CANDIDATES FOR FUTURE RCN WARSHIP SQUARE UP
Canada is starting the process of drawing up a short list of potential future frigates as it looks to move its major surface combatant programme forward.
The French are seeking to put themselves in a strong position by offering a tailored variant of the FREMM multi-role warship, which has already won favour with navies in North Africa, in addition to partner nation Italy.
The choice of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) will be made in early 2017 and other proposals are expected from the UK’s BAE Systems and USA’s Lockheed Martin, with the Global Combat Ship (GCS, or Type 26) expected to be offered by the British firm. Thirteen GCS are to be constructed for the Royal Navy and BAES has previously tried to sell the design to Brazil.
The prime contractor for the Can $26 billion programme is Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with design and systems integration being offered in two distinct packages. The French are proposing to handle both. Up to 15 new CSC will be constructed, replacing both the current Halifax Class frigates and Iroquois Class destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).
French shipbuilder DCNS last month announced its intention to push the FREMM hard during the CANSEC Exhibition in Ottawa. Its hopes were boosted by a major success with the Aquitaine Class, as the FREMMS are called in French Navy service. The lead vessel became the first European surface warship to fire a cruise missile during test firings on ranges off Levant Island in the western Mediterranean. In addition to launching a Missile de Croisiere Naval (MdCN) cruise missile FNS Aquitaine also successfully fired an Exocet MM40 Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM).
ANKARRA SIGNS DEAL
A US $1 billion deal with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for the production of its first Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) has been signed by the Turkish Navy.
The new vessel will be constructed at Turkey’s Sedef shipyard. Turkey follows Spain and Australia in choosing a variant of the design. The planned LHD will be able to transport a battalion of troops (and supporting tanks, armoured vehicles and supplies etc) as well as operate helicopters and Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV).
The design is also to be capable of operating a small number of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters. It is uncertain if Turkey will activate this option, despite being a partner nation in the programme (with an order for the land-based F-35A). The ship is due for completion around 2021.
Commercial satellite images appear to have confirmed work at the Dalian shipyard indicating the beginning of a new carrier for the Chinese Navy. The images, from Airbus Defence and Space, show initial stages of construction of what is obviously a large warship in the same dry dock used to refurbish the Liaoning (China’s first carrier).
This has provoked some analysts to speculate it is China’s first entirely home-built carrier. Until further construction makes the nature of the vessel clearer it is not possible to be absolutely certain. Furthermore, it appears the vessel is smaller than the Liaoning and could therefore be a civilian vessel, if not China’s first helicopter carrier.
INDIAN AEW & STRIKE
India’s future carriers could be equipped with a variant of the E-2D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft, in place of the current Russian Kamov Ka-31 AEW helicopters. This is due to a need for longer range and mission endurance. An alternative could be an AEW&C variant of the V-22 Osprey.
India’s efforts to modernise its shore-based maritime attack capability have also received a boost, with the first launch of a Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) by a Jaguar strike jet.
Harpoon replaces the British Sea Eagle, which, capable though it was, has been retired from service by other users, leaving India the sole remaining operator. Harpoon is also set to equip India’s P-8I Neptune patrol aircraft.
A total of 24 Block II Harpoon missiles have been acquired for the Indian Navy and 22 for the air force. The weapon may yet also arm the IN’s Type-209/1500 Shishumar Class submarines, in capsule launch configuration. The Jaguar test firing was carried out in the Arabian Sea after the aircraft flew 200nm off India’s west coast, refuelling in mid air before striking a set target.
MODERNISATION PICKS UP PACE?
Pakistan’s quiet struggle to modernise its navy appears about to progress, with Chinese media reporting planned warship construction as well as expansion of indigenous shipbuilding facilities.
Karachi Shipbuilding & Engineering Works Ltd (KSEW) looks set to build six of eight S-20 AIP-equipped variants of the Chinese Type-039A/Type-041 submarine as part of a deal approved in April. It seems the submarines will be fitted with an indigenous fire control system as well as existing weaponry.
The long awaited order for improved F-22P frigates also appears now to be moving forward. These may be equipped with new weaponry such as the HQ-17, a Chinese development of the Russian Tor/SA-N-9 ‘Gauntlet’ Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM).
They will replace the current FM-90 SAMs, which are a Chinese development of the French Crotale. Only eight FM-90 missiles are presently carried aboard the
F-22P and it is expected a larger number of HQ-17s will replace them, housed in Vertical-Launch System (VLS) cells.
The limited number of SAMs has been perceived as a severe weakness of the F-22P frigates, affecting their ability to operate in a high missile threat environment under severe Electronic Warfare (EW) conditions, as would be faced during any war with India. Other developments include four Type-022 Houbei stealth catamarans built by KSEW.
RUSSIAN JETS ‘CHASE OFF’ US NAVY DESTROYER
Claims were made that Russian naval air arm SU-24 ‘Fencer’ low-level strike jets ‘chased’ a US Navy warship away from ‘neutral waters’ in the eastern Black Sea. The vessel allegedly conducted itself ‘provocatively and aggressively’, according to reports published by the RIA Novosti news agency.
The USS Ross had just departed the Romanian port of Constanta after a friendship visit to the NATO country. According to Russian sources the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer headed towards Russian waters and came within the sensor range of Black Sea Fleet vessels. SU-24 jets were scrambled from air bases in the Crimea and their approach caused the Ross to allegedly withdraw.
In April 2014, the same type of aircraft buzzed another US Navy destroyer, with claims from the Russian side their electronic warfare capabilities disabled the ship’s sensors and other systems. This was disputed by the USA and a spokesperson for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet also disagreed with the Russian account of the latest encounter.
He said: “USS Ross observed the routine flights of SU-24 aircraft and had no interaction while both operated in international waters. Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been, and continues to be, professional.”