Capacity Building in North Africa

Photo: Maritime Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Joe Kelly, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, demonstrates tactical combat casualty care during a training session at Phoenix Express on March 26, 2019.
ARIF PATANI/U.S. NAVY

Stars and Stripes reports on Exercise Phoenix Express 2019 and apparently the Coast Guard was there. It makes sense because this, like Exercise Obangame Express, was a law enforcement capacity building exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). I have reproduced a Navy news release below.

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CASABLANCA, Morocco (NNS) — Exercise Phoenix Express 2019, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), concluded with a closing ceremony held at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center, April 6.

Phoenix Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

The complexity of today’s security environment and the interconnectedness of a global economy demand that we operate together to deter maritime threats,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Zirkle, Chief of Staff, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. “An effective global security strategy therefore must be collaborative in order to disrupt the flow of illicit trafficking and prevent the spread of violent extremism.”

This year’s exercise control group was hosted at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center located in Casablanca, Morocco with training taking place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters off the coast of northern African nations.

The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking. Additionally, forces participated in a port exercise (PORTEX), which incorporated Moroccan law enforcement into the scenario.

“Exercises like Phoenix Express are about working together to combat threats at-sea that impact safety and security ashore,” said Capt. Matthew Hawkins, U.S. exercise lead for Phoenix Express. “Our modern challenges are far too complex for any one nation to resolve and it is my hope that the scenarios practiced here and the addition of new training like the PORTEX are value added for all participants.”

“Many years after it started Phoenix Express has proven that regional cooperation is the best way to face maritime threats and issues,” said Royal Moroccan Navy Inspector General, Rear Admiral Mostapha El Alami. “AFRICOM and Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) have spent a lot of time, effort, and energy to bring together most of the maritime states in the Mediterranean basin in order to enhance military cooperation between them and allow them to work as one team.”

“Exercise Phoenix Express is the most enduring event of all the Express-series exercises. It incorporates complex scenarios, which evolve year over year just as the maritime threats we all face continue to evolve,” said Zirkle. “It is my sincere hope that your navies were enriched by this immensely valuable opportunity to operate together.”

Nations who participated in Phoenix Express 2019 included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States.

Phoenix Express, sponsored by AFRICOM and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

Greek and Turkish Coast Guards Collide

Greece and Turkey are both NATO, but they never gotten along very well. Apparently, they have been playing bumper boats and this 12 February 2018 incident is not the first time. The Turkish cutter is larger. We looked at her class earlier.  The Greek vessel was a Damen Stan Patrol 5509 (55 meters long and 9 metes of beam) offshore patrol vessel, which reportedly suffered significant damage to her hull. Here is a page that provides info on both classes,

As I said the Greeks and Turks have been going at each other for a while. The intentional collision below reportedly happened on January 17, 2018.

The video below was posted to YouTube May 8, 2016.

This incident occurred 24 Jan. 2014

Thanks to Luke for bringing this to my attention. 

 

Was Libya’s Sinking of a Tanker “Fake News?”

I have begun to suspect that the report of the Libyan Coast Guard sinking the Tanker GOEAST may have been more propaganda than reality.

Compare the Libyan video above with the video of USCGC ANACAPA sinking a much smaller derelict Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-Un Maru.

The Tanker was probably 20 times as large as the fishing vessel and had a crew on board and operating pumps to address flooding. USCGC ANACAPA began the operation at 13:00 and the RYOU-UN MARU sank at 18:15. It appears that the F/V may have been hit 100 times by 25mm projectiles, and at one point the ANACAPA used a hose to pour water into the fishing vessel.

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On the video, the Libyan patrol boat fires no more than 20 rounds from its 30mm and I believe it was less than 15. At no time was there sustained fire directed at the tanker. The longest burst was perhaps four rounds.

At the end of the video, the tanker is pumping water, but it is also upright with no significant list and it appears to be making way. I am positive the tanker is underway at least as late as five minutes into the five minute 44 second video.

Perhaps things happened later, but if they recorded the opening shots, it seems they would have recorded the sinking.

This might have been an attempt at deception by the Libyans to discourage smuggling.

It might have been that the patrol boat skipper had been instructed to sink the tanker, and when he failed, he lied about the result of the attack.

It may be that a government information officer simply assumed that because they fired at the ship, that it was sunk. Capsized and sunk does make a much better story than shot at, was annoyed, and sailed away.

It is not impossible the entire thing was theater staged with the cooperation of the tanker, although I think that very unlikely.

Certainly the tanker’s owners may have reasons not to debunk the story.

  • They don’t want to confirm they were smuggling.
  • The report may discourage competing smuggling organizations.
  • They may even rename and reflag the tanker and file a bogus insurance claim.

Certainly, there was nothing in the video to indicate that this ship was sunk.

A final note. The patrol boat is seen firing into both sides of the tanker. If you want to sink a ship, it is usually better to concentrate as much damage as possible on one side. It is more likely to make the ship list and ultimately capsize. As the list increases holes initially made above water start to submerge and take on water.

4.1 Miles–NY Times

New York Times has a video and story about the Greek Coast Guard on the Island of Lesbos and their effort to save refugees attempting the passage from Turkey to Greece.

You might want to watch the video on the New York Times site, because I think the sound is better than the YouTube video version I found and included above.

The film is an Oscar nominated short subject.

A total of 600,000 refugees reportedly made the crossing from 2015 through 2016.

US to Help Mediterranean Alien Migrant Interdiction

Reuters is reporting NATO is planning to expand their Migrant interdiction efforts, and the US will participate.

“NATO agreed on Thursday to broaden its operations in the Mediterranean to help the European Union stop criminals trafficking refugees from North Africa but will not act until the fate of rescued migrants is cleared up.”

The thing I found interesting was that reportedly the US provide a ship. Certainly there is a certain logic to using a Coast Guard ship for this mission, but it is unlikely. Not enough cutters. It is much more likely it will be done by Navy ships, that would be operating in the Mediterranean anyway, but it is almost certain that ship will have a Coast Guard team aboard.

 

Project 22160 patrol ships, Russia’s Cutter X

The Zelenodolsk Shipyard in the Volga area will lay down the third Project 22160 patrol ship Pavel Derzhavin on February 18, shipyard spokesman Andrei Spiridonov told TASS on Monday. "The shipyard will hold a solemn ceremony of laying down the Project 22160 patrol ship Pavel Derzhavin developed by the Severnoye Design Bureau in St. Petersburg [in northwest Russia]," the spokesman said.

Recently, NavyRecognition reported Russia was laying down a third Project 22160 patrol ship. The first of this class should enter service next year. In size they fall between the Offshore Patrol Cutter and the Webber class WPCs, in the range I have called “Cutter X.” The size (1200-1800 tons full load) seems to be favored by many navies and coast guards.These ships are a bit unusual among small Russian ships in having a substantial range.

Reportedly the Russians are building six of these. Specs are as follows:

  • Length: 94 meters (308 ft)
  • Beam: 14 meters (46 ft)
  • Draught: 3.4 meters (11.2 ft)
  • Speed: 30 knots
  • Range: 6,000 nmi
  • Endurance:  60 days
  • Crew: 80

At one point there was a public statement that these had been designed to counter piracy off the Horne of Africa. But it has been more recently reported that they will be quipped with Kalibr (Tomahawkski) land attack missiles, the type recently used by ships in the Caspian Sea to attack targets in Syria. The ship is “modular” and has a reconfigurable space under the rear of the flight deck. The missile will be mounted in containers under the flight deck. Adding anti-submarine or additional anti-ship capabilities would require trading off the Kalibr missiles.

The ship has a new naval gun mount incorporating a 57mm gun. The gun is reportedly capable of 300 rounds per minute and a range of 12 km. Effective range is about 4 km. This is a development of gun with a long history in Soviet and Russian Service in both anti-air and anti-armor roles, and as is frequently the case with Russian weapons, the ammunition is shared in common with the Russian Army.

In addition they will carry short range Anti-Air missiles. It appears they will be vertical launched from canisters between the gun and superstructure.

While these ships do not have a strong self defense capability, the mounting of cruise missiles similar to the Tomahawk on small vessels, particularly on one like this, that has a relatively long range, gives them a sort of miniature maritime strike capability, far less capable, but also far cheaper than a Carrier Strike Group. While the ships are small and the weapons unobtrusive, the potential to accurately strike up to eight separate targets would have required an attack by dozens of aircraft not too many years ago.

Apparently all six ships are to be assigned to the Black Sea Fleet and will be home ported in Novorossiysk.

Interestingly, it appears the Russians may also be building a similar size anti-submarine warfare ship. Again NavyRecognition has the report.