More on China in the Arctic

Video: Russian nuclear powered icebreaker NS 50 Let Pobedy (Russian: 50 лет Победы), translated as 50 Years of Victory or Fiftieth Anniversary of Victory. The new Chinese Nuclear icebreaker will be similar in size.  

Some recent writings on China’s increasing interest in the Arctic caught my eye.

First there is this piece, “Opinion: China Is Joining the Rush for Arctic Riches.” by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis noting China’s apparent high level interest in the Arctic and its increasing military, political and economic alignment with Russia.

A wide ranging article from the Canadian Naval Review looks at “China’s Arctic Policy and its Potential Impact on Canada’s Arctic Security.” The author sees the roots of the Chinese policies in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) quest for legitimacy. As a result China has asserted “rights in respect of scientific research, navigation, overflight, fishing, laying of submarine cables and pipelines, … and rights to resource exploration and exploitation in the Area,” The author also suggests the Chinese see the Northern Sea Route as a way to avoid the US Navy’s potential blockage of the Straits of Malacca, but I cannot see that as a possibility, given the US possession of the Eastern half of the Bering Strait.

Lastly, some details about the new Chinese icebreaker have been reported by NavyRecognition. It is going to be very large.

“Next, came the official announcement that China intends to build a nuclear icebreaker. It will be 152 meters in length, 30 meters wide, and will displace 30,000 tons.”

Surface Navy Association 2019 –Virtual Attendance

Like many of you, I was unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Conference, but I did find a number of videos which may provide some of the information that would have been available there. The Coast Guard Commandant had been scheduled to speak but cancelled, apparently in response to the partial government shutdown.

I have provided three videos, each about ten minutes, that may be of general interest, and links to four others, typically 20-25 minutes. The descriptions are from their respective YouTube pages.

The second and third videos have specific Coast Guard content, which I have identified by bold typeface with the beginning time in parenthesis. Some of the other equipment may have Coast Guard applications in the future.

Day 1 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Austal latest frigate design for FFG(X)
– Raytheon DART Variable Depth Sonar (VDS)
– Raytheon / Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM)
– Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM)

Day 2 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium.
In this video we cover:
– Fincantieri Marine Group FREMM frigate design for FFG(X)
– General Dynamics NASSCO John Lewis-class T-AO (New Oiler)
– Raytheon SM-2 restart
– Raytheon SM-3
– Leonardo DRS Hybrid Electric Drive for U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) (time 11:10)

Day 3 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Atlas North America’s solutions for mine counter measures, harbor security and unmanned surface vessels
– Lockheed Martin Canadian Surface Combatant (Type 26 Frigate, Canada’s Combat Ship Team)
Insitu ScanEagle and Integrator UAS (time 4:30)
– Raytheon SPY-6 and EASR radar programs

NAVSEA’s Moore on Improving Ship Repair, McCain & Fitzgerald, Ford, LCS

Vice Adm. Tom Moore, USN, the commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, discusses US Navy efforts to increase public and private ship repair capabilities, lessons learned from repairing USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald, the new Ford-class aircraft carrier, getting the Littoral Combat Ship on regular deployments and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

GE Marine’s Awiszus on LM2500 Engine Outlook, Future Shipboard Power

George Awiszus, military marketing director of GE Marine, discusses the outlook for the company’s LM2500 engine that drives warships in more than 30 nations and the future of shipboard power with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Moran on Improving the Surface Force, Culture, Ship Repair & Information Sharing

Adm. Bill Moran, USN, the vice chief of naval operations, discusses dialogue with China, improving the surface force in the wake of 2017’s deadly accidents, refining Navy culture, increasing ship repair capabilities, harnessing data, improving information sharing across the force and the new Design for Seapower 2.0 with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Coffman on New Expeditionary Warfighting Concepts, Organizations, Unmanned Ships

Maj. Gen. David “Stretch” Coffman, USMC, the US Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare (N95), discusses new expeditionary warfighting concepts, the recent deployment of Littoral Combat Group 1 — composed of USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG-108) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) — to South America, new formations to replace the current Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit, unmanned ships, the performance of the F-35B Lightning II and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian.

New Assets for Canada’s CG on the West Coast/Other News from Canada

McIntyre Bay and Pachena Bay loaded on the Atlantic Raven

The Canadian Coast Guard is getting some new assets. They are getting two new 62 foot Motor Lifeboats that will be stationed at Port Hardy BC, on the NE tip of Vancouver Island, and Bella Coola, about half way up the British Columbia coast.

They are being transported on the newly leased Atlantic Raven, seen above, which will join its sister, the Atlantic Eagle. They will serve as Emergency towing vessels.

The two larger vessels are expected to be homeported in British Columbia. The Atlantic Eagle in Victoria and the Atlantic Raven in Prince Rupert near the border with SE Alaska

According to Naval Today,

One will patrol a northern area in Canadian waters between Alaska and the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and the other a southern area including the west side of Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They will also be available to conduct search and rescue operations and support environmental responses, when required.


Canada has dispatched a RCAF C-146 search and rescue helicopter to assist local authorities in dealing with the fires in California.

Thanks to Ken for bringing these two developments to my attention


Late note: CCGS Corporal McLaren, a 140 foot cutter similar to the Webber class, slid from it cradle into the water at Sambro, Nova Scotia shipyard. The stern is under water. Vandalism is suspected.

Thanks to Walter Y. for bringing this to my attention. 

Canada’s New 62 foot Motor Lifeboat

Canada is building twelve large, relatively fast, self-righting Motor Lifeboats. These are the “Bay” class and the first are now making an appearance.

Reportedly they will be “capable of safe operation in extreme weather up to Beaufort Force 12 conditions and are able to survive in 12 meter (40 foot) seas.”

This again brings to mind the fact that at some point we will need to replace the four 52 foot MLBs and we may also want to use the replacement class in other areas where exceptional seakeeping and longer range than the 47 footers is desirable. We did discuss this possibility earlier including some other alternatives and got lots of comments.

Chantier Naval Forillon and Hike Metal were awarded contracts totaling $89.2 million (Candian presumably, about $67.5M USD–Chuck} to build twelve of the new SAR lifeboats.

These self-righting, 20-meter (65.6 ft–Chuck) boats are powered by a pair of MTU 1600 HP marine Diesel engines providing a speed of up to 24 knots in extreme weather conditions. These vessels are primarily a day boat and will be operated by a crew of up to five Coast Guard seamen.

The vessel’s particulars are as follows:

  • Length overall: 19.0 metres
  • Length DWL: 17.5 metres
  • Beam, moulded: 6.3 metres
  • Depth, moulded, at midship: 2.58 metres
  • Hull draft, nominal: 1.67 metres
  • Power: 2,400 kW
  • Speed: 23.5 kts

CBP Intercepts Canadian Fishing Boats in Disputed Waters

We have a Canadian report (actually more than one) that Customs and Border Protection marine units are intercepting, boarding, and questioning Canadian fishermen in a disputed area in the vicinity of Machias Seal Islandabout 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island and east of Maine.

In the past two weeks, at least 10 Canadian fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents while fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, a spokesman for the fishermen says.

According to the report, “They’re in international waters, so border patrol shouldn’t be boarding Canadian vessels.”

Additionally it is reported the agents were asking questions about illegal immigrants. You have to appreciate the Canadians’ sense of humor.

The suggestion that the border agents were looking for illegal immigrants seems improbable, he said.

“That’s possible, but … the Gulf of Maine is not a major route for illegal immigrants sneaking into the United States,” Kelly said. “If anything, people are sneaking the other way. They’re trying to get out of the U.S. and into Canada to claim asylum.”

There is an angrier sounding report here.

 

“Canada taps Davie for three AHTS-conversion medium icebreakers”–Marine Log

Projresolvbig

Our resident icebreaker expert, Tups, told us in a comment this was coming. Marine Log confirms the official announcement.

“On behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard, Public Services and Procurement Canada has issued an Advanced Contract Award Notice (ACAN) to shipbuilder Chantier Davie of Lévis, Quebec, for the acquisition and conversion of three medium commercial icebreakers.

“… The three candidate ships proposed by Project Resolute for this role are the Viking Supply Ships AB vessels Tor Viking II, Balder Viking and Vidar Viking.

There was an earlier proposal to lease these three ships and the icebreaking anchor handling vessel Aiviq, but these three will be purchased and there is no mention of the Aiviq in the announcement.

Based on the accompanying illustration, conversion will add a helo deck and hangar. These ships are 82 meters (276 ft) in length, 18 m (59 ft) of beam, and 18,300 HP.

The first of these is expected to go to work this winter.

Canadian SAR Helos

RCAF EHI CH-149 Cormorant. Photo by John Davies

The Canadian Coast Guard does not operate SAR aircraft the way the USCG does. Canadian SAR aircraft are operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). They have a fleet of 14 AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) helicopters. According to Wikipedia,

In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based on the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.

In 2017, the Liberal government announced funding for the mid-life upgrade of the fleet, to be led by ‘Team Cormorant’, a team composed of Leonardo Helicopters and IMP Aerospace and Defense. Estimated at around C$1.5bn, the programmes will offer a common fleet featuring latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars and sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems as well as a new 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) GE CT7-8E engine. On May 10, 2017, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended the government move forward with a proposal to expand the Cormorant fleet by upgrading the 14 CH-149 aircraft and converting seven VH-71 airframes currently in storage to the same operational capability. This would expand the Cormorant fleet to 21 aircraft, and keep them operational until 2040. All of the upgraded helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2024.

But now Defense News reports that Sikorsky will be offering the civilian version of their S-92 (known as the CH-148 in Canada) claiming to be “more affordable at acquisition and thoughout the entirety of the lifecycle.”

These helicopters are larger than the USCG MH-60 Jayhawks (empty weight 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)/max take-off weight  21,884 lb (9,926 kg))

  • Sikorsky S-92 (empty weight 15,500 lb (7,030 kg)/max take-off weight 27,700 lb (12,568 kg))
  • CH-149 (empty weight 23,149 lb (10,500 kg)/max take-off weight 32,187 lb (14,600 kg))

The RCAF has already begun operating the CH-148 as a replacement for 50 year old SeaKing (H-3) helicopters. Navy Recognition reports a navalized ASW variant of the S-92, has recently completed a series of test with the Canadian Navy, operating day and night from Canadian frigates HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax (12% larger than the National Security Cutter) in up to and including Sea State Six seas.

Key among the design features for the Cyclone, Sikorsky engineered:

a retractable probe on the belly of the aircraft to more securely cinch the 29,300-lb. Cyclone to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states;
a ground support tool with an articulating arm that, with the Recovery, Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system, allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.

This program was plagued by developmental delays and may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Canadian procurement personnel, but there would be undoubted advantages in operating a common type of helicopter.

A decision is expected soon.