dissabte, 28 d’abril de 2012

Russian-Built Frigate Joins Indian Navy*

India on Friday formally commissioned a new frigate into its navy, following a handover ceremony at a shipyard in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

INS Teg is the first of three modified Krivak III class (also known as Talwar class) guided missile frigates being built at the Yantar Shipyard under a $1.6 billion deal sealed in 2006.

The other two vessels will follow in a year or so, a Yantar spokesman told RIA Novosti.
The 3,970-ton frigate incorporates stealth technologies and is armed with eight 290-km BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

It is also equipped with "sensors for three-dimensional warfare," the Times of India newspaper reported.
The Indian navy already has three Russian-built Talwar class frigates.

*Notícia publicada a RIA Novosti. Tot i que l'Índia disposa d'una potent indústria naval, així com notables dissenys propis, els acords amb Rússia es mantenen, dins d'una política de diversificació d'aliances i proveïdors.

US Navy launches official Request for Information (RFI) for F/A-XX strike fighter *

The US Navy has launched mid-April an official RFI for the F/A-XX carrier-based strike fighter. The F/A-XX is intended to replace both F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft currently in service in the US Navy by the years 2030ies.

The official RFI for the sixth generation fighter, issued by the Department of the Navy Naval Air Systems Command Aircraft Division, goes as follow:

The Director for Air Warfare (OPNAV N98) has requested NAVAIR Warfare Analysis and Integration Department (AIR-4.10) to conduct trade space refinement as a precursor to an analysis of alternatives for candidate strike fighter aircraft replacements for the FA-18E/F and EA-18G.
The US Navy has launched mid-April an official RFI for the F/A-XX carrier-based strike fighter. The F/A-XX is intended to replace both F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter and EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft currently in service in the US Navy by the years 2030ies.
F/A-XX concept
(Picture: Boeing)
The intent of this research is to solicit Industry inputs on candidate solutions for CVN based aircraft to provide multi-role capability in an A2AD operational environment. Primary missions include, but are notlimited to, air warfare (AW), strike warfare (STW), surface warfare (SUW), and close air support (CAS). Also consider the ability of your concept to provide other capabilities currently provided by strike fighteraircraft, such as organic air-to-air refueling (AAR), Tactical Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA), and airborne electronic attack (AEA). The trade space refinement activity will characterize a broad trade space, to include unmanned, optionally manned and manned aircraft. System attributes and system capabilities will be considered in the context of cost and affordability. Concepts that are derived from legacy aircraft, “clean sheet” new design aircraft, as well as innovative technology concepts specifically tailored for the operational context are all relevant. Please provide a separate whitepaper for each technology concept or family of related and complementary technology concepts; multiple white papers may be provided.
The US Navy has launched mid-April an official RFI for the F/A-XX carrier-based strike fighter. The F/A-XX is intended to replace both F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter and EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft currently in service in the US Navy by the years 2030ies.
F/A-XX artist impression
(Picture: Boeing)

As a top level summary of some of the required system capabilities, the air vehicle should be capable of addressing the following needs:

1.Capable of operating from CVN 68 and CVN 78 class aircraft carriers, as part of the Carrier AirWing (CVW), with minimal impact on the ship configuration and the operations of the rest of theCVW.

2.This aircraft will be a complementary CVW asset to the F-35C and an unmanned persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) vehicle with precision strike capability.

3.The ability to conduct persistent, penetrating operations in an A2AD operational environment.

4.The ability for an IOC in the 2030 timeframe. If a spiral approach to incorporation of systems and/or technology to achieve full operational capability is employed, provide the timeline toachieve full capability.
* Notícia publicada a Navy Recognition. La substitució dels polivalents Hornet és ja un procés en curs; si bé els Estats Units ja havien anunciat la seva substitució entre els 2030-2035, ara comencen a aparèixer les sol·licituds formals.

dimecres, 25 d’abril de 2012

All-action exercise reaches its climax with Royal Marines invading Scottish shores*

Swooping low over the Firth of Clyde a Hawk jet banks as it approaches Ailsa Craig, preparing to make another pass of HMS Blyth.

It’s just one action-packed episode from the largest military exercise in Europe, now approaching its climax in and off Scotland. 

Whilst much of the media attention is focused on parachute drops and amphibious landings involving the big ships – flagship HMS Bulwark and helicopter assault ship HMS Illustrious are the UK’s largest participants – the Royal Navy’s smaller vessels have been pushed to the limit by Joint Warrior. 

With survey ship HMS Enterprise leading the way, Bangor joined fellow minehunter Atherstone, Brocklesby, Grimsby and Shoreham as they set out into the Firth of Forth to clear dummy mines. 

And immediately, the small task group came under attack from a bevy of fast inshore attack craft – jet skis and rigid inflatable boats – which can cause mayhem to slow moving vessels such as the minehunters.
The Sandown and Hunt-class vessels have 30mm main guns, Enterprise a pair of 20mm cannon, and all have Miniguns and machine-guns to fend off the foe. 

However, the big guns also waded in as the minehunter’s supporting escorts – frigates HMS St Albans and Monmouth, as well as the United States’ Arleigh Burke destroyer, USS Forrest Sherman – joined in.
The training – appropriately known as a ‘swarmex’ (swarm exercise) – saw the ships operating in close proximity and at high speed to defend themselves. 

The smaller ships of the task group were protected and safely escorted through a chokepoint off the west coast of Scotland, with air defence provided by Lynx and Merlins of the Fleet Air Arm. 

However, just when the task group and escorts had run the gauntlet of the fast attack craft the fearful sound of ‘Air raid warning red’ over the broadcast systems heralded a fresh wave of trouble: Hawk jets. 

Coming under attack from the agile jet trainers off Ailsa Craig, Blyth led from the front, acting as a guide for the other ships. With HMS St Albans and her Seawolf missiles providing covering firepower, the Hawks were unable to penetrate the group’s defences. 

“After recently completing Operational Sea Training, Joint Warrior has allowed us to operate as part of a task group in a realistic and challenging scenario,” said HMS Blyth’s Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Tim Davey. 

“This training will ensure that we are ready for our NATO deployment in June any contingent tasking that may come our way.” 

Just shy of half the 8,000 personnel involved in Joint Warrior are drawn from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. 

Fourteen Royal Navy warships and submarines, plus one RFA amphibious support ship are involved in proceedings, which conclude tomorrow on the ranges around West Freugh in Dumfries and Galloway.
In addition to seaborne power, helicopters from three Fleet Air Arm squadrons, dives, medics, the headquarters of 3 Commando Brigade and the steel sword of 45 Commando are committed to the two-week-long war games. 

More than 400 green berets from Arbroath-based 45 Commando are taking part in the exercise, which will be their ‘final validation’ before taking over as the principal Royal Marines unit ready to deploy anywhere in the world at immediate notice. The Arbroath commandos and their kit are spread across HMS Illustrious, Bulwark and RFA Mounts Bay. 

Having carried out ‘wader’ training – where the Commando practised helicopter and landing craft insertions – 45 stepped things up with company-sized raids on ‘enemy bases’ around western Scotland, culminating in a full-scale landing today and tomorrow involving the entire unit on the beaches of West Freugh (pronounced ‘froo’) south of Stranraer, supported by Apache, Sea King and Merlin helicopters and a variety of amphibious landing craft from Bulwark and Mounts Bay. 

“This exercise validates us as the UK’s Very High Readiness Group and allows us to train with the ships, helicopters and landing craft that make up the Maritime Response Force,” said Lt Col Mike Tanner RM, Commanding Officer of 45 Commando. “It has prepared us for operational contingency deployments anywhere.” 

* Notícia publicada al web de la Royal Navy. La reacció ràpida és una de les capacitats que més ha d'afinar qualsevol força moderna. 

The Future is Now*

The U.S. isn’t “returning” to the Asia-Pacific, it never left in the first place. Here, in the world’s most strategically and economically dynamic region, China is already demonstrating great potential to undermine American strategic interests and the efficacy of the global sys­tem – and is doing so in practice. Though Beijing and Washington have considerable shared interests and potential for cooperation, the most difficult period for them to achieve “competitive coexistence” may already have begun. Assuming that high-intensity kinetic conflict can be avoided – fortunately, a highly likely prospect – China’s greatest challenge to U.S. interests and the global system might thus be the already unfolding strategic competition, friction, pres­suring, and occasional crises in the three “Near Seas” (the Yellow, East China, and South China Seas).

China is already a world-class military power – but not in the ways that many have charged. Beijing’s “blue water” naval expansion beyond the Second Island Chain, which isn’t proceeding at the highest level, does not pose a serious problem for Washington. Indeed, as a growing great power, it is only natural for China to develop an increasing pres­ence in this realm, and in many respects it should be welcomed.

The United States has and will continue to have many viable options to address any problems that might emerge in this area, at least with respect to a high intensity kinetic conflict. For instance, Chinese forces themselves are highly vulnerable to precisely the same types of “asymmetric” approaches (e.g., mis­sile attacks) that they can employ to great effect closer to China’s shores. In fact, there’s substantial room for cooperation beyond the Near Seas. This potential may even be said to be growing, as China’s overseas in­terests and capabilities increase, thereby allowing it to contribute in unprecedented ways. In this area, which covers the vast majority of the globe, Beijing appears to be cautiously open to Washington’s ideas about “defense of the global system” – which offer excellent opportunities for “free riding” off U.S.-led public goods provision.

The problem is that in the Near Seas themselves, and possibly beyond them over time, Beijing is work­ing to carve out a sphere of strategic influence with­in which freedom of navigation and other important international system-sustaining norms do not apply. Indeed, China already has some ability to engage in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) operations within the Near Seas/First Island Chain and their immediate approaches, assisted in part by the land-based Second Artillery Force; as well as longer-range precision strikes and global cyber activities. This A2/AD challenge threatens U.S. naval platforms, but is far more than just a Chinese navy-based threat.

The U.S. military has many options to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from paralyzing its forces, yet it will fail if it continues business as usual. It could already be difficult to handle kinetically with current American approaches, and the situation appears to be worsening rapidly. The U.S. may not have years to develop new countermeasures and prepare to address the most difficult aspects of the problem; in a sense, “the future is now.”

Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College and a core founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute.This entry is based on remarks made at Harvard University during The Diplomat's Pivot to the Pacific panel.

*Notícia publicada a The Diplomat.  Els articles del professor Andrew S. Erickson sempre són d'allì més recomanables i aquest, no n'és una excepció.

Falklands War – UK and Argentine naval power then and now*

The UK Navy dominated their Argentine counterparts during the Falklands War, but how have these forces fared since that conflict?

As debate over the rightful ownership of the Falkland Islands bursts back into life, Dr Gareth Evans compares the British and Argentine naval forces of 1982 with those of today, to find out just how much has changed since the first confrontation.

On the morning of the 2 April 1982, the task of defending Port Stanley against a 600-strong Argentine invasion force fell to a British contingent of just 80 servicemen - 68 Royal Marines and 12 sailors from the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance - along with a handful of local reservists.

"A recent report from Strategic Defence Intelligence predicted that Argentina's defence budget will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.87% over the period from 2011 to 2015."
By a quirk of fate, that represented almost twice the usual number of personnel routinely stationed on the Falkland Islands at the time, as the attack had come during a changeover.

Thirty years on, and today's military presence is rather more substantial. Three Royal Navy vessels, a patrol ship, an auxiliary support ship and either a frigate or a state-of-the-art destroyer - such as the Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyer, HMS Dauntless, recently sent to the South Atlantic - guard the sea lanes, bolstered by the rumoured presence of a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine.

The islands are also now home to a garrison of 1,200, with aerial defences provided by a series of strategically placed Rapier missile batteries and four Typhoon fighters, with logistics support from a Hercules C130 transporter and a VC10 tanker.

While the islands themselves are clearly better defended, during the intervening decades there have been changes elsewhere too.

From the British perspective, the Falklands conflict was predominately a naval campaign, involving a task force which ultimately amounted to 127 ships, consisting of 43 Royal Navy vessels, 22 from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 62 merchant ships.

While Argentina's Navy played a very small part in the fighting by comparison - and almost none at all after the subsequently much-debated sinking of the ARA General Belgrano - examining the current maritime power of the two combatants offers some interesting insights into how military spending has shifted over recent years.

Defence spending since the Falklands War

British defence spending

According to the latest SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, during the era which included the Falklands conflict, Britain's military budget represented around four percent of GDP - something which the conflict itself helped to increase.

Defence reviews are not a new phenomenon, and the UK's spending had been the subject of major cuts during the late 1970s, which, ironically, would have meant that a number of the vessels involved in the war would not have been in service if Argentina's military junta had delayed the decision to invade by a few months.

The conflict in the South Atlantic made it clear that the Royal Navy needed to maintain its expeditionary capabilities as well as fulfil its Cold War role. The impending cuts were abandoned as a result, and the experience undoubtedly helped mitigate further threats to the naval budget throughout the rest of that period.
Today, cuts are once again on the agenda, with defence spending now accounting for 2.7% of GDP and, in the wake of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, they are to face a five percent reduction - £1.72bn in real terms - by 2013/14. Nonetheless, Britain's military budget still ranks fourth in the world.

Argentina's defence spending

Argentina, by contrast, languishes down in 49th place - but that sort of rather simple comparison does not begin to tell the real story. While here the SIPRI figures also show the proportion of GDP spent on defence has fallen slightly - from 1.4% then to one percent today - that masks the increase in actual cash terms driven by the growth in the country's economy.

As the 1980s drew to a close, Argentine military expenditure, expressed in US Dollars at constant 2009 prices and exchange rates, was $2.7bn. On the same basis, in 2010, it reached $3.3bn - and it seems set to grow further.

A recent report from Strategic Defence Intelligence predicted that Argentina's defence budget will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.87% over the period from 2011 to 2015, reaching a final total of $5.5bn. In respect of the Argentine Naval allocation, the authors forecast it will increase from the average of 25.3% of the country's total defence budget between 2006 and 2010, to 25.5% over the years to 2015.

British and Argentine naval fleets

Britain's naval fleet

Put bluntly, having the fourth largest military spending does not automatically equate to having the fourth largest military, and nowhere is that better reflected than in the British naval fleet.

"Should a similar need arise today, the upsurge of 'flags of convenience' might see HM Government looking to charter foreign ships."
At the end of the 1980s, the Royal Navy had two aircraft carriers, seven amphibious ships, 13 destroyers and 35 frigates.

Today, the like-for-like comparison sees Britain carrierless - and left reliant on helicopter carriers for some years to come - with just 18 active major surface combatants, comprising of five destroyers and 13 frigates.
In addition, there are two landing platform docks and a total of 11 nuclear powered submarines, of which four are ballistic missile submarines and the remaining seven are conventionally-armed, fleet submarines. A further seven vessels are currently being constructed - the two Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers, the last of the Type 45 destroyers and four Astute-Class submarines.

Apart from the loss of fixed-wing carrier capability, arguably the biggest potential change in British maritime muscle post-Falklands, however, lies in the drastic reduction of merchant vessels sailing under the British flag. In 1982, requisitioned ships accounted for nearly half of the task force. Should a similar need arise today, the upsurge of 'flags of convenience' might see HM Government looking to charter foreign ships.

Argentina's naval fleet

Argentine's core fleet at the start of the Falklands conflict was comprised of six destroyers (two of them Type 42s), three corvettes, one cruiser, one ex-Royal Navy Colossus-Class carrier (the former HMS Venerable) and two submarines (one a modern Type 209, the other a WWII vintage Guppy-type).

Despite playing a comparatively minor role in the conflict, Argentinean maritime losses amounted to one cruiser, one submarine, four cargo vessels, two patrol vessels and a spy trawler, and the experience clearly shaped naval thinking in the aftermath of defeat. The main fleet was transformed, with modern Meko 360 and 140 type vessels replacing the antiquated Fletcher and Gearing Class destroyers, and two Thyssen TR-1700 Class vessels being acquired in the place of the single Guppy submarine.

Today's Argentine Navy boast two amphibious vessels (one command ship, one cargo ship), four destroyers, nine corvettes and three submarines, but like the UK, no carrier. The Falklands-era ARA Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned in 2000.

Perhaps the most curious fact to emerge from the comparison is that, despite the war comprehensively demonstrating the value of close air support - and the awful vulnerability of its absence - both nations have to a large degree turned their backs on naval air-power, at least for the moment.

Just how long the current situation is allowed to persist, where each navy's pilots have to depend on their respective allies' carriers for deck space, remains to be seen.

 * Anàlisi publicat a Naval Technology. Recomanem la seva lectura per posar-se al dia sobre la ressurrecció de la tensió a les Falkland.

dilluns, 16 d’abril de 2012

Coast Guard launches new fast-response cutter*

MIAMI — The Coast Guard officially brought the new fast-response cutter to operational status as the first ship in that class was commissioned April 14 in Miami, Fla.

The cutter Bernard C. Webber was put in service by its crew of 21 Coast Guardsmen. It will be commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Herb Eggert, who has been working on the fast-response cutter program since the service first started designing the ship in the mid-2000s.

The event — long traditional in the sea services — was held at the Port of Miami with senior city and government and service officials in attendance.

The day started with an ominous tone with rain and overcast skies. The sun began to fight it’s way through the cloud cover during the ceremony.

The ship is named for former the late Chief Warrant Officer Bernard C. Weber. In fact, the entire class of fast-response cutters will be named for the Coast Guard’s enlisted heroes.

Webber was a first class boatswain’s mate assigned to the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., on May 9, 1952, when the 503-foot tanker S.S. Pendleton broke in half off Cape Cod from 60-foot seas and 70-knot winds. Webber and a crew of three Coast Guardsmen braved the elements to cross a sand bar to reach the sinking ship and saved 32 of the 33-man crew. All four were awarded the Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal.

With the legacy of Webber in mind, the crew brought the ship to life in the shadows of the large ocean liners and commercial vessels that normally come from Miami’s seaport.

The $88 million, 154-foot Webber is bigger and far more advanced than the older island patrol boats which have been in service since the mid-1980s. Service leaders make no bones about the fact the new addition is badly needed because of well-documented maintenance problems with the aging 110-foot cutters this class of ship will replace.

“I do love that new cutter smell,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Robert J. Papp. “We just don’t get too much of that new cutter smell in our service as our recapitalization is moving slow — much too slow — and that’s what makes today so significant to the Coast Guard as we finally have our new patrol boat.”

Along with engine breakdowns, Papp said the current class of patrol boats have technology that is “half a century old, in some cases. A lot of the living conditions on those older cutters just aren’t what we want our young patriots who step aboard to serve their country to live in.”

But in the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, all that is changing, now according to Rear Adm. William D. Baumgartner, commander of the Miami-based district.

“It’s a major step forward from the 110-foot that it replaces,” Baumgartner said. “It’s got more speed and range as that significantly helps our ability to do our missions here in the Seventh District.”

He said the Webber — 44-feet longer than its predecessor and with a hull designed to give the vessel better “seakeeping ability,” Coast Guard’s parlance for saying the ship can handle rough seas and still stay on station and be effective — will significantly expand the patrol capability in his district.

The Webber’s crew quarters are light years ahead of its predecessors, and has four .50-caliber machine guns and a remote-operated 25mm gyroscope-stabilized chain gun located on the ship’s bow for protection.
Baumgartner says the new class of ship will “expand the footprint” of the service not only with the range of the vessel, which can stay out nearly a month without resupply, but also the state of the art electronic suite that can communicate with other U.S. law-enforcement agencies and vessels as well as being sophisticated to operate easily with U.S. and other country’s naval vessels.

“It’s a huge capability for a ship of this size,” Baumghartner said. “It’s a significant game-changer for us in reliability and ability to accomplish our missions.”

Webber will spend the next few months in Miami. It arrived Feb. 9 from Lockport, La.’s Bollinger Shipyard, where all of the fast-response cutters are being constructed.

Baumgartner says the plan now is that a new cutter will arrive in Miami about every 90 days.

“The first six will be home-ported in Miami and they’ll operate throughout the Seventh District, wherever we need them,” he said. “After that, the plan is to put the next six in Key West, Fla., and the six after that will base out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.”

* Notícia publicada a Navy Times. Tot i no ser tant coneguda com la Navy, la US Coast Guard és un servei altament qualificat i amb una història impressionant. Celebrem la posada en servei d'una nova nau.

HMS Defender completes final set of sea trials*

UK Royal Navy's fifth Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender (D36)
The UK Royal Navy's fifth Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender (D36) has successfully completed its second and final set of sea trials off the west coast of Scotland.

During the second sea trials, the frigate engines, communications, combat systems and sensors were validated.

HMS Defender is undergoing three months of final testing and checking of systems ahead of its formal delivery to the Navy in July 2012.

Defender's first sea trials were carried out in 2011 to validate its speed, manoeuvrability, power and propulsion systems as well as weapons systems and sensors.

The newest £1bn Type 45 class destroyer has a displacement capacity of about 8,000t with a cruising speed of more than 27k and a range of over 7,000nm.

The frigate features the Sea Viper missile system, which is capable of defending against multiple attacks by sophisticated anti-ship missiles.

HMS Defender has a range of capabilities including air defence, anti-missile capabilities, and the ability to carry 60 Royal Marines as well as operating a Chinook-sized helicopter from the main decks.

The advanced air-defence warship is also capable of performing anti-piracy and anti-smuggling missions, disaster-relief work and surveillance operations as well as high-intensity war-fighting.

The sixth Type 45 destroyer, HMS Duncan, launched in 2010, is under final stages of completion at Scotstoun while the fourth destroyer Dragon, launched in Scotland in 2008, is currently undergoing training and trials prior to its maiden deployment.

HMS Daring, the first destroyer in the class, has been recently deployed, while Dauntless and Diamond are ready for deployment later this year.

HMS Defender frigate is scheduled to be operational from early 2013.

Image: HMS Defender is almost ready to defend against multiple attacks by the most sophisticated anti-ship missiles. Photo: Royal Navy.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. Donem la benvinguda a la cinquena unitat de la classe Daring després de les proves al mar.

dimecres, 11 d’abril de 2012

India’s Navy Good U.S. Option*

Even as U.S. and Indian diplomats squabble over Iran, cooperation between their counterparts in the military continues apace.

The Indian and U.S. navies began their 16th annual “Malabar” exercise last Saturday in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu that borders on the Bay of Bengal. The 10-day joint exercise, which will conclude on April 16, consists of both ashore and at-sea training.

The harbor phase took place April 7 to 9 in Chennai, and was supposed to feature seminars on everything from air defense and integrated anti-submarine warfare operations, to carrier aviation operations and counter-piracy operations. The U.S. 7th Fleet released a statement saying that Malabar’s at-sea phase will include, “liaison officer exchanges and embarks, communications exercises, surface action group operations, helicopter cross-deck evolutions and gunnery exercises.”

Indo-U.S. naval cooperation has become increasingly important amid China’s growing naval capabilities. Washington’s ability to rely on local naval forces like India will be especially vital now that budget cuts have forced the U.S. Navy to scale back estimates on the future size of its fleet.

From 2006 to late 2011, naval officers had regularly said a 315-ship fleet was the minimum needed to meet future contingencies. Last month, however, the U.S. Navy released the annual update of its 30-year shipbuilding plan, which forecast the current 285-ship fleet continuing to shrink before bottoming out at 276 warships in 2015. Although the report said the naval fleet would begin to increase after that, it projected a peak of 307 ships in the late 2030’s.

But despite recent unsettling reports, India’s Navy remains an attractive partner for Washington. Both already operate carrier-centric blue water fleets. Furthermore, in February India’s Navy and Air Force conducted a network-centric joint exercise that complements the U.S. AirSea Battle concept. Last week, India inaugurated two Russian-built nuclear submarines and plans to purchase to 75 Naval Multirole Helicopters (NMRH) from Lockheed Martin to strengthen its anti-submarine capabilities.

The Navies are also sending large fleets to this year’s Malabar exercise. The U.S. Navy is represented by the Carrier Strike Group-1, part of Task Force 70, which is the 7th Fleet’s battle force. Among the U.S. ships and vessels taking part in the exercise are the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier; Carrier Air Wing 17; the USS Bunker Hill, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser; and the USS Halsey, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.

India naval forces participating in the exercise include Guided Missile Frigate INS Satpura, Guided Missile Destroyers INS Ranvijay, and INS Ranvir, Missile Corvette INS Kulish, and Fleet Tanker INS Shakti, according to a report in The Hindu.

Zachary Keck is an editorial assistant with The Diplomat.

* Notícia publicada a The Diplomat. La cooperació entre la US Navy i l'Indian Navy és una realitat plenament consolidada. Un autèntic contrapes al creixent poder naval xinés, en un moment en que els Estats Units es veuen abocats a les retallades.

Chinese Navy Employs UAV Assets*

A photograph taken by a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force P-3 maritime patrol aircraft shows a small Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying over a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ship during naval exercises near Japanese islands last summer. The open display of a PLAN UAV far from China’s land bases clearly shows China’s embrace of unmanned technology for blue-water operations.
The Middle Kingdom learns from the example—and the hardware—of other nations.
China’s navy has begun using unmanned aerial vehicles as part of its blue-water operations. At least one type has been photographed by foreign reconnaissance aircraft, and other variants have been reported. Not only has China been displaying an assortment of models at air shows, it also is incorporating advanced U.S. unmanned vehicle technology into current and future systems.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) since it built copies of U.S. Air Force Firebee drones that were shot down during the 1960s. These were the prototype WuZhen-5 (WZ-5), also referred to as Chang Hong (CH-1) UAVs, in 1972. Chinese UAVs initially were designed by the China Airborne Missile Academy with the PLA as the prime customer for decades. The PLA reportedly used UAVs during the 1979 invasion of Vietnam, and it gained valuable reconnaissance information that aided combat operations.
Currently, dozens of Chinese enterprises are designing UAVs, most of which never will be procured. This is similar to the UAV design situation in U.S. and other Western companies and laboratories. Some of these Chinese UAVs appear to be remote-control models similar to those for sale to children in hobby stores. One photograph of a Chinese army UAV model used by troops even seemed to show a “cockpit” on the plane. On November 29, 2011, Xinhua News reported that Liaoning was the first province to use remote-controlled drones rented from a mapping company for marine surveillance of its 150,000 square kilometers of sea space. This complements the PLA Navy (PLAN) coastal surveillance mission. 

UAVs were not observed or reported operating as part of the PLAN fleet until July 2011. Two or three separate operations took place from the northern East China Sea to the South China Sea during June and July 2011, possibly demonstrating interfleet coordination in the exposure of these new naval UAVs. 

On June 14-15, 2011, the PLAN scheduled a 14-ship firing exercise in the South China Sea—similar to the exercise held in June 2010, making this a recurring annual major exercise. These may be part of a complex effort aimed at intimidating other nations that also have South China Sea claims. Some news reports indicated that naval UAVs were part of the exercise, but no details of the UAV operations or photographs of them have appeared. Because firing exercises took place, it is possible that the UAVs served target identification and gunnery observer roles as well as provided possible communication support. The types of UAVs are unknown, but two later exercises included photographs of specific naval UAVs used there.

Also in June, a large PLAN 11-ship exercise took place near Japanese islands in the eastern Philippine Sea. The Chinese force consisted of three Sovremenny guided missile destroyers, one modern Jiangkai II frigate, one Jiangwei I and one Jiangwei II frigate, a Fuqing-class auxiliary oiler, a Tazhong-class fleet tug and a Dongdiao intelligence vessel. A Dajiang submarine rescue vessel was included, which hints of probable submarine participation, although none was observed. The ships passed Myakojima heading east on June 9, where they conducted gunnery exercises, shipboard helicopter and underway replenishment operations approximately 450 kilometers west of Okinotorishima. After operating in the East China Sea for a week, the flotilla appeared to be heading home, passing between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Myokojima. On June 24, a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force P-3 maritime patrol aircraft was investigating the force’s movements. Unexpectedly, a small UAV was observed flying above a Jiangwei II frigate and was photographed by the Japanese P-3 crew.
The small short-range UAV seems to be about 15 feet long, smaller than the 20-foot length of the U.S. Navy MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV. Also, the Chinese UAV is not a vertical takeoff helicopter like the Fire Scout. The Fire Scout has a 110-nautical-mile operating radius, a 6-hour flight time and a top speed of 125 knots. The unidentified Chinese UAV has a streamlined body, which is lacking on the ASN-206 UAVs. Also, an electro-optic or camera ball for identifying targets is suspended underneath the nose of the PLAN UAV. 

Reports differ on the takeoff and recovery. One report describes rocket takeoff and recovery from the water, but this description fits the ASN-206 UAV, and its twin-boom design with square tail fins and pusher-propeller lower body is nothing like the UAV in the photograph. More likely, the PLAN fleet UAV took off and landed on the flight deck of one of the frigates. With its small size, several of the UAVs could be stored in the ship’s helicopter hangar. 

Although the Japanese P-3 crew is to be congratulated for its first photograph of a PLAN UAV at sea, it is certain that the PLAN flotilla radars tracked the P-3 from a great distance and purposely had the UAV in flight when the aircraft arrived. It was no accident—the Chinese seem to have obviously planned for their new technology to be photographed for propaganda purposes.

On July 10, naval drones were used in support of a three-day military amphibious exercise between Hainan and the Spratley Islands. The PLAN force of 14 warships included patrol vessels, amphibious landing craft, replenishment ships and antisubmarine vessels as well as two naval aircraft and a new enhancement of multiple UAVs for naval communication links. The UAVs completed 10 mission goals, “including air information relay, mass information delivery and special situation handling,” according to a China military Web page. 

A July 2011 Taipei news report stated that this naval UAV, which it named Silver Hawk, was an ASN-209 designation, and its first test flight was in Binhai in northeast China. The ASN-209s, with their 7.5-meter wingspan and 140-kilometers-per-hour cruising speed, were launched with a rocket booster and upon completion of their missions were suspended under a parachute for landing retrieval. The ASN-206/209 has a range of 150 kilometers, a loiter time of 4 to 8 hours and a 6,000-meter ceiling. The standard ASN UAV engine is designated HS-700. It is a 51-horsepower, air-cooled, four-valve engine driving a two-blade propeller. With its twin tails and pusher-propeller engine, it resembles the U.S. Navy 1986-vintage RQ-2 Pioneer UAV.

Although it is possible to launch an ASN-209 from a warship helicopter deck, a Chinese military photograph shows it being launched from a shore-based communication station at a South Sea Fleet training range. The photograph shows it has four large vertical antennas on the body and wing, each three feet long. These long antenna blades are unbelievably archaic today for communication links, and they are not shown in the ASN advertisements. Another photograph shows a computer console manned by sailors, with dual displays and desks with keyboard and joystick enabling multitasking and real-time control of the ASN-209. Its mission was to serve as a communication link between an amphibious force and supporting surface ships. 

While the location and units were not identified, the Guangzhou Military Region has had prior amphibious exercises in 2002 and 2003 that involved an electronic countermeasures regiment that included a UAV battalion. A naval/marine training base is located at Dongguan in southern Hainan. The exercise area spanned from southern Hainan, the obvious UAV launch point, to the Spratly Islands, which almost certainly is the amphibious landing area.

There is a possibility that the two reports of South China Sea UAV exercises are of the same event, but the different dates and type of operations make it unlikely. The other northern UAV operation in Japanese waters is unknown, but it certainly is a new naval Chinese UAV design.

In addition to the veteran WZ-5 and ASN-206 copies of Firebee and Pioneer, copying U.S. UAVs is a familiar Chinese trend. The ASN Technology Group Company, located in Xi’an, is the country’s largest UAV research and production company, and more than 90 percent of Chinese military UAVs are ASN products. Other popular U.S. UAVs copied are the Predator and Global Hawk. 

The Predator copy is named Pterodactyl I (or Pterosaur), and its propulsion is a 100-horsepower piston engine. The Global Hawk copy is named Xlanglong or Soaring Dragon (also BZK-005). It weighs 16,500 pounds and has a cruising altitude of 57,000 feet. The Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) designed Soaring Dragon, and its UAV prototype dates from 2006. A Zhuhai air show video shows a stealth body with twin tilted fins to reduce radar cross section. Observed in 2009 at an operational hangar with its support van, it has an optical turret under its nose and a 75-foot wingspan along with a 4,000-mile range. One of the Soaring Dragon UAVs reportedly crashed in Hebei province in August 2011. 

The U.S. Navy Global Hawk has a 14,000-mile range and has been modified to a more capable MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance design by Northrop Grumman. A jet-propelled, armed UAV by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation named the WJ-600 was shown in a video at the 2010 Zhuhai air show. The video portrayed it flying over a U.S. carrier battle group, and then sinking a ship and shooting down a fighter with its onboard missiles—nothing subtle about the purpose or the enemy in that scenario. The Soaring Dragon possibly could become a naval reconnaissance UAV, but it still is deployed as a PLA system. 

A newer stealthy supersonic joined-wing-and-tail design UAV called Dark Sword is under development by the CAC. It is similar to the U.S. Avenger. Shenyang University has two competing stealth prototype designs named Crossbow and Wind Blade, which have longer wings with winglet tips. These have not been designated as naval UAVs, but their capabilities match anti-carrier naval reconnaissance and targeting missions. 

Zhuhai air shows have featured more than two dozen new UAV models, but they are not in production for China and are marketed for foreign sales. The 2000 Zhuhai air show revealed evolutionary UAV design progress, such as a Guizhou WZ-200 small jet-powered UAV evolving into a medium-size UAV. By Zhuhai 2008, it became an armed, turbofan model analogous to the U.S. company General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper. The largest Chinese UAV at the 2010 Zhuhai air show was the ASN-229A. It has a radius of 2,000 kilometers and carries air-to-ground missiles and a satellite target datalink. 

Although Zhuhai air shows have many videos and prototypes, only a few UAV types are in service, and their technology is estimated to be 20 years behind that of the countries in the West. Key deficiencies include their lack of miniaturization of antennas, video and communication systems and links. 

Chinese advanced UAV development certainly will benefit from Iran downing a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel UAV on December 4, 2011. The RQ-170 represented the latest U.S. stealth technology application to UAV state of the art. It is almost certain that Iran will provide details to China on this latest technology. 

Future PLAN UAVs will be much larger and more capable, and a copy of the stealth RQ-170 could aid anti-carrier ballistic missile strategic operations to track targeted carrier battle groups. But that capability is not likely in the near future.

James C. Bussert is employed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Virginia, where he works on surface ship antisubmarine fire control systems. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Defense Department or the U.S. Navy.

* Notícia publicada a Signal Online. La demostració de poder militar de la Xina, realitzada cada cop més en exercicis navals, ha cristal·litzat en exposar l'implementació d'UAVs. Aquests aparells no són quelcom nou en les forces xineses, no obstant, la integració en aquestes és tot un senyal de l'evolució del gegant asiàtic.

divendres, 6 d’abril de 2012

El port de Barcelona fa créixer la inversió tot i guanyar un 31% menys *

L'equilibri financer del port de Barcelona ha permès augmentar la inversió enguany fins als 193 milions, tot i que el benefici del 2011 va caure un 31%. L'entitat potenciarà encara més l'arribada de creuers.
El port de Barcelona és líder al Mediterrani occidental i també és el primer al sistema espanyol, amb un 16% dels ingressos i un 24% dels resultats.  
El port de Barcelona és líder al Mediterrani occidental i també és el primer al sistema espanyol, amb un 16% dels ingressos i un 24% dels resultats. XAVIER BERTRAL
El president de l'Autoritat Portuària de Barcelona (APB), Sixte Cambra, va reivindicar ahir el paper de l'organisme públic com a primera administració inversora a Catalunya. El port barceloní ha canalitzat 1.500 milions d'euros els últims 10 anys, dels quals la meitat s'han finançat a través de fons de cohesió i de préstecs del Banc Europeu d'Inversions (BEI). L'altre 50% els ha aportat la mateixa entitat portuària.
Precisament, aquesta salut financera permet mantenir el ritme de projectes. L'APB compta amb un endeutament a llarg termini de 486 milions (bona part a 25 anys), després dels 8 milions de venciments que va tornar l'any passat. "Això fa que mantinguem un nivell de liquiditat elevat" que referma el nivell d'inversions compromès, va assegurar Sixte Cambra. La relació entre els recursos generats ( cash flow ) -que va arribar als 78 milions l'any passat- i endeutament s'ha equilibrat en la proporció d'un a sis. 

Amb aquest panorama, el pressupost inversor està assegurat. L'APB destinarà aquest any 193 milions a diversos projectes, cosa que representa un augment del 83% sobre els 105,4 milions del 2011. A la xifra anunciada per a l'any en curs s'hi han d'afegir els 826 milions d'inversió privada compromesa o en execució. Cambra va puntualitzar que en aquest paquet privat hi ha obres que s'hauran fet en més d'un any, com per exemple la nova terminal de Tercat-Hutchison al moll Prat, que s'inaugurarà aquest any. Aquest projecte constarà d'un total de 500 milions, dels quals se n'estan executant actualment més de 300. Aquesta potència inversora s'ha pogut realitzar amb una caiguda del benefici d'explotació del 23% durant l'any passat, fins als 60 milions. 

L'import de la xifra de negoci va situar-se l'any passat en els 158 milions, un 6% menys que el 2010. La davallada de la rendibilitat i de la facturació han estat causades en bona part per la rebaixa de les taxes i les bonificacions practicades "per augmentar la competitivitat" dels operadors portuaris, va destacar Sixte Cambra en la presentació dels resultats de l'APB. 

La rebaixa mitjana de les bonificacions va ser del 9% fins a un total de 14 milions, una política que enguany es mantindrà amb "altres bonificacions de caràcter singular", que no va voler concretar i que podrien arribar als cinc milions addicionals. Aquestes reduccions de costos per als clients ha estat un element més de competitivitat per a les empreses exportadores, segons el criteri de Sixte Cambra. Les dades mostren com des de Barcelona s'exporten més mercaderies de les que s'importen. 

Les vendes a l'exterior van sumar el 2011 un total de 744.687 de TEU (la unitat que fa servir el port equivalent a un contenidor de vint peus), cosa que va suposar un increment del 6,74%. Les importacions també van pujar, però a un ritme molt més moderat, de l'1,92% (622.344 TEU). 

Noves terminals de creuers
Pel que fa als passatgers, l'any passat van arribar a la capital catalana 3,8 milions de persones, amb un augment de l'11%. Només en el trànsit de creuers, els 881 vaixells que van fer escala van desembarcar 2,6 milions de passatgers (+13%). 

En aquest sentit, Cambra va reconèixer que hi ha una certa saturació i que l'APB està estudiant diferents possibilitats per ampliar la capacitat de recepció de vaixells, que pot incloure una nova terminal. Finalment, Cambra va afirmar que segueix estudiant el projecte Marina Port Vell (unes instal·lacions de luxe per a iots), que inclou unes inversions de 32 milions.

* Notícia publicada al diari Ara. La bona salut del Port de Barcelona, és una bona notícia, especialment en els temps de crisi que vivim. Desitgem que segueixi sent així.

Second Italian FREMM frigate launched*

The Italian Navy's second FREMM multimission European frigate, Virginio Fasan, has been launched at the Riva Trigoso (Genoa) shipyard.

The Italian Navy ordered a second batch of four FREMM frigates in February 2008, of which three will be equipped with Thales Type 4929 active very-low-frequency towed array sonars for use in anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

The 139m-long Virginio Fasan, has a full load displacement capacity of 5,900t, a beam of 19.7m, a maximum speed of 27k and can accommodate a crew of 145.

The Italian FREMM frigates, scheduled for deliver in 2013, feature SAAM Aster 15 missile system, Teseo mk2 sea-skimming anti-ship missiles and two Sylver A43 vertical launch systems.

The FREMM family of frigates is being designed to counter threats from air, sea and land and is equipped with a sensor suite based on Herakles multifunction radar, naval cruise missiles and MU90 torpedoes.

Launched in July 2011, the Italian Navy's first FREMM frigate, Carlo Bergamini is undergoing sea trials and is scheduled for delivery at the end of 2012.

Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (51% Fincantieri, 49% Finmeccanica) is the prime contractor for Italy while Armaris, a joint venture between DCNS and Thales is the prime contractor for France.

The FREMM frigates will replace the aging Fincantieri-built Lupo and Maestrale-class frigates currently in service with the Italian Navy.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. El llançament de la segona unitat de classe FREMM, confirma la viabilitat d'aquest projecte internacional.

India Launches Nuclear Submarine (Dispatch) *

* Informe publicat per Stratfor. Recomanem el visionat d'aquesta informació per comprendre l'encaix del INS Chakra II a l'Indian Navy.

dijous, 5 d’abril de 2012

China Carrier Preps for Flight Ops?

Photos posted to the Internet in China last week seem to confirm that the Chinese Navy has installed arrestor gear and other vital equipment on its refurbished Soviet-made aircraft carrier, the ex-Varyag. If genuine, the installations could represent a big step forward for the first-ever seaborne, fixed-wing aviation capability for the People's Liberation Army Navy.

One image appears to show a traditional four-wire arrangement on the aft flight deck of the roughly 1,000-foot-long carrier. Another depicts a small tractor of the type used to move aircraft around the deck.
The ex-Varyag, which was speculated to have been renamed the Shi Lang in Chinese service, underwent more than a decade of rework in Dalian shipyard following her acquisition from Russia in the late 1990s. She conducted her first sea trial in July and performed a second, brief, at-sea test in November. These tests didn't include fixed-wing aircraft. Indeed, much of the equipment necessary to support airplanes apparently had apparently not been installed.

In December, a Chinese government spokesman denied rumors that Russia had refused to sell China arresting gear. The ex-Varyag's deck equipment was being developed indigenously, the spokesman said.
The wires and the tractor should allow the ex-Varyag to begin flight trials with navalized J-15 fighters as early as this spring – assuming, of course, that other requisite gear has also been installed, including air-traffic-control radars, communications, aircraft fueling and repair facilities.

Even with all that equipment in place, it could take years for China to train aviators and deck crew to safely and efficiently launch, recover and maintain carrier-based aircraft. Coordinating ship and plane tactics could require additional years of trial and error.

A truly effective carrier capability is one of the Holy Grails of modern naval operations. China's progress toward that goal has been slow but steady.

* Notícia publicada a The Diplomat. Com podem veure, el programa de portaavions xinés segueix endavant, pas a pas.

India's first operational nuclear submarine (raw footage) *

* Vídeo publicat per l'agència Stratfor, per tal de complementar l'anterior notícia.

dimecres, 4 d’abril de 2012

India to Commission Russia’s Nerpa Nuclear Sub*

The Indian Navy will officially commission Russia’s K-152 Nerpa nuclear-powered attack submarine on Wednesday, an unnamed source in the Indian Defense Ministry told RIA Novosti.
The Project 971 Shchuka-B (NATO: Akula II) class sub has been leased to India’s Navy for ten years in a contract worth over $900 million. It was handed over to India in January and will be renamed the INS Chakra.

The commissioning ceremony will take place at the Visakhapatnam sea port on the east coast of India.
The submarine’s displacement is 8,140/12,770 tons. Its maximum speed is 30 knots, maximum operating depth, 600 m; and endurance is 100 days with a crew of 73. The vessel is armed with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes.

India has become the sixth operator of nuclear submarines in the world, after the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China, though it previously leased another Russian submarine which was then returned.
Twenty sailors died on the Nerpa in 2008 after the vessel’s fire-suppression systems were accidentally triggered during sea trials, releasing toxic gases.

* Notícia publicada a RIA Novosti. L'arribada del Nerpa (ara Chakra II), amplia la flota de submarins indis a propulsió nuclear a dues naus: un SSBN de fabricació local ( INS Arihant) i aquest SSN (un Akula II en leasing de 10 anys).