Homicide charges for US warship collisions are a big mistake

Four officers from USS Fitzgerald and one from USS John S. McCain including both commanding officers will face criminal charges for negligent homicide. As Navy Times notes, this is a very rare step, and now the internet is boiling over with discussions about it.

I think the criminal charges are a big mistake. …Continue reading

Sweden and Finland buy new torpedoes together

Sweden and Finland have announced a joint procurement of torpedoes of the type New Lightweight Torpedo (NLT). This torpedo is produced by Saab Dynamics and is also known by the Swedish name of Torpedsystem 47 or Tp 47.

The hope is that the coordinated purchase will lower the costs of sustaining and further developing the torpedo system. It is also anticipated that this opens other possibilities for cooperation within anti-submarine warfare. …Continue reading

What to expect for Russian Baltic Fleet in 2018

The press service of the Russian Western Military District has announce a few things to expect from the Baltic Fleet in 2018, reports RIA Novosti.

Most notably there will be established another air defense unit with S-400 missiles. The fleet will also receive a new missile corvette. In addition to these things the general modernization of the materiel will continue. …Continue reading

Russia’s aircraft carrier begins three year modernization

A contract has finally been signed regarding the modernization of Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, reports TASS. The work is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018 and to last for three years.

Originally the modernization should have started in September, but due to a lack of finances the work could not begin at that time. Now the ambitions for the modernization have been lowered, and finances for the maintenance have been provided with the 2018-2027 defense program.

Franz-Stefan Gady made a good roundup of the expected modernization and the status of Admiral Kuznetsov in The Diplomat back in October.

More on Germany’s trouble to keep equipment moving

Sébastien Roblin for The National Interest in a piece called Germany Does Not Have One Working Submarine:

One unfortunate consequence is that the submarine crews are completely unable to gain badly needed operational experience. Only by mid-2018 will three German submarines be operational, followed by possibly a fourth that November.

But the kicker is that the Deutsche Marine would not be able to deploy its full submarine force even if all six were in operational condition. According to Bartels, there are only three trained crews available to man the six Type 212As.

Indeed, the German military, which transitioned to being a purely volunteer force in 2011, has struggled to fill its ranks […]

Low readiness rates afflict other branches of the Germany military as well. For example, Germany is currently expanding and upgrading its fleet of Leopard 2 tanks. However, according to NTV, out of 244 Leopard 2 tanks already in service, only ninety-six are combat-ready, while eighty-nine are awaiting spare parts, seven are devoted to R&D and fifty-three are under maintenance or receiving upgrades. Of fourteen new A400M transport planes, sometimes none are in operational condition; one broke down in February 2017 while transporting Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. In 2015, it was revealed that out of ninety-three Tornado strike jets officially in service, only thirty were combat ready.

Meanwhile some are still speculating how Germany could possibly spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Finland will buy large corvettes

Finnish chief of defense general Jarmo Lindberg to Defense News:

[In] the defense report that was finalized in June last year, the government stated that they are willing to fund strategic procurement programs first to the Navy, where six ships are going away, and they’re going to be replaced by four multipurpose corvettes of about 100 meters. And the anticipated cost of that is €1.2 billion.

As I wrote the other day, ocean capable corvettes are a very interesting class of ships.

Ocean capable corvettes could be affordable force enablers

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Soobrazitelnyy, a corvette from the Baltic Fleet, had passed through the Suez Canal from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean. This was the latest in a series of press releases covering the journey of two Steregushchiy class corvettes and an auxiliary vessel from the Baltic Fleet.

The three ships Boiky, Soobrazitelnyy, and Kola departed from Baltiysk on 14 October, and it was announced that they would complete tasks in the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, the ministry’s press service has been generous with updates on the journey. Reports have been made on the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar, AAW and ASW exercises, a port visit in Limassol, how the ships split up with Boiky completing tasks in the Mediterranean (I suppose around Syria) and Soobrazitelnyy passing the Suez Canal to participate in anti-piracy operations and visit the port of Djibouti. With the ships reunited in the Mediterranean I suppose it is reasonable to assume that the group will head home soon, perhaps in time for Christmas which in Russia is on 7 January.

Obviously, with this massive press coverage one has to wonder whether the point of the whole journey was to generate attention. Nevertheless I do think that the proof of concept is really interesting. Medium sized warships that are large enough to endure the ocean yet small enough to be affordable could prove very useful in the future.

These are ships with a displacement around 2000 tons. Aside from the Russian Steregushchiy class, I think the German Braunschweig class and the British Batch 2 River Class are interesting examples of such warships. A look at the Baltic navies reveals that most only have ships that are much larger or much smaller.

For countries like Denmark, Norway, and Poland such medium sized warships could permit the country to participate in low-risk maritime security operations while the larger frigates could focus on tasks where their broad warfare capabilities are needed. For other countries like Sweden ocean capable corvettes could make it possible to participate at all.

Poland receives new minehunter

The first ship in a series of new minehunters joined the Polish Navy this week when ORP Kormoran officially entered service at a ceremony in Gdynia. It was expected that Poland could receive Kormoran in 2016 but the process was delayed by about a year.

The Kormoran project was initially initiated in 1999, but it was canceled in 2002. In 2007 the project was reactivated under the name of Kormoran II, and in 2013 the final contract with the shipyard was signed. In 2015 Kormoran was launched, and since then technical trials have been conducted.

Kormoran is a modern minehunter that is constructed of non-magnetic steel. It features a low noise profile and high maneuverability due to the two Voith Schneider propellers that combine propulsion and steering in one unit. The ship has a displacement of 850 tons. The crew size is 45 persons, and the maximum speed is 15 knots. It operates the Saab Double Eagle and Kongsberg’s Hugin 1000 MR autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).

The two next ships of the class are the Albatros and the Mewa which are expected to enter service in 2019 and 2022. The three ships will replace the old Krogulec-class ships built in the 1960s.

Russia struggles with air-independent submarines

Most modern submarines are built with air-independent propulsion (AIP), but Russia still has not been able to make it work. This means that Russia still builds Kilo-class submarines with a propulsion system that is technologically outdated.

A submarine without AIP needs to recharge the electrical batteries ever so often through a snorkel operation that puts the submarine in a vulnerable position where it can easily be discovered. Therefore, when Russia started to develop the Lada-class submarine in 1997 as a successor to the Kilo-class, AIP was the primary feature.

The Lada-class may overall be considered a fiasco, as the AIP system still doesn’t work. Only one Lada-class submarine has been built so far, and two more are underway, but they don’t have AIP which was supposed to be the defining feature of the class. And as is stands now, it seems a long way out before Russia will have AIP submarines that are not nuclear.

Sébastien Robin has this explanation in The National Interest about Russia’s troubles with AIP and the production of the Lada-class:

[In] 2013, Itar-Tass announced that work on the Lada class had resumed. However, actions speak louder than words. In the same time period, the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered six additional Improved Kilo Project 636.3 boats to serve in its Pacific fleet. Most experts agree that Russia simply wasn’t able to develop an effective AIP propulsion system, in part due to a pervasive lack of funding and a tendency to promise big new projects that frequently fail to materialize.

Though Russian officials have occasionally talked up the benefits of AIP-powered submarines, necessary research and development funding has been concentrated on two nuclear-powered submarine projects, the Yasen-class attack submarine and the Borei ballistic-missile submarine.

That is certainly a plausible explanation. The whole article is very well written.

Critical review of lessons from US warship collisions

The US Navy’s report on recent collisions of USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain fails to see the true shortcomings of seamanship and procedures.

We now have the official report regarding the collisions that led to the deaths of 17 sailors on the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain earlier this year. I have read the report, and some of the conclusions were so puzzling to me that I decided to make a critical review to come up with my own conclusions. I have done this on the basis of the report itself and this article in Defense News.

I have earlier been critical about the US Navy’s procedures and level of competence in the field of navigation and seamanship. The report about USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain only further deepens my distrust in the US Navy’s abilities. The performance of the crews on the two ships was appalling but the conclusions derived by the Department of the Navy are equally poor and raise serious questions about the ability of the Navy to learn from the incidents. …Continue reading