FINNS ‘ATTACK’ SUSPECTED SUBMARINE
In the wake of Sweden’s hunt for an underwater intruder in October last year Finland went a step further and actually attacked a similar trespasser.
The possible submarine was initially detected by the Finnish Navy in territorial waters off Helsinki. Contact was confirmed again that night, with three light depth charges – intended to deter but not damage or destroy – dropped by a patrol vessel (or vessels).
There were no subsequent contacts and exact details of the suspected intruder were not immediately given, but the Finns felt confident, and angry enough to make the incident known to the media.
A subsequent naval investigation into the episode did not yield concrete proof that it had been an intruding submarine. Even so, the Finns maintained submarine or some other suspicious underwater activity could not be ruled out.
SHOW OF FORCE
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) was a leading aspect of a major NATO exercise in UK waters that stretched from the west coast of Scotland through the Irish Sea to the shores of Wales. Having been described as something that would “send a clear message to those who threaten us” by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Joint Warrior also saw NATO forces learning how to repel small boat attacks, conduct boarding operations and deal with air-defence scenarios.
Amphibious assault rehearsals were also staged, in addition to the involvement of land and air forces, while some warships fired their main guns on sea ranges. The Russians, whom Mr Cameron’s message was aimed at, didn’t seem to be overly deterred.
Having previously probed Britain’s capability gaps by deploying submarines and spy vessels close to UK shores, as Joint Warrior 15-1 got underway the Kremlin sent naval vessels through the English Channel. TU-95 long-range maritime patrol aircraft were also sent to probe air defences.
Furthermore, the Russians demanded access to inspect UK military bases engaged in the exercise, which London was obliged to allow under a European arms control treaty devised at the end of the Cold War.
NATO inspectors are also allowed access to Russian manoeuvres, but this right has not been exercised for around five years. The Russians have continued to mount inspections during the decline in relations between East and West, for they also visited NATO exercises last year.
Once Joint Warrior 15-1 concluded, the various NATO units and individuals ships returned to their front line operations with a refreshed sense of purpose and sharper skill-set. A further two ASW exercises were soon staged by NATO off the coast of Norway.
• For a report and images on the most recent NATO activities, see the July 2015 edition of WARSHIPS IFR
NAVIES HAMMER COCAINE TRADE
A series of narcotics seizures have been made on both sides of the Atlantic as the counter-drugs campaign continues.
The Colombian Navy seized 1.3 tons of cocaine in two operations in home waters in less than a week. One of the seizures led to a ton being captured after officials spotted a pair of speedboats laden with a suspicious cargo and launched a pursuit. Two people were apprehended along with cocaine worth around US $25 million. A previous operation netted 360kg of cocaine, bringing the total seized so far this year by the Colombian coast guard and navy to 18.5 tons.
In a British-led operation, following a tip-off from French customs service DNRED – and in co-ordination with Britain’s National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) and the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) – the Duke Class (Type 23) frigate HMS Somerset teamed up with the UK Border Force cutter Valiant to make an interception. The Germany-bound, Zanzibar-registered Ukrainian-owned ocean-going tugboat MV Hamal was found in the North Sea, 100 miles east of Aberdeen. Nine people were detained and the tug escorted to port where a full search revealed it was carrying more than two tons of cocaine worth around half a billion pounds.
Meanwhile, the French frigate Germinal seized 220kg of cocaine from a fishing boat off the Antilles as it made its way from Guyana to an undetermined destination. Its embarked helicopter and a US Customs and Border Protection P-3C Orion assisted the frigate. The Guyana-flagged vessel was intercepted 350 nautical miles east of the Caribbean Arc. When boarded and searched she was found to be carrying five packages of cocaine.
Canadian and US forces have also racked up a string of successful seizures over the past few months, with Canadian and US Navy ships working in conjunction with the US Coast Guard to seize more cocaine shipments in the last six months than in all of fiscal year 2014.
Forces operating in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America have made seizures worth more than US $848 million and apprehended over a hundred suspected smugglers. The current fiscal year is already the most successful in terms of seizures since 2009. The crew of USCG cutter Boutwell returned to San Diego having intercepted US $424 million worth of cocaine shipments in 19 separate operations by Canadian and US forces. Some 5,200kg of cocaine was seized in one operation alone in early March, from a coastal freighter off the coast of Costa Rica in the Eastern Pacific Ocean by USS Gary and USCG Boutwell. The Canadian patrol ship HMCS Whitehorse, in what was the single largest maritime drug seizure in the Eastern Pacific Ocean since 2009, supported them.
In October last year Boutwell returned to San Diego with US $423 million worth of cocaine. Earlier this year the USN Perry Class frigate Kauffman seized 1,017kg of cocaine worth US $33.9 million from a freighter and detained eight smugglers in Western Caribbean waters.
The operation was carried out in difficult conditions due to the rough seas and the vessel taking on water, but the illicit cargo was found hidden in a compartment. Due to the poor seaworthiness of the freighter it was decided to scuttle it, which Kauffman duly did using her weaponry.