UK WARSHIP OPENS FIRE IN GULF

A Royal Navy warship was forced to fire warning shots across the bows of a high-speed craft that was acting in a menacing fashion in the Gulf, it has been revealed.

The Duke Class (Type 23) frigate HMS Iron Duke was patrolling off Bahrain in April when the incident occurred, but until last month (Aug) no details had emerged in the UK of what was the most serious incident involving a British naval vessel in the region in recent years. The Daily Beast section of the American weekly magazine Newsweek as far back as July 5 reported on the story, but details only became public in the UK, via a Daily Mail report, more than a month later. In an incredible video obtained by Newsweek and posted on its web site, what is clearly one of the British frigate’s minigun operators can be seen tensed for action in the foreground as a craft crewed by two men, and of a type often used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), closes at speed. Despite instructions to stand-off, and use of Iron Duke’s foghorns, the vessel runs parallel to the warship then turns in and lunges at the frigate. This prompts the Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) to issue specific instructions for the minigun operator to place warning shots of 7.62mm bullets 100 yards off the speedboat. As a neat line of splashes erupts just off its starboard side, the two men in the craft take cover. They then pop up and wave cheekily at the Royal Navy frigate before speeding off. In late 2000 the American destroyer USS Cole was seriously damaged and some of her sailors killed when a similar craft packed with explosives hit her during a fuel stop in the port of Aden. The fear of a repeat incident is what led to British and allied navies equipping their warships with miniguns and other point defence weapons, to enable warning shots to be fired, or to take out threatening craft. The incident illustrates the ongoing risks faced by the Royal Navy and other Western navies in the Gulf where tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme remain high. The UK Ministry of Defence told Newsweek that the speedboat had not been positively identified, but anyone with a knowledge of boat types and tactics deployed by the IRGC in the Gulf can see that it was clearly yet another instance of the Iranians testing a Western warship’s reactions. Iron Duke was not found wanting. The same frigate also fired on Libyan targets as she headed home to the UK from her Gulf deployment, using her 4.5-inch gun to fire star shells, illuminating Gaddafi regime positions for Apache helicopter gunships from the assault carrier HMS Ocean to destroy. Iron Duke later fired High Explosive rounds to take out regime artillery batteries. The frigate returned to Portsmouth in late July.

 

ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY STORMS BACK

The end of a 43-year experiment in merging Canada’s armed forces into a single uniform entity has been announced, with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) making its return. While Canada’s armed forces will retain the benefits of joint administration and operations, the rebirth of the RCN, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – rather than having the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) catchall – acknowledges the importance to front line efficiency and morale of the services by giving them back their distinctive identities.

Announcing the move Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said: “Restoring these historic identities is an important way of reconnecting today’s men and women in uniform with the proud history and traditions they carry with them as members of the Canadian Forces. A country forgets its past at its own peril. From Vimy Ridge to the Battle of the Atlantic and from Korea to the defence of Europe during the Cold War, the proud legacy of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force will once again serve as a timeless link between our veterans and serving soldiers, sailors and air personnel.” It was on February 1, 1968, that Canada introduced the National Defence Act, unifying the Canadian Forces, the identities of the RCN and the two services replaced with Maritime Command, Land Force Command, and Air Command. Chief of Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk said last month: “By restoring the historic designations of the Canadian Forces we are continuing to show unified strength here at home, and abroad.” The usage of the title RCN took a long time to die out, if it ever did entirely, and certainly with the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy remaining extant it was a decision than rankled many in Canada. Canada’s Naval Service was established in 1910, when the North American nation was still a Dominion of the British Empire. The following year the designation Royal Canadian Navy was awarded and the RCN truly reached its potential during WW2, when its warships and men played a major role in defeating the Germans during the Battle of the Atlantic. By the time the conflict ended, the RCN was one of the biggest and most sophisticated navies in the world. Despite declining in size during the Cold War, the RCN retained a leading role in NATO, particularly in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). In the modern era Canadian naval forces have maintained their prominence, being among the most active in the world, playing key roles in leading the post 9-11 counter-terrorist mission at sea, and this year in NATO’s campaign against the Gaddafi regime in Libya. With serious challenges by way of maintaining overseas deployments alongside the US Navy and other coalition partners, there are also increasing operational demands in the Arctic, for which the fleet is being expanded. It is most timely that the RCN is back on the block, propelled by a proud century-old reputation as one of the world’s best fleets.

 

RUSSIAN NAVY TO REINFORCE ITS BSF

According to reports in the Russian media the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) is to receive six new diesel-electric submarines in the next few years. Currently the BSF has one ageing Kilo Class (Project 877) submarine, the Alrosa. She is undergoing refit at Kaliningrad in the Baltic. The new type will be the Project 636 Kilo/Improved Kilo. Last year the Russian Navy stated a submarine would be laid down every year from 2011 and a total of 15 new frigates and submarines would join the fleet by 2020. Amur Class submarines are also likely to start entering service in increasing numbers during this time-frame. Russia’s wider plans were first unveiled in 2009 when the second Project 885 Yasen (Graney) Class nuclear-powered submarine was laid down. The renewed efforts to modernise the Russian Navy have been made possible by a recovery of the national economy due mainly to oil and gas energy exports.

 

NEW WARSHIP PROPOSED

Gibbs & Cox has proposed a design of a light multi-role frigate for examination by the US Navy as a possible replacement for ships that are being retired. The 3,500 tons design (for which no image has yet been released) is slightly larger than the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) but smaller than the outgoing Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates. The proposed design is considerably better armed and equipped. The information that has been released describes the design as a 400ft-long steel vessel, powered by diesel engines driving two propellers. It would have a crew of between 75 and 110, and a range of approximately 7,000 miles, while its 20ft draught means it would be able to operate in reasonably shallow waters close to shore. It would be equipped with a phased array radar system that, along with SM-3 Standard SAMs, would give the vessel a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability, with Tomahawk cruise missiles for land attack. The design while perhaps unlikely to be taken up by the USA per se does, however, come close to fulfilling requirements laid out by Saudi Arabia for a vessel capable of BMD. Negotiations are thought to be ongoing between Washington and Riyadh in this regard.

 

INDONESIAN NAVY OPTS FOR KOREAN BOATS

It has been claimed Indonesia is to regenerate its submarine arm with South Korean boats rather than procure vessels of a French design. The US $1.08 billion deal will reportedly see Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine (DSME) provide three 1,400 tons Type 209 Class submarines, two delivered and a third assembled at an Indonesian yard using parts manufactured in South Korea. Previously the competition had included Germany and Russia, but they withdrew their offers in March after deciding they were unable to meet Indonesian specifications.

Seafarers UK

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News Digest August 2011

UK WARSHIP OPENS FIRE IN GULF A Royal Navy warship was forced to fire warning shots across the bows of a high-speed craft ...

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