“From Chinese ambition to Saami tradition, an Arctic snapshot” –The Watch

A small-boat crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley medevacs a man from the Chinese research vessel Xue Long, 15 nautical miles from Nome, Alaska, in 2017

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, “The Watch,” reports on a conference on the Arctic. This is a follow-on to an earlier post.

The Watch report looks at China’s interests and roles in the Arctic and a perspective from a representative of indigenous peoples in the European Arctic.

“Fincantieri To Design And Build New Multirole OPV For Italian Coast Guard” –Naval News

The future multirole offshore patrol vessel (unità d’altura multiruolo) of the Italian Coast Guard.

Naval News reports the award of a contract for a new Italian CG cutter.

The order, which concludes the tender procedure and has a value of approximately 80 million euros, provides for the construction of a multirole OPV and the related temporary support services for a duration of 5 years. There is also an option for the construction of a further 2 vessels.

The Italian Coast Guard is a quarter the size of the US Coast Guard and is part of the Italian Navy. Historically, offshore Coast Guard functions were frequently performed by the Italian Navy. Their Coast Guard only began building larger specialized coast guard Offshore Patrol Vessels a little over a decade ago.

The new ship(s) appears generally similar to the two earlier Dattilo class OPVs commissioned in 2013 and 2014. At a reported 85 meters in length it will be about ten meters shorter. USCGC Hamilton exercised with a Dattilo class cutter during its European deployment back in April.

This and previous Italian OPVs appear to be derived from Offshore Support Vessel (OSV) practice. There is no indication of speed, but I would expect about 18 knots, this being the speed of previous Italian OPVs. All previous Italian OPVs had provision for taking containers aboard, so that also appears likely. There is no provision for a hangar. No mention is made of armament, but judging from the artist’s renderings and current Italian Coast Guard/Navy practice, it is likely to be an Leonardo Oto Melara/Oerlikon KBA 25 mm/80 remote weapon system which fires the same 25x137mm round as the Mk38 but at up to more than 550 rounds per minute supplemented by 7.62mm machine guns. Following previous practice, the new ship(s) is probably fitted for but not with the OTO Melara 76mm.

European Patrol Corvette

European Patrol Corvette

Defense News reports on the status of the European Patrol Corvette program.

We did talk about this program earlier. France, Italy, and Spain are already committed for a total of 20 ships and Greece is also expected to participate. It seems likely other will join the program.

These ships will perform many of the functions we associate with Coast Guard cutters, particularly in the case of the French Navy. The ships are close in size and general characteristics to the Offshore Patrol Cutters but will be better armed and slightly faster.

If the program continues to grow, this will be a relative large class and will all most certainly will be exported.

“Between 2009 and 2018, China produced 136 military ships, of which 11 were exported, he said, while two U.S. shipbuilders built 78 ships, of which six were exported. Twelve European yards produced 80 ships, of which 49 were for the export market…”

This is part of a movement to “rationalize” the European shipbuilding industry. Recently we have seen a move by Fincantieri and Navantia to increase cooperation. Ultimately this may effect US shipbuilding. Fincantieri owns Marinette Marine that builds the Freedom class LCS and that built USCGC Mackinaw, the 16 Juniper class WLBs, and the 14 Keeper class WLMs. Navantia has partnered with Bath Iron Works, to among other things offer a candidate for the Offshore Patrol Cutter.


Photo: Training Ship Tenacious under sail.

The Royal Navy reports,

For the first time in decades Royal Navy sailors are learning the art of seafaring on a traditional tall ship.

The use of the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s Tenacious is helping to plug the gap left by the closure of the Navy’s command and leadership school in the Brecon Beacons due to the pandemic.

“In a difficult period for Royal Navy training due to the pandemic, the use of the Jubilee Sailing Trust has allowed us to continue to provide top quality core leadership and team training in a maritime context,” said Commander Adrian Coulthard from the Navy’s training organisation.

Information on the ship here. Remarkably she is a wooden ship completed in 2000.

(Contrary to the claim in the Wikipedia article, she is not the largest wooden ship afloat, unless both USS Constitution and USS Constellation happen to be in dry dock at the same time.)

Exercise Tenacious Wave
Royal Navy sailors are setting sail on a traditional tall ship as part of Exercise TENACIOUS WAVE. Working in partnership with the Jubilee Sailing Trust, junior sailors are put to sea on Sailing Vessel Tenacious to continue their naval training.
This opportunity provides early exposure to maritime life, teaching about routines on board a ship and developing skills through a series of leadership exercises.

“U.S. Navy Reports On Arctic And North Atlantic” –Naval News

Official portrait of Admiral Burke as Commander NAVEUR-NAVAF

Naval News reports on a Webinar conducted by Admiral Robert Burke who is Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and Commander of Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples. Previously he served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He is a submariner. Sounds like he spent some time under the ice.

There is a lot here about the Arctic. Keep in mind he is talking primarily about the Atlantic side rather than the waters around Alaska. This is primarily about the Russian threat, but there are concerns about China as well.

Norway’s Coast Guard Jan Mayen-class vessel

Norway’s Coast Guard Jan Mayen-class vessel (Picture source: Vard)

We have some new information on Norway’s three new very large ice capable Arctic patrol ships. Naval News reports they will be equipped with inertial navigation systems and we have the artist’s concept above I had not seen previously.

“We’re very proud to be supporting the Norwegian Coast Guard in securing Norway’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), internal and territorial waters.”, states Regis Blomme, Sales Director at iXblue. “The arctic zone, in which the new vessels will operate, is a very challenging environment and our Fiber-Optic Gyroscope (FOG) based INS and Netans NDDCS have already proven to offer highly accurate, resilient, and secure navigation in such Northern latitudes. We particularly want to thank Vard for their strong vote of confidence in our technology and look forward to our collaboration with them.”

As we noted earlier,

“Deliveries of the three vessels are scheduled from Vard Langsten in Norway in 1Q 2022, 1Q 2023 and 1Q 2024 respectively. The hulls will be built at Vard’s Tulcea, Romania, shipyard…”

Specifications are:

  • Displacement: 9,800 tons
  • Length: 136.4 meters (447.4 ft) loa
  • Beam: 22 meters (72.16 ft)
  • Draft: 6.2 meter (20.3 ft)
  • Speed: 22 knots.

Note–VARD is also the designer for the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

Britain Does Things a Little Differently

Royal Navy’s new patrol vessel HMS Tamar is ready for action and will be based in Portsmouth. An offshore patrol vessel, similar in many respects to a Coast Guard cutter. (Picture source: Royal Navy)

Many other countries do not have a coast guard that serves as a maritime law enforcement agency. Their solutions for maritime law enforcement frequently fall on their navies. Recently Great Britain has seen a need for a change.

Thanks to Brymar Consulting for bringing this to my attention.

Published 17 December 2020, from Ministry of Defence

Statutory Instrument on Royal Navy Police enforcement powers

A Regulation has been introduced to the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to provide Royal Navy Police with enforcement powers as the transition period for Britain’s exit from the EU comes to an end.

The Ministry of Defence has laid a Statutory Instrument in Parliament to introduce a Regulation under the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This will provide Royal Navy Police with additional law enforcement powers as the transition period for Britain’s exit from the EU comes to an end. Additional powers would come into effect on Thursday 07 January 2021 and will apply to England and Wales territorial waters only.

The Government is determined to ensure the security of UK waters from a range of threats under all circumstances. Contingency work for the end of the EU Transition Period has identified that there may be an operational requirement to extend law enforcement powers to Royal Navy Police.

Royal Navy personnel already routinely conduct enforcement activity in UK waters and Royal Navy Police are specially trained to conduct a range of enforcement activity safely and in line with civilian policing procedures. Currently, any interventions at sea are joint operations between the police and military. However, the deployment of civilian police officers to a maritime incident may be impractical in some circumstances. Providing extra powers will give greater flexibility to authorities to act effectively.

Royal Navy Police will only use these powers if requested to do so by civilian police forces. No decisions on the use of enforcement will be taken independently by military personnel, and the new powers are only extended to Royal Navy Police, a specific branch of the Royal Navy with trained military police officers.

The extension of enforcement powers to Royal Navy Police will be reviewed in six months.

Bulgaria Selects Lürssen to Provide OPV with ASW and ASuW Capability

Lürssen 90 meter OPV

NavyRecognition reports that Bulgaria has approved the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) from the German firm Lürssen. This is the same company that designed OPVs for Australia and Brunei, but these will be different from the earlier ships.

“…the Bulgarian Navy has a requirement for two modular, multi-role patrol vessels, which would be capable of performing various types of tasks, such as anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.”

“According to local media, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has requested a ship that will be armed with one 76mm naval gun, anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, lightweight torpedos and close-in weapon systems for self-defence. The ship will also have a flight deck to accommodate a medium-sized helicopter.”

Lürssen’s descriptions of their OPV offerings make no mention of an ASW capability, but they do have space for containerized systems that might include some type of towed array sonar. Because of the capabilities required, along with the larger crew required to support them, I would assume that the chosen design is based on the larger 85 or 90 meter offerings. According to the company web site the 90 meter OPV is typically equipped with:

  • 1 X 76/62 COMPACT OR 1 X BOFORS 57 MK3
  • 4 X MM40 EXOCET OR 4 X RBS 15 MK3 OR 4 X NSM
  • 1 VLS MK56 OR RIM-116 RAM
  • ESM / ESM
  • IFF
  • LINK 11/16
  • 2 X 9 M RIB
  • 2 X 5,5 M RIB

(Bulgaria does already have Exocet and Sea Sparrow missiles in their inventory.)

Physical Characteristics are:

  • LENGTH: 90 M (295 ‘)
  • BEAM: 14 M (46′)
  • DRAUGHT: 3.5 M (11.5′)
  • CREW: 86 (+4 EMBARKED)
  • 6,300 KW  (8448 HP) (That should result in 21-22 knots–Chuck)

Bulgaria’s Navy is small but growing. They still have a lot of Soviet/Eastern Block equipment. Bulgaria’s coast is on the Black Sea. Other nations bordering the Black sea are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Of these Russia has the strongest naval presence.

No indication yet where the ships will actually be built.

A map showing the location of the Black Sea and some of the large or prominent ports around it. The Sea of Azov and Sea of Marmara are also labelled. Created by User:NormanEinstein, Wikipedia

“British Army drone to fly over English Channel to monitor migrant boats” –Independent

Thales Watchkeeper WK450

Like the US Coast Guard, the UK Border Force conducts Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations. They are reportedly getting some assistance from the British Army in the form of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) being used to patrol the English Channel.

The UAVs are Thales Watchkeeper WK 450s (manufacturer’s brochure here) an improved version of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 with the addition of a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication system, providing all weather target acquisition.

The Watchkeeper program has not been cheap, about 1.2 billion pounds to provide and support 54 drones, and it has had its problems. They were supposed to have been operational in 2010, but apparently only reached Initial Operational Capability in 2014. Five have crashed. Regarding the current fleet,

“45 Watchkeeper airframes were in service as at 23 July 2020. 13 have flown in the past 12 months and 23 have been in storage for longer than 12 months. Of those flying, 10 have been operated by the Army from Akrotiri in Cyprus and Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, three have been used for test and evaluation. The airframes in storage are held at specific, graduated, levels of readiness. This is commensurate with practices used on other Defence capabilities and assets.”

The airframes are:

  • Length: 19.69 ft (6 m)
  • Span: 34.45 ft (10.5 m)
  • Engine: Winkel rotary, 52 hp
  • Max Speed: 95 knots
  • Operational Radius: 200 km; 108 nm (Line of Sight)
  • Endurance: 16+ hours
  • Service ceiling 18,045 feet (5,500 m)

This means, it is about half the size of the familiar MQ-1 Predator, also a bit slower and their service ceiling is lower.

The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has selected Israel’s Elbit to demonstrate the capabilities of their larger Eblit Hermes 900 UAVs. which has capabilities similar to those of the MQ-1. Meanwhile the RAF is also flying surveillance over the English Channel.