News Flash: From Special Correspondent Yoshiharu Fukushima in Japan.
The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) is sending the destroyers JDS Kongo (DDG 173), JDS Kurama (DDH 144), JDS Kirisame (DD104), plus the support tanker (AOE 424), to join the coalition armada in the Arabian Sea.
This historic move has been made possible by the Japanese National Diet (parliament) approving laws that allow JMSDF naval vessels to support US and other Allied forces on front line operations. Japanese Self Defence Force and Japanese Coast Guard laws were amended. These changes, together with a new Anti-Terrorism Law, have enabled the JSDF to receive 'authority at law' to take part in the war against terrorism.
The French have deployed the sophisticated surveillance ship Bougainville, which is armed by their navy and works for the Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM) and the Direction Generale de la Securité Exterieure (DGSE). This ship carries the means to hoover up communications traffic throughout the war zone, enabling pinpointing of potential targets.
British Royal Marines committed to the war against terrorism are scheduled to be ready to deploy at sea with the Royal Navy's Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) by mid-November. The 200 Royal Marines infantry, from 40 Commando, who are spearheading the overt operations side of the UK contribution, concluded live firing training ashore in Oman, during the final days of the huge Saif Sareea exercise (see our feature on Saif Sareea in the forthcoming Dec/Jan 2001/02 edition of WARSHIPS IFR). They will now board the assault ship HMS Fearless (L10). The Falklands War veteran Landing Platform Dock (LPD) is the flagship of the ARG. Meanwhile other elements of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, including the Brigade Patrol Troop reconnaissance unit (also specialists in deep penetration Arctic and mountain warfare) and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, are said to be at sea in other ARG vessels in a supporting role. Communications, logistics and assault engineers are also alleged to be with the ARG.
The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) disembarked her Sea Harrier FA2s and RAF Harrier GR7 strike jets in late October, to allow her to take aboard Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and Commando Force Helicopters (including Sea Kings). It was claimed by some UK national newspapers that Illustrious would launch these helicopters to carry Special Forces troops (from the SAS and SBS) as well as the Royal Marines. Fearless has two landing spots, but has no hangar facilities for supporting embarked aircraft. Quite how the British helicopters will obtain the 'legs' to take the UK troops deep into Afghanistan is unclear.
By mid-November Australia will have four major surface vessels either in the Arabian Sea or on their way there, including the assault ship HMAS Kanimbla (L51) to act as a Special Forces platform. The Kanimbla left Fleet Base East for work-up training at Fleet Base West a couple of days before the guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney (03) departed for the Gulf from Darwin. The Australian Minister for Defence, Peter Reith joined Australian Maritime Commander, Rear Admiral Geoff Smith, and friends and families of Sydney's crew in bidding farewell to the frigate. Rear Admiral Smith said: " The ship's company has been through a rigorous sea training programme in the past few weeks. They are highly trained, well-prepared and highly motivated." HMAS Sydney was set to replace HMAS Anzac (150) in enforcing UN sanction against Iraq, so guarding the northern flank of the Allied naval campaign against terror. The other two Australian vessels committed under the ANZUS Treaty are the guided-missile frigate HMAS Adelaide (01) and one other FFG that had yet to be named as this report went to press. A detachment from the Australian army's 16th Air Defence Regiment has flown to the Middle East to be put aboard Australian naval vessels in the Arabian Sea.
HMS Ocean (L12), the Royal Navy's purpose-built helicopter carrier, is sailing back to the UK for a major maintenance period at Portsmouth, after which she will be available to relieve Fearless on station in the Arabian Sea.
HMS Ark Royal (R07) - just returning to the front line fleet after an extensive refit (see our feature on Ark Royal in the forthcoming Dec/Jan 2001/02 edition of WARSHIPS IFR) - may soon replace HMS Illustrious on station in the Middle East.
In the short-term, British and American military planners are grappling with how to get to grips with the task at hand. The UK Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, has described the campaign in Afghanistan as the most difficult task the British military has faced since the Korean War of the early 1950s. But, whatever transpires, the UK will follow the American lead. Unless the USA establishes a forward operating base in Afghanistan, to build a cohesive ground campaign, the war will remain a tentative, yet volatile, mix of air strikes and limited incursions by Special Operations and Special Forces troops. The heavy reliance on airpower - most of it from the US Navy aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) - has not provided a quick fix solution. The lightning strikes of late October by Rangers and Delta Forces troops on Kandahar revealed a fierce foe unlikely to buckle without putting up a determined resistance, and certainly not one to be defeated by airpower alone.
The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departed the war zone at the end of October, heading north to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal without incident. She is presumed to be going through a stand-down period, and may head home as she has been deployed since early summer.
The Canadian defence ministry recently released a statement of its naval contribution to the coalition fleet.
It said: "Canada's Navy, with its years of successful co-operation with the US Navy, is contributing five warships to the coalition force. The frigate HMCS Halifax, crewed by about 230 personnel, was serving with the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) on October 8, when she was directed to join the naval coalition in the vicinity of the Arabian Sea. HMCS Vancouver will be deployed as an integrated member of a US Navy Carrier Battle Group. Finally, a Canadian Naval Task Group comprising two frigates (including Halifax), one destroyer and one supply ship, with crews totalling more than 1,000 personnel and supported by Sea King helicopters, will deploy. A sixth ship will replace the Halifax and serve with the NATO's STANAVFORLANT. Canada's Air Force will deploy to the operational theatre with airlift support comprising three CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and one CC-150 Polaris passenger aircraft. Surveillance support will be provided by two CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. The Air Force contribution includes delivering humanitarian relief supplies to the people of Afghanistan. Finally, at the request of the US, a component of Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2) will join the coalition effort. The importance of the Canadian contribution to the coalition's efforts, as requested by the US, is a clear indication of the high quality of the professional service that the men and women of the Canadian Forces will provide in this sustained and difficult campaign against terrorism."
Straight talking US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has countered the news media's obsession with a quick fix in Afghanistan by asserting that defeating Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda terror network and the Taliban will take time to accomplish.
He told a Pentagon briefing: "In the end, war is not about statistics, deadlines, short attention spans, or 24-hour news cycles."
Secretary Rumsfeld denied the Allied campaign is bogged down or is floundering.
As he did at the beginning of the campaign, on October 7, he outlined several key goals:
Mr Rumsfeld stated: "We have made immeasurable progress on each of these goals."
Evidence of an acceleration in pace of operations was provided by the beginning of November.On Nov 1, more than 50 strike aircraft were used in attacks, including approximately 40 carrier-based jets, between four and six land-based tactical aircraft and about eight to ten long-range bombers (B52s, B1s and B2s).
The decision to carpet bomb the Taliban/Al Qaeda front line using B52s was a decisive moment, showing new determination to destroy the terrorists and their sponsors. Only continual saturation bombardments can begin the job of breaking a determined foe, although ground forces will still be needed to finish the job.
Secretary Rumsefeld observed that America's fight against terrorism is "much broader, than simply defeating Taliban or Al Qaeda".
He went on: "It is to root out the global terrorist networks, not just in Afghanistan, but wherever they are, to ensure that they cannot threaten the American people or our way of life."
Mr Rumsfeld noted that America and her allies are "fighting a new kind of war." He expressed confidence that victory over the forces of global terrorism is inevitable, noting the battle will require that "every element of American influence and power be engaged."
Americans, he emphasised, "have seen tougher adversaries than this before, and they've had the staying power to defeat them."
Underestimating the strength and resolve of the American people "is a big mistake," Secretary Rumsfeld said. Winning the war against global terrorism is "about will, the projection of will. The clear, unambiguous determination of the President of the United States...and the American people is to see this
through to certain victory."
The above report is based on material provided by the Defense Press Service.