Tag: Ships

Why the Royal Navy needs HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark

HMS Albion L-14 Landing Platform Dock
HMS Bulwark L-15 Landing Platform Dock

As reports emerge that the Royal Navy could see amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark taken out of service, Forces Network has been looking at their accomplishments.

It’s said the move, which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has described as “pure speculation”, could strip the Senior Service of its ability to attack enemy-held beaches.

But what operations have the two Albion-class warships been used for in the past?

HMS Bulwark

Entering service in 2005, Bulwark left Britain early the next year for her first deployment, a six-month tasking East of Suez.

She was involved in counter-terror and counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, before heading for the Persian Gulf to provide security for Iraqi oil platforms.

In summer the next year she was diverted from near Spain to support operations evacuating British citizens from the conflict area of the 2006 Lebanon War.

On July 20, she evacuated approximately 1,300 British nationals from Beirut – the largest evacuation conducted by the UK.

Bulwark helped evacuate British nationals after the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon War. Picture: M Asser.

Bulwark underwent her first refit in 2010 before rejoining the fleet the following year, when she took over from Albion as fleet flagship.

She carried out this role until June 2015, when it was assumed by HMS Ocean, which is to be decommissioned in spring next year.

One of her most prominent operations came about that year though, in response to the European migrant crisis.

Assisted by three Merlin helicopters from 814 Naval Air Squadron, she played a key part in the search and rescue operation off the Italian coast for migrants crossing from Libya, rescuing over 2,900 migrants from the sea.

It was a busy year for Bulwark. Between November and December, she helped to provide security for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Malta.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, she was mothballed, at the same time Albion emerged from refit to take on the ‘high readiness’ role.

As part of cost-cutting measures, it was decided during the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that Albion and Bulwark would alternate between high and ‘extended’ readiness throughout their service lives.

This led to Albion being placed into a state of ‘extended readiness’ – or mothballed – in 2011.

It’s been estimated that it costs £300,000 per year to keep one of the ships at extended readiness, while high readiness costs from £18-£39 million.

HMS Albion

Albion on exercise in Norway in 2004.

The ninth ship to carry the name Albion (an ancient name for Great Britain), stretching back to a 74-gun 1763 warship, this modern warship was deployed on a multinational exercise for the first time in 2004.

She was declared fully operational after taking part in Exercise Joint Winter off Norway (see above), during which time she completed her cold weather sea trials.

It wasn’t long before she was sent on operations for real.

Albion assisted in the 50-hour evacuation of British citizens from Ivory Coast later that year after the outbreak of civil war in the country, alongside a company of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, RAF Hercules aircraft and troops from 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

The Ivory Coast football team was ultimately credited with helping to secure a temporary truce when it qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, bringing warring parties together. Picture: Bjorn Laczay.

In 2010, Albion was sent to Santander, Spain during the air travel disruption after the volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

As part of Operation Cunningham she rescued 450 stranded forces personnel and around 280 British nationals, before heading to Portsmouth.

The following year she was deployed to waters off Libya to provide assistance to NATO’s military intervention in the country, which was ultimately to lead to the death of its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

She then continued on to the Indian Ocean to help with anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, before being mothballed as her and Bulwark swapped roles.




Norway downselects Vard for coast guard vessel construction negotiations

Norwegian Navy photo of a Nordkapp-class vessel.

The Norwegian government announced it has selected Vard to continue talks for the construction of three new vessels for the Norwegian Coast Guard.

After the government announced their intent to acquire the three vessels in September 2016, three shipbuilders submitted their proposals.

The government has now chosen Vard over shipbuilders Kleven and Westcon Yards to continue negotiations. Should negotiations with Vard be unsuccessful, however, the government said it would continue talks with either Kleven or Westcon Yards.

If the negotiations are successful, according to the government’s timetable, the project should be tabled for approval by the Norwegian Parliament in 2018. Delivery of the first vessel would be in 2022.

The three new vessels to be built will replace the service’s aging Nordkapp-class offshore patrol vessels built in the 1980s.

Earlier this year, Vard received a four-year contract the maintenance of five Norwegian Coast Guard Nornen-class vessels.


Japanese military ships heading for visit to Russia

DDG-169 JMSDS Asakaze, Guided Missile Destroyer

TOKYO, October 13. /TASS/.

The Japanese Navy’s training group comprising a guided missile destroyer and a training ship is set to arrive in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok from the US port of Anchorage in Alaska on Saturday, a spokesman for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Staff Office, Atsushi Umehara, said.

“Earlier, the group was scheduled to arrive in Vladivostok on October 15, but now this will happen a day earlier,” he said. The destroyer Harusame and the training ship Kashima will take part in the voyage. “They will form a training group, which crews will mainly include cadets and young sailors, who will be candidates for command positions in future,” Umehara said.

Nearly 190 people will take part in the voyage. Earlier, the group visited many ports in the countries of Latin America, the United States and Canada.

Upon the ships’ arrival in Vladivostok, a welcoming ceremony and a briefing will take place. The ships will stay there until October 18. The Japanese vessels will be open for the general public.

Last autumn, the Japanese Navy resumed contacts with Russian colleagues, after a pause due to Tokyo’s joining the anti-Russian sanctions amid the Ukrainian crisis.

In October 2016, the Japanese destroyer Hamagiri and Russian Pacific Fleet ships held a joint exercise in the Peter the Great Gulf near Vladivostok. The ships’ crews practiced cohesion during search and rescue operations and improved their skills in fighting pirate activities.

Exercises of the type have taken place since 1998 alternately in Russia and Japan.





Allies defend against subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles during Formidable Shield 2017

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua D. Sheppard/Released)

In a live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) scenario organized as part of exercise Formidable Shield 2017 off the coast of Scotland, ally ships worked together to defend against three subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles on October 7.

During the collective self-defense scenario, Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) fired Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fired Standard Missiles-2 at the incoming Mirach and Firejet anti-ship cruise missiles as part of a no-notice launch of anti-ship cruise missiles in the IAMD exercise scenario.

The Mirach and Firejet missiles were launched from the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles of Scotland.

Simultaneously, ships from France, Italy, Spain, and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tracked a short-range ballistic-missile target that was also fired from the Hebrides Range during a simulated engagement, conducting all steps of a routine engagement.

More than 14 ships, 10 aircraft, and approximately 3,300 personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., are participating in FS17.

Formidable Shield 2017 began Sept. 24, and is scheduled to conclude Oct. 18, 2017. This exercise is planned to be a recurring, biennial event, and is designed to assure allies, deter adversaries, and demonstrate our commitment to collective defense of the NATO alliance. Formidable Shield and exercise Joint Warrior 17-2, a U.K.-led, multinational exercise in a maritime training environment for allies to improve interoperability and prepare forces for combined operations, are occurring concurrently.

“This exercise provides the opportunity to use portions of NATO BMD architecture and develop potential tactics, techniques and procedures in the NATO operations. STRIKFORNATO is, since 2016, the organization responsible for control of NATO Maritime Ballistic Missile Defense forces; Formidable Shield is the ideal opportunity to exercise those capabilities at sea, for the first time, with a NATO IAMD task group.

This exercise is a prime example of NATO strength and demonstrates the commitment of NATO allies to the security of Europe,” said Rear Adm. Francesco Covella, Italian Navy, STRIKFORNATO Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations.


German Navy to receive new degaussing facility by 2022

Photo: Bundeswehr

Works on a new facility in Kiel, Germany, which will help make warships invisible to magnetic mines should be completed by 2022, the German defense ministry has said.

While it is technically not possible to completely eliminate a ship’s magnetic field, degaussing cancels the ship’s magnetic distortion and helps avoid triggering magnetic mines.

The €54 million investment is to become the biggest and most modern facility of its kind in Northern Europe, according to the defense ministry.

In addition to German Navy ships, Royal Dutch Navy ships will be treated there as the Netherlands is also contributing funds for the project.

Once construction works are completed, the facility will be operated by the German technical center for ships and naval weapons, the ‘Wehrtechnische Dienststelle für Schiffe und Marinewaffen (WTD 71)’.

The facility will be able to treat ships up to 180 meters long and 25 meters wide.

This will be the third degaussing facility built in Kiel. The first one was built 1946 and used until 1980 when it was replaced by a new one.


Romanian frigate joins NATO operation Sea Guardian

Romanian Navy file photo of RS Regele Ferdinand

The Romanian Navy has deployed its flagship frigate RS Regele Ferdinand to NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 for a month of joint operations and exercises.

The former Royal Navy Type 22 departed Constanta, Romania, on October 6 and will integrate into the NATO task group for operation Sea Guardian.

With its embarked Puma naval helicopter and a crew of 240 sailors, the frigate will contribute to a broader maritime security operation in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sea Guardian is a maritime security operation carried in cooperation with Mediterranean navies to maintain maritime situational awareness, deter terrorism and enhance capacity building.

The majority of SNMG2 ships are currently near the coast of France taking part in the NATO Response Force drill Brilliant Mariner which kicked off September 29.

Among SNMG2 ships still in the Mediterranean Sea are Albanian Navy patrol ship ALS Oriku and German frigate FGS Lübeck.

RS Regele Ferdinand will likely join the two for its third integration into SNMG2 this year. The ship is expected to return to Romania in early November.


USS Theodore Roosevelt deploying from San Diego for first time after hull swap

US Navy file photo of USS Theodore Roosevelt

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is to start its deployment on October 6, getting underway from San Diego together with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).

Theodore Roosevelt, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, and Bunker Hill will join USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Preble (DDG 88) for a routine deployment.

“The U.S. Navy carrier strike group is the most versatile, capable force at sea,” said Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of CSG 9. “After nearly a year of training and integration exercises, the entire team is ready as a warfighting force and ready to carry out the nation’s tasking.”

Bunker Hill was commissioned into service in September 1986. It is the second United States warship to bear the name, the first being an Essex class aircraft carrier that was built during WWII. Her last deployment ended with her return to San Diego in June 2015.

The strike group will deploy with approximately 7,500 Sailors and Marines and will focus on maritime security operation and theater security cooperation efforts in both U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of operation.

This is the first time Theodore Roosevelt is departing its new homeport of San Diego after completing an unprecedented three-carrier hull swap and around-the-world deployment in 2015. The carrier was previously based at Naval Station Norfolk.


Will Canada eventually purchase Asterix as its third supply ship?

The Department of National Defence has confirmed that a third Joint Support Ship will not be built. There is not enough money, according to DND.

The third JSS was always an option but only if there was enough funding.

The DND insists that two JSS are enough. “The fleet size of 15 Canadian Surface Combatants, complemented by two Joint Support Ships, and four Victoria-class submarines provides the necessary fleet mix and capacity to deploy forces responsively, prepare follow-on forces effectively, and conduct maintenance efficiently,” the department noted in an email.

This statement, however, doesn’t take into account when one of the JSS goes into dock for maintenance, either regular or, later on, a longer term refit.

The Royal Canadian Navy will have for at least the next five years, if not longer, the Asterix (pictured above in a photo provided by Davie). That ship, operated by Federal Fleet Services, and leased to the Canadian government, will provide refueling and resupply to warships at sea.

There is also a clause in the contract that would allow Canada to eventually purchase the vessel (No details have been made public on the cost to buy the ship).

But with a third JSS now off the table, will an Asterix purchase look tempting in the next five years, particularly if it is offered at a good price?


UK-led international exercise Joint Warrior begins

Albion-class amphibious transport dock (L-15) HMS Bulwark

Warships taking part in the UK-hosted multinational drill Joint Warrior got underway on October 1 for a fortnight of exercises off the coast of Scotland.

This is the second time this year the biannual drill is being held.

The first one took place in March and featured or incorporated Information Warrior, an event aimed at demonstrating and developing information warfare.

The fall edition of the drill will focus on inter-operability development and standard evolutions.

Joint Warrior is designed and led by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) in the United Kingdom.

35 ships and a number of aircraft from 14 nations are set to take part in the drill.

The Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS De Ruyter F804, will be taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior

The Exercise will feature:

  • Thirty-five naval units from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US, supported by 11 rotary wing aircraft.
  • RAF Lossiemouth and HMS Gannet in Prestwick hosting international aircraft from Canada, France, Norway, the UK and US.
  • Cape Wrath Weapons Range in the North of Scotland being used for joint fires activity.

Exercise Joint Warrior will also incorporate elements of another major exercise, the ballistic missile defence drill Formidable Shield, running from September 21 to October 18.


Northern Coasts 2017: Over 50 vessels underway off Sweden

Norwegian Navy SNMG1 flagship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312)

Over 50 vessels and 20 aircraft were at sea off the coast of Sweden taking part in the international exercise Northern Coasts which started on September 8.

NOCO 2017 is an exercise that focuses on increasing the navies’ ability to operate together during war and crisis management situations.

The exercise runs through September 21 and is based on a fictitious high-intensity conflict scenario, within the framework of an international force with UN mandate.

Countries taking part in the drill include Belgium, Denmark (with command and support ship HDMS Absalon and frigate HDMS Niels Juel, Germany (with frigate FGS Bayern, mine countermeasure ships Pegnitz, Siegburg and Sulzbach-Rosenberg, and tender Elbe, Estonia, Finland (with minelayer Uusimaa), France, Canada, Croatia, Latvia (with minelayer Virsaitis), Lithuania, the Netherlands (with frigates Tromp and Evertsen), Norway (with SNMG1 flagship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup, two Skjold-class corvettes and minesweeper Hinnøy) Poland (with frigate Generał Kazimierz Pułaski and corvette Kaszub), Portugal, Sweden (with patrol ship Carlskrona, stealth-corvettes Karlstad und Härnösund), Spain and the USA.

Polish Navy frigate ORP Generał Kazimierz Pułaski

“The Baltic Sea Region is of major strategic importance for NATO. The region includes six Allied nations and two important NATO partners in addition to Russia,” said Flag Commander Petter Kammerhuber, who leads the NATO Force SNMG1 this fall.

In addition to providing an opportunity for all participants to hone their interoperability, Northern Coasts will test the initial operational capability (IOC) of the Swedish-Finnish Naval Task Group. The two countries spent the past couple years preparing to achieve IOC in 2017.

Now in its tenth edition, the German-organized exercise Northern Coasts has a different host country every year. The previous two editions of the exercise were hosted by Germany in 2015 and Denmark in 2016.


Second stage of Russian-Chinese naval exercise to involve 11 ships, 2 submarines

Chinese Navy (PLAN) Shijiazhuang destroyer

VLADIVOSTOK, September 17. /TASS/.

Russia and China will deploy 11 ships and two submarines to take part in the second stage of their joint naval exercise, Maritime Cooperation-2017, a Pacific Fleet spokesman said on Sunday.

The second stage of the exercise will begin on Monday in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan.

“The second stage of the international Russian-Chinese Maritime Cooperation-2017 exercise will involve 11 surface ships, two submarines, two deep-submergence rescue vehicles, four anti-suibmarine warfare aircraft and four shipborne helicopters,” spokesman Vladimir Matveyev said.

Russia will send the Admiral Tributs Udaloy-class destroyer, the Sovershenny corvette and the Igor Belousov rescue ship, carrying the AS-40 deep-submergence rescue vehicle and the R-11 missile corvette. In addition, the Pacific Fleet will also be represented by the Sovetskaya Gavan Grisha-class corvette, the Viktor Faleyev hydrographic survey vessel, the MB-93 sea tug and two diesel-electric submarines that were not named.

Russian Pacific Fleet sovershenny Corvette
The four-vessel Chinese task force will be led by the Shijiazhuang destroyer.

“In addition, the naval phase of the exercise will involve the training of ship-aircraft coordination. This element will involve two Il-38 planes, two Tu-142M3 planes, a Ka-27PS and a Ka-27 helicopters of the Pacific Fleet’s naval aviation. The aviation of the Chinese Navy will be represented by Z-9C and Z-9D shipborne helicopters,” Matveyev said.

Harbin Z-9EC ASW “Haitun”, Chinese: 海豚, Chinese Naval Air Arm

The second stage of the Russian-Chinese Maritime Cooperation-2017 exercise will take place between September 18 and 26 and will consist of the coastal and the naval phases. The coastal phase will be held in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on September 18-21. The naval part is scheduled for September 22-26 in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan.

The first stage of the Russian-Chinese naval exercises ‘Maritime Cooperation-2017’ was held from July 21 to July 28 in Baltiysk, the coastal city in Russia’s westernmost Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. Russia’s new generation Project 20380 corvettes – the Steregushchy and the Boiky – as well as a rescue tug, the Ka-27 multi-purpose shipborne helicopters, the Su-24 tactical bomber and the An-26 military transport aircraft took part in the drills.China sent the Hefei destroyer, the Yuncheng frigate and the Luoma Lake supply ship to the drills.