USN CRUISER IN NEAR MISS WITH CHINESE WARSHIP
A US Navy guided-missile cruiser was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, an incident that underscored the potential for serious maritime misunderstandings.
In the December episode the 10,000 tons USS Cowpens was cut up by an undisclosed Chinese warship, which missed the USN vessel by a mere 100 yards.
At the time Cowpens was allegedly monitoring activities by the Chinese Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the 59,000 tons Liaoning. In the incident’s wake both the USA and China sought to explain that they are keen on procedures that will prevent such an event leading to something much more serious.
During a Pentagon news conference US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reflected on the potential dangers and the need to establish clear communications and rules. He said: “That action by the Chinese…was not a responsible action. It was unhelpful.” He went on: “We need to work toward putting in place some kind of a mechanism in Asia-Pacific and with China…to be able to defuse some of these issues as they occur.” The USA doesn’t want “some miscalculation.”
Secretary Hagel acknowledged the “Cowpens issue, that’s the kind of thing that’s very incendiary, that could be a trigger or a spark that could set off some eventual miscalculation.” He added: “And so this has been a very unhelpful event. We’re working on it, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
For their part the Chinese, via their defence ministry, tried to calm matters following some earlier fiery rhetoric from their side by an official commentary, which claimed the US Navy had been provocative. The official news agency commentary claimed: ‘The US warship, which should have had knowledge of what the Chinese were doing there, intentionally carried on with its surveillance of China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier and triggered the confrontation.’
Several days later, however, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng explained: “The captain of the Chinese aircraft carrier had direct phone talks with the captain of the US warship after the encounter, and properly handled the issue.” He added: “It is essential for both sides to communicate in different spheres and on levels.”
SSBN ON SEA TRIALS
The Indian Navy has revealed that its first ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, is undergoing sea trials. The announcement followed successful completion of harbour acceptance trials at the main east coast naval base of Vishakhapatnam. Arihant is expected to be commissioned in 2015 and armed with twelve K-15 (Sagarika) nuclear missiles.
The K-15 has a range of 700km, and is still undergoing development, but can reportedly increase its range to 1,900km if its 1,000kg warhead is reduced to 180kg. This would be in line with fitting a lighter plutonium tactical nuclear warhead, or even a number of re-entry vehicles. Three more Arihant Class SSBNs are currently under construction in India and all are expected to commission by 2026.
PERRY FFGs FOR PAKISTAN
Having looked like it would be left operating a sole example, PNS Alamgir (ex-McInerney), Pakistan is set to receive three additional Perry Class frigates from the USA. The Klakring, De Wert, and Robert G. Bradley will all have been transferred to Pakistan by 2016. Klakring and De Wert were first commissioned in 1983 and Robert G. Bradley in 1984.
McInerney (first commissioned into the USN in 1979) was signed over to Pakistan in 2011 via a ‘hot transfer’ after undergoing a thorough overhaul. She was minus the Mk13 missile launcher and the towed-array sonar. Alamgir was given a new bridge and navigation equipment during the overhaul. The three ships now set for transfer are likely to undergo the same level of overhaul and limited modernisation.
There is some confusion as to whether SH-2 Seasprite or SH-60 Seahawk helicopters have been offered to Pakistan to operate from the vessels. What missile armament is fitted remains to be seen. Alamgir is said to have had two quad Harpoon launchers but currently carries no Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) armament. For the time being it appears the ships will be devoid of SAM armament.
SPAIN WINS LPD CONTRACT
Turkey has selected a locally-built version of the Juan Carlos Class amphibious assault ship for its Landing Platform Dock (LPD) requirement in a deal worth an estimated US $500 million.
The privately-owned Istanbul-based shipyard Sedef Gemi Insaati A.S. is therefore negotiating with Navantia to build the vessel, a variant of which was also selected by Australia as the Canberra Class. Initial information shows the Levent Class LPD (as the type will be known in Turkish Navy service) to be a smaller 19,000 tons variant of the 27,000 tons Juan Carlos design. Navantia will supply the diesel engines, the gas turbine, the Integrated Platform Management System, plus the LCM-1E landing craft.
ARCTIC PATROL SHIP
Denmark has signed a US $65 million contract with Skagen-based shipbuilder Karstensens Skibsvaerft for a third Knud Rasmussen Class Arctic patrol ship that will see service in the waters around Greenland.
The new ship, to be completed in 2017, will replace the Agdlek Class ocean-going patrol cutter, Tulugaq, which is to retire in 2014. The new Arctic patrol ship will differ from her sisters in having better facilities to support environmental research missions. In order to conduct them she will be fitted with a larger tender, modular crane and boom system, a multi-beam sonar for hydrographic work, plus space for research stations.