DEPLOYMENTS ABANDONED IN THE FACE OF SEQUESTRATION AXE
While the US Navy remains the world’s most powerful and prominently deployed maritime fighting force – active across the Seven Seas – budget cuts imposed this year under the notorious sequestration process have already seen deployments cancelled. The Perry Class frigate USS Rentz and Los Angeles Class attack submarine USS Jefferson City, both based at San Diego, have remained in port rather than setting sail. The USN explained the move as cancellation ‘due to budget limitations imposed by sequestration.’
The USN further explained: ‘Constrained resources are being prioritised to support forces operating forward, and to those being trained to relieve them.’
The decision was not taken lightly and according to USN sources cancellation was ‘deferred until the last possible moment in the event the cancellation was not necessary. The ships will remain in their respective homeports while crews conduct training and maintenance.’
Deployments of some Norfolk-based vessels were also abandoned. The hospital ship USNS Comfort and frigate USS Kauffman were due to head south for operations in the Caribbean and off Latin America – a vital component of the USA’s backyard defence diplomacy – but instead they were retained in port. The Little Creek-based rescue and salvage vessel USNS Grasp was meant to sail for activities in European waters but that deployment was also cancelled. Some warships already deployed were affected, with the San Diego-based frigate USS Thach cutting short operations in the US Southern Command area. Earlier this year deployments of Carrier Strike Groups were delayed, including the USS Harry S. Truman and her escort vessel, the cruiser USS Gettysburg. Both were destined to head for the turbulent Middle East region. Instead the Harry S. Truman conducted low-level training operations off the Atlantic coast of the USA, while Gettysburg spent a fair bit of time alongside in her home base of Mayport. The Pentagon has made it clear to anyone seeking to take advantage of reduced deployment levels in the Persian Gulf – with one CSG on station rather than two – that the US Navy stands ready to act. “The US military continues to stand ready to respond to any contingency and to confront any threat in the region,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
RUSSIAN NAVY’S SURPRISE CALL-OUT
The Black Sea Fleet (BSF) was in recent weeks ordered to conduct a short notice live-firing naval exercise by President Vladimir Putin, in order to test the battle readiness of Russia’s armed forces in the region. As well as involving 36 warships it included up to 7,000 troops, including aviators, paratroopers and Special Forces. It commenced at 04.00 hours local time when the President handed sealed orders to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. The Russian armed forces had already been warned they should expect sudden orders of this nature to determine battle preparedness. The exercise was carried out across three military test ranges on Russian territory.
A similar exercise at the beginning of 2013, the first such unscheduled check in 20 years, had uncovered a series of systematic shortcomings and problems with military hardware. Russia has undertaken a huge military redevelopment programme after significant failings uncovered during the 2008 war with Georgia. It also exposed a need to reform command structures.
A centrepiece of this programme has been the acquisition of Mistral Class assault carriers from France.
IRAN’S CASPIAN WARSHIP
Iran has launched the Moudge (Wave) Class frigate Jamran II in the port of Bandar Anzali. The Jamran II design can trace its heritage back to the British Vosper Thornycroft (Alvand Class) light frigates built for Iran in the late 1960s.
It is a slightly lighter variant of the Jamran I (examples of which are being built to serve in the Arabian Gulf). The first Jamran I frigate was launched in 2010, and is now commissioned. The frigates are heavily reliant on reverse engineering Western technology acquired by Iran prior to the fall of the Shah, and later technology and weapons obtained from China and Russia. As a result they are armed with domestic copies of the OTO Melara 76mm gun (Fajr-27), Chinese C-802/CSS-N-8 Saccade anti-ship missile (Noor or Qader), and Raad SAMs (developments of Russian SAM technology from the SA-6 ‘Gainful’ family). They also have 40mm Bofors and two 20mm cannons, and two triple 324mm ASW torpedo launchers. There is a flight-deck for operating helicopters but no hangar. The Caspian Sea is the scene of a longstanding territorial dispute. Caspian Sea states have not yet come to an agreement on new maritime boundaries that are now required due to the independence of former Soviet republics. The Caspian is thought to be the location of considerable hydrocarbon deposits, and Iran’s portion is deep enough for full-sized warships and perhaps even submarines to operate. Consequently, Iran is in the process of expanding its Caspian Sea naval forces.
EASTERN MED EXERCISE
The Greek, Israeli, and American navies conducted a two-week joint naval exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean. Noble Dina is an annual scheduled naval workout between the Israeli and foreign navies aimed at strengthening
co-operation and sharing experience. The geo-strategic picture in the Eastern Mediterranean has changed in recent years. An Israeli marine commando raid on an aid ferry in international waters resulted in nine Turkish deaths, in May 2010. That eventually led to the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Turkey and the suspension of Israeli-Turkish military co-operation in September 2011. This has seen Israel courting Turkey’s long time rival Greece, which has traditionally been more pro-Arab, a situation that has been aided by joint Cypriot-Israeli efforts to develop offshore hydrocarbon deposits.
To this end part of Noble Dina revolved around procedures and tactics for defending offshore gas rigs. Israel has also recently carried out naval exercises with the Canadian and Italian navies, but details of those drills have not been revealed. For its part, Turkey is building a highly capable fleet that looks set to be the dominant regional naval force. It deployed a number of warships on operations off Libya in 2011, illustrating its willingness to act.
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