USNI News, 25 February 2015
An independent analysis has found that the US Coast Guard (USCG) will require at least three heavy and three medium icebreakers to meet American needs in the polar regions. The USCG currently fields two icebreakers, including the medium breaker USCGC Healy and the heavy breaker USCGC Polar Star. Polar Star‘s sister ship, Polar Sea, was slated for scrapping in 2012, but Congress has since ordered an investigation into whether the ship, which was beset by serious mechanical problems, could be overhauled and returned to service. USCG officials are also said to be examining the possibility of leasing foreign ships, or designing a new class of vessels.
Cyprus / Russia: “Russia and Cyprus sign military deal for Mediterranean ports”
Deutsche Welle, 25 February 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, signed an agreement on Wednesday that will give Russian navy ships access to Cypriot ports. While Cyprus has previously granted Russian ships access to its ports, the formalization of the arrangement comes as tensions between Russia and Western countries over the Ukrainian conflict continue. Moscow and Nicosia down played the deal, however, explaining that port access would be used for counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations. Analysts note that the deal follows a decision earlier this week by the Kremlin to restructure a USD $2.8 billion loan to Cyprus, reducing the interest rate from 4.5 per annum to 2.5 percent. Russia’s access to Mediterranean ports was degraded after Russia evacuated its naval maintenance facility in the Syrian port city of Tartus in 2013 as a result of the Syrian civil war.
Naval Technology, 26 February 2015
Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has informed the upper house of Parliament via a written reply that the induction of the first of India’s six Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines into the Navy will be (further) delayed. The Scorpenes are being built by Mumbai’s Mazagon Docks under license from France’s DCNS as part of India’s USD $4.16 billion Project 75 procurement program, with the first boat to have been delivered in December 2012. However, the program has suffered significant delays, with the latest setback being blamed on a lack of materials from foreign vendors; Mazagon has reportedly enhanced its manpower and infrastructure in order to address the problem. The repeated Scorpene delays have put the Navy’s sub lifecycle plan under pressure — 75 percent of the Navy’s current subs are in the final quarter of their operational life — which prompted France to offer two off-the-shelf Scorpenes to India last January to bridge the gap.
China / United States: “China submarines outnumber U.S. fleet: U.S. admiral”
Reuters, 25 February 2015
Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, the US Navy (USN) deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee on Wednesday that China continues to make gains in the development of its submarine fleets. China is now considered to have more conventional and nuclear powered submarines that the USN, though VAdm Mulloy said that the quality of the boats is inferior to US designs. According to the testimony, the duration and distance covered by deployments of People’s Liberation Army Navy submarines is also increasing, with three patrols conducted in the Indian Ocean in 2014.
New York Times, 25 February 2015
The Pyongyang-headquartered shipping company Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) has renamed most of the vessels under its purview, according to a UN report that the Security Council will discuss on Thursday. The report says that OMM has renamed 13 of its 14 ships and listed them as being managed by entities in at least 10 countries, including Brazil, China, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and Singapore, in an effort to avoid UN and US sanctions. Furthermore, 12 of the renamed ships have visited foreign ports without penalty. OMM was sanctioned in July 2014 after one of its ships, the Chong Chon Gang, was caught trying to illegally ship fighter plane parts from Cuba to North Korea via Panama.
Canada / United States: “HMCS Toronto receives rare honour from U.S. Navy for anti-drug operations”
CTV News, 20 February 2015
The United States Navy has awarded the Royal Canadian Navy a rare commendation for the impact it had disrupting the flow of drugs off the coast of Africa. The commendation honours two crews who served in the frigate HMCS Toronto between February 2013 and 2014, in support of Combined Task Force 150. During Toronto‘s 13 month deployment, crews were responsible for conducting 60 intercepts, with nine major drug seizures, totaling 8,500 kilograms of drugs. Observers note that it is rare for a non-US naval force to receive a US Navy unit decoration; in the last 45 years, the US Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation has been awarded outside the US military only five times, and only twice to a warship. HMCS Toronto’s commendation marks the first time that the honour has been awarded to a Canadian unit.
Peru / Chile: “Peru Navy Officials Held in Alleged Spying Probe”
Wall Street Journal, 19 February 2015
Two Peruvian naval officers have been detained on suspicion of spying for Chile and a third person is under investigation. According to Peru’s defence minister, the two officers allegedly supplied information on Peruvian navy surveillance of fishing boats to Chilean officials, and one of the charged reportedly admitted to supplying information to a foreign company in meetings in Brazil for USD $200 per report. A Chilean government spokesperson said that Santiago has not received any official notification on the espionage allegations. Maritime relations between Peru and Chile have been acrimonious for decades as the two countries have disagreed over their sea boundary, with this latest news to likely raise tensions again.
USNI News, 20 February 2015 & Defense News, 20 February 2015
The British government has awarded a £859 million contract to BAE Systems to continue the process of developing the Royal Navy’s (RN) next class of frigate, with construction expected to begin in 2016. Thirteen of the Type-26 Global Combat Ships are currently planned for the RN to replace the current class of 13 Duke-class Type 23 frigates. The 5,500-ton ships are expected to enter service in the 2020s, with eight of the ships featuring advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. This recent “demonstration contract” will allow for investment of onshore test facilities, as well as other specialized “long-lead” items, while the actual production contract for the vessels is still being negotiated.
Reuters, 23 February 2015
France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, along with an escort group comprised of several frigates, a submarine, and a British resupply ship, is being deployed to a position off Iraq. France already has nine Rafale fighters, a maritime patrol aircraft, a refueling plane, and six Mirage fighters operating from land bases in UAE and Jordan, respectively. The carrier-based aircraft, however, will require half the time to reach targets, thus increasing the probability of carrying out effective strikes. Charles de Gaulle reportedly began operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Monday and will participate in anti-ISIL strikes for at least several weeks.
Jane’s, 22 February 2015 & Times of India, 23 February 2015
Just a week after revealing a USD $8 billion naval building plan, the Indian government has also announced that it will take steps to accelerate the construction of its next indigenously-built aircraft carrier. Currently known as the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-II (IAC-II) and likely to be named INS Vishal, construction is expected to begin in 2018, with a reported service date of 2030. The design of the ship has yet to be finalized, though sources suggest it will likely be nuclear-powered and displace 65,000-tonnes. INS Vikrant, the 40,000-tonne ship known as IAC-I, is expected to enter service in 2019, at the latest. Vikrant, like its predecessors in the Indian Navy, including the refurbished Soviet-built ship INS Vikramaditya, will feature a short takeoff barrier arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration. Meanwhile, the IAC-II is expected to be configured for catapult assisted take-off barrier arrested recovery (CATOBAR) that will allow for the operation of heavier aircraft. The Indian Navy announced earlier that the 56-year old Centaur-class carrier INS Viraat will be retired next year.
Sri Lanka / China: “Sri Lanka reviews land transfer to China as port deal draws scrutiny”
Reuters, 20 February 2015
Sri Lanka is reconsidering the transfer of 108 hectares of land near the commercial port of Colombo to the state-owned China Communications Construction Company. Under a USD $1.5 billion deal brokered by the previous Rajapaksa administration, the Chinese company was to have received 20 hectares outright and the remainder under a 99-year lease, with planned development to include shopping malls, golf courses, apartments, hotels and marinas. However, the extent of the project, as well as the docking of two Chinese nuclear submarines in Colombo in October-November 2014 prompted the recently-elected Sirisena government to revisit the deal. The new administration has publically promised a more balanced foreign policy, noting the importance of Colombo’s relationship with Beijing, but also with New Delhi. President Sirisena was in India last week, and will visit China next month, during which time the port infrastructure issue may be discussed.