The German Navy’s F122, Bremen-class frigate FGS ‘Lübeck’ is joining NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 in the Aegean Sea.
Setting sail on August 21, Lübeck will be replacing another German ship, F123 frigate FGS Brandenburg, which spent six months as the flagship of the international task group.
Commenting on the deployment, Lübeck’s commander, Frigate Captain Matthias Schmitt, said the ship’s main task will be to support Greek and Turkish authorities and the European border agency Frontex in controlling and preventing human smuggling activities in the Aegean Sea.
Lübeck is expected to reach Turkish waters by the beginning of September when it will take over the duties of FGS Brandenburg after a handover ceremony.
The crew of Lübeck are set to return to their homeport of Wilhelmshaven mid-November.
Returning home in September will be the crew of FGS Brandenburg, the lead ship of the German Navy’s four F123 frigates.
They are completing an eventful deployment which got off to a rather bad start after the ship ran aground in Greece while departing the port of Piraeus. Brandenburg damaged her rudder and both propellers and was sidelined for a month between April and May.
The ship returned to operations with the NATO group, however, completing her scheduled deployment.
The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) arrived in Tallinn for a scheduled port visit over the weekend to to replenish the ship’s supplies and prepare for upcoming exercises.
During the visit the vessels are to make preparations for returning to sea and will give members of the crew the chance to rest for a few days, military spokespeople in Tallinn said. After the visit the NATO ships will remain in Estonia to carry out several exercises and be prepared for the upcoming mine clearance operation.
“The presence of NATO naval units and the clearance of World War era mines will make Estonian waterways safer for us all,” Cmdr. Peeter Ivask, commander of the fleet of the Estonian Navy, said.
Head of the SNMCMG1 Lt. Capt. Gvido Laudups on Friday also visited the headquarters of the Estonian defense forces and the NATO command element and met with Meelis Oidsalu, deputy secretary general of the Defense Ministry for defense planning.
As of June 29, SNMCMG1 is headed by Latvian Lt. Capt. Gvido Laudups, who took over the position from Estonian Cmdr. Johan-Elias Seljamaa of the Estonian Navy. The flagship of the group is the Latvian Navy’s support vessel LVNS Virsaitis. The Estonian minehunter Sakala is also part of the international unit this half-year.
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.
“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.
“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”
The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.
“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”
She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.
Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.
ALAMEDA, Calif. — U.S. Coast Guardsmen and U.S. Navy Sailors conducted shipboard dive operations from a Coast Guard cutter in the Arctic July 29 for the first time since two Coast Guard divers perished in a subsurface accident almost 11 years ago, the Coast Guard said in a Aug. 10 release.
Shipboard Arctic dive operations increase the Coast Guard’s ability to assure year-round access for national security, sovereign presence and increased maritime domain awareness in the region. The shipboard dive operations also highlighted the interoperability between joint Coast Guard and Navy dive teams.
The Coast Guard conducted a comprehensive dive program review following a incident on Aug. 17, 2006, that killed Lt. Jessica Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Duque during an ice dive in the Arctic Ocean aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy. In the years following the accident, the Coast Guard improved diving proficiency and retention by making diving a primary duty and created the first three regional dive lockers to centralize control, training and operations.
The joint dive operation from Healy July 29 marked the culmination of this increased oversight, training and proficiency. The crew of Healy and joint dive team held a memorial to honor the fallen divers during the cutter’s current Arctic patrol.
“There is no prospect more sobering than the death of a crew member,” said Capt. Greg Tlapa, commanding officer of Healy. “We honor the memory of our shipmates, Lt. Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Duque, and will never forget their sacrifices. It gives our crew great pride to re-establish dive capabilities to Healy and meet the subsurface needs and challenges our service will face in the coming years in the Arctic.”
The joint dive team included personnel from Coast Guard Regional Dive Lockers San Diego and Honolulu and U.S. Navy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Wash. Navy divers supported cold water and ice dives by providing an independent duty corpsman/dive medical technician and by conducting joint training using the Navy’s recompression chamber currently deployed aboard Healy.
“I’m humbled to be a part of such a historic operation, honoring our shipmates by reintroducing Coast Guard shipboard dive operations to the Arctic,” said Chief Petty Officer Chuck Ashmore from Coast Guard’s Joint Regional Dive Locker West in San Diego.
Divers are the Coast Guard’s primary resource for the service’s subsurface capabilities and perform a full spectrum of Coast Guard missions, including maintenance and repair to aids to navigation, underwater inspections and maintenance on icebreakers and other cutters, surveying critically endangered species habitats, assistance to marine casualty investigations and supporting search and rescue operations.
Healy, homeported in Seattle, is a 420-foot long medium icebreaker with extensive scientific capabilities and is the nation’s premier high-latitude research vessel. Healy’s missions include scientific support, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar regions.
Typhoon aircraft from the Royal Air Force currently based, in Eastern Romania have been testing the air defence capabilities of HMS Duncan, a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer which is leading the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Black Sea.
The Four Typhoons from 3(F) Squadron were tasked to test the capability of HMS Duncan in controlling air defence and anti-surface warfare. During the exercise the ship’s crew had the opportunity to control some of the jets to defend the destroyer from air attack and at the same time practice launching an air attack on other surface ships.
HMS Duncan’s Senior Warfare Officer Lt Cdr Michael Waters said: “Opportunities for Type 45 to work with the RAF Typhoons are few and far between, even in the UK. The chance to operate with 135 EAW, and for HMS Duncan to control live aircraft in the execution of both Air-Air and Air-Surface missions was invaluable and proved our interoperability while both were tasked to NATO in the Black Sea.”
Flight Lieutenant Brett Fusco, from 3(F) Squadron, co-ordinated 135 EAW’s participation and who flew during the exercise explained what happened. He said: “There were two elements, their fighter controllers on board practiced controlling us against an air threat while one of us was acting as the threat and two of us were on Combat Air Patrol protecting the ship.
“The other element was conducting Anti Surface Forces Air Operations (ASFAOs) using the fourth jet. For Duncan it was a chance for them to concurrently have different elements of their crew defending against an air threat whilst controlling an anti-surface operation.”
Following the conclusion of the exercise there was an opportunity for an exchange with 18 RAF personnel visiting HMS Duncan for a tour of the ship and 15 RN personnel being hosted at MK Air base.
Flt Lt Gemma Bean, the 135 EAW Detachment Administrative Officer said: “It was really interesting. It was the first time I’ve ever been on a RN ship. Just to see how their lifestyle compares to ours was eye-opening. We saw everything from their helicopter, the operations centre to the bridge and the weapons systems.” She reflected on the similarities of operations, adding: “They are also on NATO ops. It was interesting to see how they conduct theirs working with different nations, liaising with host nations and how everything fits together as a NATO package.”
Petty Officer Tim Rumble, from HMS Duncan said: “It was great to have the opportunity to visit an Expeditionary Air Wing deployed with NATO and offered a fascinating insight into the way our RAF colleagues operate. I particularly enjoyed seeing the aircraft up close as well as the unique facilities at MK Airbase.”
The RAF has deployed 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, from RAF Leeming with four Typhoon aircraft, from RAF Coningsby, to western Romania until the end of August as part of a four-month NATO mission to enhance air policing. At the same time the Portsmouth-based Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Duncan has been tasked in the Black Sea leading the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, providing reassurance and deterrence in the Black Sea, as well as commanding NATO’s counter migration activity in the Aegean.
Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown left her homeport in Halifax and headed for Europe where she will join navy ships from several countries for a six-month deployment to NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1.
On her second deployment under the Canadian Navy’s operation Reassurance, HMCS Charlottetown replaces HMCS St. John’s, which arrived in her home port of Halifax on July 17, 2017, after a six-month deployment.
During her first deployment in support of operation Reassurance, HMCS Charlottetown conducted maritime security operations and joint NATO training exercises between June 2016 and January 2017, in the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean, Aegean and Baltic Seas, as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2).
HMCS Charlottetown is a Halifax-class frigate with a crew of approximately 240 personnel of all ranks, including an Enhanced Naval Boarding Party and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter air detachment.
“The highly trained and professional ship’s company is well prepared to meet the challenges of this mission,” HMCS Charlottetown commanding officer Commander Jeff Hutt said. “HMCS Charlottetown is committed to further increase the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to work alongside our Allies, contribute to enhancing NATO readiness, and help strengthen international and regional stability.”
The war games, called Exercise Saxon Warrior, have seen the Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group Commodore Andrew Betton and his team direct jets, firepower and personnel across the task group for the last ten days to ensure full readiness for the UK’s own carrier strike capability.
Strike Warfare Commander Colonel Phil Kelly Royal Marine said:
“We have been working with the US for a few weeks now and they are doing a really good job of helping us train in bringing our skill set up so that when we do bring in our aircraft carrier and join that up with our aircraft then we can do it in a much more effective manner because we have seen how the experts do it.”
As well as the USS George HW Bush, the group includes two Portsmouth based Type 23 frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Iron Duke, destroyer USS Donald Cook, missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad.
Captain Ken Houlberg, Chief of Staff to COMUKCSG said:
“The US Navy, out of huge generosity, given us the whole of their carrier strike group so that we can practise the command and control of a carrier doing these operations in British waters so that when HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into service later this year we will be well on the way to forming our own carrier strike capability.”
The exercise, which has been at play for nearly a week, has seen the COMUKTG staff work with their American counterparts to fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces, using all the air, surface and sub-surface assets of the entire task group.
The threats have been specifically designed to test the UK personnel’s reactions for coordinating a response.
There are 15 ships from across NATO taking part throughout the exercise with more than 100 aircraft and nearly 10,000 personnel.
A group of Royal Navy sailors and marines together with two Royal Navy Merlin Mk3 helicopters spent the past five months deployed aboard the French helicopter carrier FS Mistral during its Jeanne D’Arc mission.
FS Mistral, together with frigate FS Courbet, embarked Royal Navy personnel in March for a deployment that took the force as far east as Japan and Guam, as far south as the northern coast of Australia, with visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Djibouti.
Commenting on the deployment, UK’s armed forces minister Mark Lancaster said: “From fighting Daesh in the Middle East to jointly operating in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, our enduring defence partnership with France is stronger than ever as we work together to tackle global threats.
This deployment has demonstrated the ability of our world class Royal Navy and Royal Marines to operate alongside our French allies and international partners as Britain delivers on its commitment to global maritime security.”
Throughout the deployment, UK personnel worked closely with international partners to strengthen defence cooperation in the region. British troops participated in the first ever four-part maritime exercise involving France, Japan, the UK and US, where as part of a week-long practice assault, the two Merlins moved 330 troops from the four nations to and from the island of Tinian.
UK troops also met with the Vietnam People’s Navy in Ho Chi Minh City to compare national maritime operating procedures and exchange experiences, and during a port call to Egypt, British forces took part in a cross-decking exercise alongside French and Egyptian Armed Forces.
Britain is being forced to call on France and other Nato allies to defend British waters against Russian spying operations, it has emerged.
The number of foreign maritime patrol aircraft stationed in the UK has risen by 76 per cent in a year according to Ministry of Defence records.
Nato allies were stationed at RAF Lossiemouth 37 times last year to guard against foreign ships and submarines and carry out training exercises, a significant increase on the previous year when extra forces were deployed to the base 21 times.
The British armed forces do not have patrol aircraft of their own after Nimrod was scrapped in 2010 and Russian attempts to spy on the UK’s nuclear deterrent have increased, military experts and Labour’s shadow defence secretary have warned.
The RAF has invested £3billion in nine new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft which will be ready in 2020 but in the meantime the Government has to rely on allies in Nato to patrol British waters when a threat is raised.
Sir Gerald Howarth, the defence minister at the time when Nimrod was scrapped, said: “I made no secret of the fact it was a very dangerous decision that left us exposed.”
In 2016, 20 American aircraft were deployed to the UK, along with eight from Canadian forces, five French, three German and one from Norway.
In the previous year it was just 11 American, three Canadian, five French and two German, a difference of 76 per cent year on year.
The MoD says 20 per cent of the foreign aircraft stationed in Scotland carry out operations over British waters, with the remaining 80 per cent involved in exercises and training which include readying British pilots for the arrival of the new P8 aeroplanes.
It is understood that American, Canadian and French aircraft patrolled offshore following reports of suspicious vessels in British waters.
Senior military figures have warned that the continued gap in capability is leaving the UK at risk because Russia has stepped up its efforts to map out British military secrets, including Trident’s acoustic signature.
Admiral Lord West told The Telegraph: “There has been an increase in the amount of Russian interference in our waters and that interference generally is in our ballistic missile submarine, Trident.
“I find that extremely worrying. They are trying to obtain Trident’s fingerprint, its acoustic signature.”
He said that the reliance on Nato forces was “part of a wider picture of the hollowing out of our defence”, adding: “Its all very well saying we’ve got the P8 coming and we will be building ships in the future – but that’s only three – we need far more than that.”
Nia Griffith, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, said: “These figures highlight the extent to which we are now reliant on the goodwill of others to keep Britain safe. We are thankful for our allies’ support but this level of dependence is simply unacceptable.” [must keep]
But defence minister Earl Howe claimed the fault lies with Jeremy Corbyn’s party for mishandling the Nimrod replacement, adding that 80 per cent of aircraft stationed at Lossiemouth from abroad were used in training exercises. [must keep]
He said: “Labour created this capability gap by retiring Nimrod early and utterly mismanaging its replacement to the point of negligence.
“Labour’s replacement was £800million over budget, nine years over due and a risk for our service personnel to fly.
“The hypocrisy of Labour complaining that the UK has relied on allies to help provide maritime patrol when we fix the mess they created is as breathtaking as it is irresponsible.”
Ms Griffith added: “As an island nation, the ability to patrol our own shores and protect our key military assets is absolutely essential. As Labour said at the time, the Tories’ decision in 2010 to cut up our Nimrod aircraft and sell them for scrap was a serious mistake. It now looks downright reckless.”
Russian-Chinese naval exercise Joint Sea-2017 in the Baltic Sea will enter into the active stage on Tuesday, the Baltic Fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.
Russian and Chinese ships participating in the drills are leaving the Baltiysk base for designated areas in the Baltic Sea, he said. On Tuesday the personnel will practice artillery fire at surface and air targets.
China delegated three ships for participation in the exercise – the destroyer Hefei, frigate Yuncheng and supply vessel Lomahu.
The Russian Navy is represented by two corvettes – Steregushchy and Boiky – and the salvage tug SB-123. Different phases of the exercise will involve multi-role deck helicopters Ka-27, tactical frontline bombers Sukhoi-24, military transport planes Antonov-26 and helicopters based on the Chinese ships.
During the active phase of the exercise to be held on July 25-27 Russian and Chinese sailors will practice joint anti-sabotage, anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense measures and assistance to a ship in distress.
NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a “100,000-ton message to the world” about America’s military might when it is ultimately deployed.
U.S. allies will rest easy, Trump said, but America’s enemies will “shake with fear” when they see the Ford cutting across the horizon.
The president and commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces likened the $12.9 billion warship to “an incredible work of art” and boasted about the American labor that went into building a vessel that eventually will house thousands of sailors and crew members.
Trump’s participation in the ceremony also capped “Made in America” week at the White House, during which the president and administration officials sought to draw attention to U.S. manufacturing.
“American steel and American hands have constructed this 100,000-ton message to the world,” Trump said of the Ford during a speech that praised the bravery and spirit of U.S. service members and referenced his desire for a buildup after years of spending restrictions.
“American might is second to none and we’re getting bigger and better and stronger every day of my administration. That I can tell you,” Trump told thousands of service members and guests, including former defense secretaries Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, all packed into the steamy hangar bay on the main deck.
“Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming, and America is coming strong,” Trump said.
After the speech, he put the Ford into commission and asked God to “bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail in her.” He was followed by Susan Ford Bales, the ship’s sponsor and daughter of the 38th president, whom the ship honors.
“There is no one, absolutely no one, who would be prouder of the commissioning of this mighty ship than the president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford,” she said. “I am honored to give the command: ‘Officers and crew of the United States Gerald R. Ford, man our ship and bring her to life.”
“Anchors Aweigh” played as row after row of sailors in crisp, white uniforms who had been standing in formation began filing off to man their stations. Sirens and bells sounded, horns blared and the U.S. flag was hoisted high above the deck.
Soon after, the captain was informed that the “ship is manned and ready and reports for duty to the fleet.”
Trump, who visited the carrier in March, told Time magazine this year that the Navy should revert to using steam catapults to launch fighter jets because some of the USS Ford’s state-of-the-art systems and technology “costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”
Construction started in 2009 and was to be completed by September 2015 at a cost of $10.5 billion. The Navy has blamed the delays and budget overruns on the ship’s advanced systems and technology, including electromagnetic launch systems for jets and drones that will replace steam catapults.
The warship also has a smaller island that sits farther back on the ship to make it quicker to refuel, re-arm and relaunch planes, and a nuclear power plant designed to allow cruising speeds of more than 30 knots and operation for 20 years without refueling.
The vessel completed sea trials in April but still will go through a battery of tests and workups at sea before becoming ready for deployment, work that is expected to cost nearly $780 million and take more than four years to complete, congressional auditors said this month.
Docked at Naval Station Norfolk, the USS Ford eventually will house about 2,600 sailors, 600 fewer than the previous generation of aircraft carriers. The Navy says that will save more than $4 billion over the ship’s 50-year lifespan.
The air wing to support the Ford could add more personnel to the ship, which is designed to house more than 4,600 crew members.
The Ford was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, a giant Navy contractor in Virginia.
Trump used the appearance to prod Congress to approve his request for an additional $54 billion for the military next year. House lawmakers, at least, are working to up his request.
Trump called for an end to mandatory spending reductions that he said has led to deferred maintenance, insufficient spending on new equipment and technology, and a drop in military readiness. He said changes in the defense acquisition process are needed to make sure the U.S. gets the best equipment at the best prices.
“We want the best equipment, but we want it built ahead of schedule and we want it build under budget,” Trump said.