JAPAN’S FURY AS CHINESE WARSHIP LOCKS ON TO ITS DESTROYER
Tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea took a dangerous twist when a Chinese warship allegedly made a fire control radar lock-on against a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer. The incident was said to have taken place off the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu by the Chinese) over which Japan claims sovereignty.
The Japanese defence ministry claimed that a Jiangwei II Class frigate used its fire control radar to lock on to the Japanese destroyer. It also revealed that less than a fortnight earlier a Jiangkai Class frigate had locked its fire control radar onto a JMSDF helicopter flying over the same waters.
A Japanese defence ministry spokesman said it was ‘very abnormal’ and that Japan regarded such an act as a ‘wrong move’ and ‘very dangerous’. The Japanese made their claim only after careful analysis to ensure they had not confused the lock-on for normal surface search radar. Japan made a diplomatic protest to the Chinese and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his country’s parliament it was ‘a dangerous act that could have led to an unpredictable situation.’ He called for China to show restraint to avoid ‘an unnecessary escalation.’ The USA, which is a tight military ally of Japan, looked on with some alarm. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: ‘Actions such as this escalate tensions and increase the risk of an incident or a miscalculation, and they could undermine peace, stability, and economic growth in this vital region. So we are concerned about it.’
In December last year Japanese F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Chinese Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) flying over the disputed islands. The Chinese utterly reject Japan’s protests, stating repeatedly that their aircraft and ships are patrolling what they regard as Chinese waters. Beijing sees Tokyo as the guilty party in ramping up the tension.
TAIWAN KEEPS UP ASW GUARD
With China’s submarine capability increasing and its own stagnant, Taiwan has staged an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise to assess the kind of deterrent it can squeeze out of what it does possess. The Republic of China Navy (ROCN) fielded the Kang Ding Class multi-purpose stealth frigate Di Hua, together with two Cheng Kung Class frigates, a Grumman S-2T Tracker ASW aircraft and a Sikorsky S-70C ASW helicopter.
The surface ships are of increasing significance in the ROCN’s order of battle in ASW terms due to Taiwan not being able to procure modern replacements for its Dutch-built Hai Lung Class submarines. Still quite capable, dating from the 1980s, they are, though, now showing their age. Replacements from Holland, or any other viable source, have not been forthcoming due to pressure from Beijing on potential suppliers. It is a long stated aim of mainland China to one day reunite with Taiwan. America, however, has long underwritten its independence, especially with the deployment of Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) to the Taiwan Strait whenever tensions rise. However, the Chinese Navy is growing rapidly and achieving quantum leaps in capability, hence anxiety in the ROC and an increasingly urgent need for new submarines.
AMERICAN FORCE LEVELS REDUCED
The US Navy has revealed in a report sent to key congressmen that its overall fleet requirement is being reduced from 313 to 306. This is not a result of the ongoing fiscal crisis but to meet last year’s Defense Strategic Guidance.
The new figure was established by studying operational tempo over the past year, depending on the mix of warship capabilities required and both current and future tasks. One key change is the reduction of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) required, from 55 to 52, which the USN attributes to US Africa Command (AFRICOM) needing less input in future.
The figure of 313 was established in 2005, but USN officials have for some years been referring to it as an approximate requirement. The new figure itself represents an average force requirement already not reflected in the real world. Ship numbers will always fluctuate and 313 was an aspiration, rather than a reality.
Today, for example, the actual US Navy order of battle consists of 288 vessels. In summer 2007, it was only 275. The last time the USN had more than 300 ships and submarines was August 2003. Among other changes, since 2010 the number of cruisers and destroyers has been reduced from 94 to 88. Future changes will include the four Ohio Class guided-missile and Special Forces boats being removed from service. This is because more Virginia Class SSNs (with enhanced land attack and Special Forces capability) are being built and commissioned.
BAE Systems has delivered the first two hull blocks for Australia’s second Hobart Class destroyer, which is the future HMAS Brisbane. The blocks, numbers 415 and 111, were constructed at BAE Systems’ Williamstown facility before being delivered to the ASC Alliance shipyard in Adelaide. They form part of the front third of the vessel. It is a section that will house the 48-cell Mk41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) carrying SM-2 Standard and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM). BAE Systems is responsible for the construction of 11 blocks for the Hobart Class destroyer programme. Despite changes in the schedule for the destroyers, the first ship, Hobart, is set for delivery in 2016. Blocks comprising Brisbane will start consolidation in 2014. The third ship of the class, Sydney, is still in block fabrication phase. Brisbane and Sydney are expected to commission by 2017 and 2019 respectively.
India has commissioned its first indigenously designed and constructed Saryu Class Naval Off-shore Patrol Vessel (NOPV) in a ceremony at Goa Shipyard. Saryu will patrol in the Indian Navy’s Andaman and Nicobar Command, home ported in Port Blair. Due to India’s considerable EEZ and even larger maritime area of interest, there has been a pressing need to improve its capabilities to prevent infiltration and violations of India’s maritime sovereignty, plus protect off shore oil and other assets. Saryu is 105m long, displaces 2,300 tons, can exceed 25 knots and has a range of 6,000 nautical miles or endurance of one month. She is armed with an Oto Melara Super Rapid 76mm gun and two 30mm Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS).