to interfere with military procurement plans.
Naval Technology, 13 February 2015
The Indian Navy (IN) conducted a humanitarian assistance & disaster relief (HADR) exercise in the Lakshadweep Islands last week, in which over 20 IN vessels and several aircraft responded to a simulated major cyclone in the islands. The IN practiced responding to the needs of local people, establishing shelters and medical camps, and restoring emergency power and basic infrastructure. The IN has worked to improved its HADR capabilities since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, including providing HADR support to Bangladesh in 2007 after Cyclone Sidr and to Burma in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis.