Ottawa Citizen, 03 April 2014
The air defence destroyer HMCS Iroquois was found to have sea movement-related stress fractures in its superstructure during an exercise off the US’ east coast in late February. As a result, Iroquois is limited from sailing when weather and waves are particularly bad, as engineers in Halifax further examine the warship. It is unclear if the 42-year-old Iroquois will remain in this restricted state until she is due to be decommissioned in 2017, or if she will be repaired to gain a higher readiness status.
United States: “US Navy tests robotic fire-fighters”
BBC News, 02 April 2014
The US Navy will test two versions of autonomous firefighting robots made by researchers at Virginia Tech and the Universities of California, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania, on board the decommissioned landing ship USS Shadwell this summer. The anthropomorphic robots, dubbed Shipboard Autonomous Fire-fighting Robot (SAFFiR), are around 1.5 metres tall and are designed to perform a variety of firefighting tasks, including independently moving around a ship in a variety of sea states, turning valves, dragging a fire hose, spraying water on fire, and searching for survivors. The SAFFiRs are designed to withstand conditions that humans cannot, such as high heat and smoke, but are designed to work alongside human firefighters.
Jane’s, 02 April 2014 (paywall)
The Burmese navy commissioned its second Aung Zeya-class guided missile frigate, Kyansitthar, in a ceremony at Thanlyin Naval Station near Yangon on March 31st, two days after the launching of the third-in-class, Sin Phyu Shin, at the Thilawar Naval Dockyard. Like the other Aung Zeya frigates, Kyansitthar is 108 metres long, displaces 2,500 tons, has a range of 3,800 nautical miles and a top speed of 30 knots, but is also the MN’s first warship with reduced radar characteristics. Kyansitthar is armed with Russian-made Kh-35E anti-ship missiles, an Oto Melara 76-62 Super Rapid gun, and can carry a Kamov Ka-28A anti-submarine helicopter. The Aung Zeya ships’ hulls and engines were built in China but assembled in Burma to increase local capabilities. Following a rise in tensions with Bangladesh in 2008, the MN acquired two decommissioned Jianghu II frigates from China to patrol its EEZ, giving the Burmese navy four currently operational guided missile frigates.
The Koreas: “Seoul says crashed drone likely from N Korea”
Channel News Asia, 02 April 2014
The South Korean Defense Ministry has said that it has evidence suggesting that an unidentified drone that crashed last month near the northern city of Paju is of North Korean origin. Officials said that markings on the drone were North Korean and that it had taken pictures of Seoul’s northern suburbs, but declined to confirm media reports that the drone had captured images of the presidential Blue House. A similar investigation into a second drone found on the Yellow Sea border island of Baengnyeong earlier this week is ongoing. According to a Defense Ministry spokesperson, similarities exist between both recovered drones: the two small sky-blue aircraft are both rudimentary designs equipped with Japanese cameras that cannot send video or photos in real-time. Analysts note that in March 2013, North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong un inspected a drill of “super precision” drones assaulting simulated targets, but images of the recently recovered unmanned aircraft depict an extremely rudimentary design. Still, reports suggest that South Korea is addressing gaps in its radar system to be able to better detect small aircraft.
Australia / Sri Lanka: “Sri Lankan Navy receives donated Australian patrol vessel”
Jane’s, 03 April 2014 (paywall)
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) transferred the first Bay-class patrol vessel to the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) in a ceremony in Cairns on March 30th. The ship, née Corio Bay but rechristened Oshandi, has a range of 1,000 nautical miles at a top speed of 20 knots, room for 12 crew and two landing craft, and will be used by the SLN for Indian Ocean patrols. A second Bay will be transferred to the SLN later this year. ACBPS is replacing its 2000s-era Bay ships with larger Cape-class vessels for increased range and crew capacity, and is donating the Bays to regional maritime agencies to increase their capacity.
Antara News, 29 March 2014 & Jakarta Post, 01 April 2014
Komodo Multilateral Naval Exercise 2014 began in Indonesia’s Batam Harbour Bay on Saturday and will run until April 3rd, with 28 warships participating from 18 countries, including all the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US. Komodo 2014 includes both onshore and at-sea activities focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, but there is a strong political component to the exercise as well: Indonesian Commodore Amarullah Octavian said that the exercise is being used to demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, which are included in China’s “nine-dash line” claim of the South China Sea (SCS). Komodo 2014 may be a turning point in the ASEAN-China relationship in the SCS, as until now, Jakarta, the de facto leader of ASEAN, has been muted in its criticism of China’s SCS claims and activities.
Philippines / China: “Philippines Seeks Arbitration at U.N. Over China’s Claims in South China Sea” & “Philippines sues China to assert claim over resource-rich waters” & “China lodges solemn representation to Philippines over South China Sea dispute”
Wall Street Journal, 30 March 2014 & The Age, 31 March 2014 & Xinhua, 31 March 2014
The Philippines filed its case with the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on Sunday in an effort to have the PCA rule on China’s South China Sea (SCS) claims and activities. Manila’s 4,000-page submission, including over 40 maps, was crafted to establish that China’s “nine-dash line” claim of the SCS, which encompasses 90 percent of the Sea, including about 80 percent of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is excessive and runs counter to the UN Convention on the Law on the Sea, to which China is a party. Furthermore, Manila’s filing is designed to argue that Beijing’s activities that prevent the Philippines from exercising its sovereign rights in its SCS EEZ are illegal and must cease. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Monday that Beijing rejects Manila’s filing with the PCA, and that China-Philippines SCS issues should be resolved bilaterally. Manila’s submission comes as the two countries continued to wrangle over the Second Thomas Shoal in the southern SCS over the weekend. A Filipino supply ship was able to resupply Filipino Marines on board BRP Sierra Madre, a rusted-out landing ship that Manila beached on the Shoal in 1999 to defend its claim there, despite the China Coast Guard’s attempts to prevent the resupply. Both Japan and the US – the latter a defence ally of the Philippines – released statements hailing Manila’s arbitral submission, and the US condemned China’s Second Thomas Shoal action.
Koreas: “N. Korea fires two ballistic missiles, prompting Seoul to take countermeasures” & “North and South Korea exchange fire across western sea border” & “S Korea finds crashed drone on border island”
Yonhap News, 25 March 2014 & BBC News, 31 March 2014 & Channel News Asia, 01 April 2014
North Korea launched two mid-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, as the leaders of the US, Japan and South Korea met on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands to seek expanded cooperation to denuclearize North Korea. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the Rodong-class missiles were fired from mobile launch vehicles in Sukchon, north of Pyongyang, and flew 650km before landing in the East Sea between North Korea and Japan. Compared to the short-range Scud missiles that the North fired earlier this month, Rodong missiles, which have not been fired since 2009, are amongst the North’s most formidable arsenal. Rodong missiles are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, although Pyongyang has not yet mastered the ability to miniaturize a warhead or deliver it via missile. Not only is the latest launch of a nuclear-capable missile seen as a protest by the North of the international pressure for denuclearization, and the ongoing joint military drills between Seoul and Washington, but the launch also took place on the anniversary of the sinking of ROKS Cheonan, the South Korean corvette that was hit by a North Korean torpedo in 2010, killing 46 sailors. Tensions were further raised on Monday as North Korea conducted live-fire exercises in the Yellow Sea near the disputed Northern Limit Line maritime border. The North reportedly fired some 500 rounds, with 100 shells landing in South Korean waters, prompting the South to fire more than 300 rounds in return. South Korea later said that it had recovered an unidentified surveillance drone that crashed on the border island of Baengnyeong, the same day that North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire across their disputed maritime boundary. Defence officials did not comment on the drone’s provenance, but South Korean media has reported that the shape and size of the drone found on Baengnyeong was similar to one recovered last month near the northern city of Paju, close to the land border with the North.
Al-Jazeera, 31 March 2014
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Monday that Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Ocean is not in compliance with international agreements. The court rejected Tokyo’s argument that its long-running whaling program, which is permitted by the International Whaling Commission, is for scientific purposes. The ICJ said that the number of whales being caught under the program – reportedly more than 10,000 whales since 1986 – is too high to be considered for scientific purposes and that scientific output to date appears limited. Australia, which brought the case to the ICJ, as well as conservationist groups, have long criticized Japan’s program as being a loophole for conducting commercial whaling. The ruling drew praise from environmental groups, including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has sent ships to the remote Antarctic waters to block and harass Japan’s whaling fleet. Japan said that it would abide by the ICJ’s ruling, however, observers note that the court’s decision does not affect smaller hunts that Japan carries out in the northern Pacific, or coastal whaling carried out on a smaller scale by local fishermen.