divendres, 28 de febrer de 2014

PANAMA, "kriegspiel" autour du canal*

14 février
Par Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, chercheur à l’IRIS

Il y aura peut-être bientôt un nouveau scandale de Panama. Un scandale révélateur comme le précédent de nouveaux rapports de force. Hier, à la fin du XIXe siècle, il s’agissait de la France et des Etats-Unis. Aujourd’hui c’est l’Espagne qui est au cœur d’un nouveau drame géopolitique, avec toujours les Etats-Unis, mais aussi la Chine, le Brésil et bien d’autres puissances montantes.

Panama, a fait rêver les navigateurs, voyageurs et commerçants, depuis cinq siècles. Le rêve a pris parfois les couleurs du drame. Les grands de ce monde ont bataillé pour contrôler tout ou partie de l’isthme. L’Espagne, en dépit de grignotages britanniques, a occupé l’Amérique centrale pendant quatre siècles. Simon Bolivar, libérateur des Amériques, voulait en faire le centre du monde. L’isthme a été disputé par Anglais et Etasuniens tout au long du XIXe siècle. Les Français ont essayé de les départager en fin de période. Les Nord-Américains ont raflé la mise en 1903 et construit à Panama un canal transocéanique ouvert au trafic maritime en 1914. La Russie soviétique, cinquante ans plus tard, a mis son grain de sel. Avec Cuba, elle a tenté de prendre pied au Nicaragua et au Salvador cinquante ans plus tard.

La fin de la guerre froide avait apaisé les appétits rivaux semblait-il. Elle avait fabriqué une paix régionale en dominos, du Nicaragua au Salvador, en passant par le Guatemala. Les Etats-Unis avaient démantelé leurs bases militaires et rendu le canal aux Panaméens en 1999. Les enjeux de la puissance, et des rivalités internationales, glissaient plus à l’Est vers le Golfe arabo-persique avant de se focaliser sur l’Asie du Sud-est. L’isthme rendu à sa fonction de couloir allait être oublié du monde pendant quelques années. Les aléas de la compétition économique mondiale, exacerbée par la crise occidentale, les ambitions d’Etats latino-américains ayant gagné en assurance, le regard invasif des Asiatiques sont en train d’éveiller de nouvelles concurrences. L’isthme en général et Panama en particulier, sont vus comme une jugulaire articulant divers espaces économiques majeurs. L’intuition de Bolivar a été réactualisée par le dynamisme du commerce maritime, entre Asie et Amériques, Amériques et Europe, Afrique, Proche-Orient et Pacifique américain.

Les pièces d’un kriegspiel centrées sur Panama se sont successivement mises en place de façon accélérée. La réactivation économique latino-américaine, le dynamisme croissant du commerce avec la Chine et ses voisins asiatiques, ont eu comme première conséquence, la décision prise par Panama de moderniser un canal vieux de prés d’un siècle. C’était en 2009. L’appel d’offre visant à créer de nouveaux jeux d’écluses permettant le passage de bateaux gros porteurs, de 15 à 20 mètres de tirant d’eau et 366 mètres de long, a été gagné par un consortium conduit par une entreprise de BTP espagnole, Sacyr. Le secteur sinistré en Espagne depuis 2008 poussait les sociétés de travaux publics à une agressivité commerciale croissante. Le gros œuvre, selon le contrat signé à ce moment là avec l’Autorité du canal de Panama, devait être achevé en 2015.

Cette décision accompagnait une conjoncture restant orientée au vert, marquée par la montée en puissance des échanges maritimes. Panama, a bénéficié de ce climat, tout comme de la récupération des installations cédées par les Etats-Unis en décembre 1999. Sa croissance annuelle a été de l’ordre de 7 à 10% pendant la période. Cet argent a été investi dans l’amélioration d’infrastructures annexes, routes, transports ferroviaires urbains. D’autres acteurs internationaux sont alors entrés dans le jeu. Certains ont offert leurs services pour emporter des marchés locaux. Le Japon a ainsi proposé le plan de financement d’une ligne de métro. D’autres ont anticipé la réorganisation du trafic maritime, et son effet d’entrainement sur la politique d’embargo des Etats-Unis à l’égard de Cuba. Les ports de Houston et Miami ont engagé de grands travaux de modernisation. Et tout en face, à Mariel près de La Havane, le Brésil a financé et construit un énorme port de redistribution de conteneurs, au cœur d’une zone franche. Le Mexique qui avait oublié la région, depuis une dizaine d’années, a annulé 70% des dettes cubaines à son égard. Le Mexique est prés de signer un accord de libre échange avec Panama. Le président, Enrique Peña Nieto, a mis l’accélérateur sur une coalition régionale mise en œuvre par son pays, l’Alliance du Pacifique. Le Costa-Rica a annoncé le 10 février 2014, son intention de rejoindre cette organisation. Panama devrait bientôt suivre.

Les émergents asiatiques sont à l’affût. La Turquie négocie un accord de libre-échange avec le Costa-Rica. Elle envisage l’ouverture d’ambassades au Costa-Rica et à Panama. Le Président chinois, Xi Jinping, a visité la région en juin 2013, une région traditionnellement favorable au frère ennemi taïwanais. Le Costa-Rica, qui préside la CELAC (la Communauté des pays d’Amérique latine et de la Caraïbe)en 2014, a signé avec la RPC une batterie d’accords bilatéraux à portée commerciale. Les entreprises chinoises ont multiplié les offres visant à doubler ou tripler dans un esprit concurrentiel les couloirs transocéaniques. Une entreprise chinoise, CHEC (Chinese Habor Engineering Company), a signé un traité visant à construire un canal sec, une voie ferrée au Honduras, d’Atlantique au Pacifique. Une autre, HKND, a négocié et fait adopter en un temps record par le Nicaragua une sorte de traité inégal, accordant à un financier chinois le droit de construire un canal transocéanique et de devenir le propriétaire des terres adjacentes.

La voiture serait-elle allée trop vite ? Les travaux d’élargissement du canal sont aujourd’hui en effet interrompus. Le consortium conduit par l’espagnol Sacyr s’est déclaré incapable de terminer les travaux. 70% du gros œuvre est pourtant achevé. Mais à cause peut-être de cela, Sacyr et ses associés belges et italiens, demandent à l’Autorité du canal une rallonge correspondant à un tiers de l’appel d’offre pour terminer le chantier. Les Chinois restent mobilisés du Honduras au Nicaragua, comme les Brésiliens à Cuba. Mais ce sont les Etats-Unis qui ont tapé du poing sur la table, début février 2014, et exigé une reprise des travaux dans les plus brefs délais.

Cette réaction nord-américaine est dans l’ordre des textes et des rapports de force. Le traité de rétrocession du canal donne aux Etats-Unis un droit de co-regard. Ils en restent d’autre part les premiers utilisateurs. Ils sont logiquement les premiers intéressés à sa modernisation. Le gouvernement espagnol qui est très dépendant des marchés extérieurs, et plus particulièrement de ceux d’Amérique latine, a envoyé sur place l’un de ses ministres. Ce fiasco entrepreneurial vient après bien d’autres. La crise économique a sensiblement réduit la voilure de l’Espagne. Déjà en novembre 2013 la dernière conférence ibéro-américaine, qui se tenait à Panama, avait été boudée par un très grand nombre de chefs d’Etat latino-américains. Ils étaient en revanche tous à Cuba fin janvier 2014 pour assister au deuxième sommet de la Communauté des Etats de l’Amérique latine et de la Caraïbe.

A l’image de l’Espagne, l’Europe a mal pris la marche panaméenne. La France accuse de façon récurrente Panama d’être un paradis fiscal depuis 2010. Panama a menacé de réviser les grands contrats signés avec des entreprises françaises. L’Union européenne a négocié en 2012 des accords commerciaux avec les pays de la zone qui ne sont pas encore ratifiés. Bruxelles a par ailleurs signalé en janvier 2014 une révision de sa politique à l’égard de Cuba. Certes les jeux sont loin d’être faits. Mais rien ne va plus…

* Notícia publicada a Affaires Strategiques. En vista a anàlisis com aquesta, l'Estat espanyol hauria de pensar-se si pot seguir actuant a l'exterior com actua a casa.

dijous, 27 de febrer de 2014

NATO Tested Submarine Capacities in Dynamic Mongoose-14*

21/02/2014 Exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE 14
NATO Tested Submarine Capacities in Dynamic Mongoose-14

BERGEN, Norway - NATO’s submarine warfare Exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE 2014 (DMON 14) concluded today off the coast of Norway, as the ships, submarines, aircraft, and personnel from eight participating Allied nations wrapped up the simulations and began to take stock of the lessons the exercise provided for future operations.

Rough weather provided a challenging environment for the participants, who were given the opportunity to train for a variety of high end maritime warfighting skills. During the exercise, the participating surface ships also had the opportunity to conduct the difficult manoeuvres involved in replenishment-at-sea (RAS) training.

Submarines from Portugal, Norway and France, under operational control of Commander Submarines NATO (COMSUBNATO), and surface ships from Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Poland under the command of Standing NATO Maritime Group ONE (SNMG-1) Commodore Nils Andreas Stensønes simulated combat against one another in a stressful multi-threat environment.

The increasingly challenging exercise scenario incorporated several warfighting areas, including submarine detection, tracking and engagements of surface units and other submarines, aircraft detection, tracking and attacking of submarines, as well as naval task groups escorting high value units and protecting them from the submarine threat. The exercise challenged participants’ ability to seamlessly integrate multinational forces, including submarines, ships and aircraft into a coherent fighting force.

“During this exercise, SNMG-1 has grown from two to a task group of ten vessels. This demonstrates how the group can seamlessly integrate vessels from Allied nations and expand in accordance with the demands of the current situation,” said Commodore Stensønes. “The contributions from all the nations have been outstanding. I believe we have made a significant step forward in anti-submarine warfare capability, as single units, as an integrated task group with ships and aircraft and as a task force.”

Maritime Patrol Aircraft and helicopters operating from Sola Air Base under operational command of NATO Maritime Air Command (COMMARAIR) added to the complexity and realism of the training by incorporating the air element of anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

“We appreciate the excellent host nation support Norway provided for ships, submarines, and aircraft from Haakonsvern Navy Base in Bergen and Air Station Sola in Stavanger. This is an ideal venue for such exercises, and our Norwegian Allies are superb hosts,” said Rear Admiral Bob Kamensky, COMSUBNATO. “Moreover, the contribution of all participating units and personnel from Norway, Portugal, Poland, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States provided a great opportunity for all units to test and hone their skills, equipment and tactical procedures in such a complex war environment.”

* Notícia publicada al web de l'OTAN. Els exercicis seriosos, especialment de submarins, són tota un bon fonament de dissuasió.

Rússia seeks several military bases abroad*

MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is planning to expand its permanent military presence outside its borders by placing military bases in a number of foreign countries, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.
Shoigu said the list includes Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.
“The talks are under way, and we are close to signing the relevant documents,” Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
The minister added that the negotiations cover not only military bases but also visits to ports in such countries on favorable conditions as well as the opening of refueling sites for Russian strategic bombers on patrol.
Moscow currently has only one naval base outside the former Soviet Union – in Tartus, Syria, but the fate of this naval facility is uncertain because of the ongoing civil war in that country.
Post-Soviet Russia closed a large naval base in Vietnam and a radar base in Cuba in 2002 due to financial constraints.
However, Russia has started reviving its navy and strategic aviation since mid-2000s, seeing them as a tool to project the Russian image abroad and to protect its national interests around the globe.
Now, Moscow needs to place such military assets in strategically important regions of the world to make them work effectively toward the goal of expanding Russia’s global influence.

*Notícia publicada a RIA Novosti. Sembla que Rússia ja té gorja avall que perdrà les bases a la Mediterrània/ Mar Negre i busca alternatives.

dimarts, 25 de febrer de 2014

Russian Navy’s Lada-class submarine to feature advanced quiet propulsion*

The Russian Navy will install advanced ultra-quiet propulsion system on the first Lada-class attack submarine within the next three years, the Russian naval commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov said.
RIA Novosti cited Chirkov as saying that the latest generation attack submarine will be integrated with the air-independent system by 2016 aimed to improve the submarine's range and stealth capabilities.
Being developed at the northern Sevmash shipyard, the new air-independent power plants enable submarines to stay submerged for weeks at a time, while providing significant advantages over diesel-electric submarines.
"The new air-independent power plants enable submarines to stay submerged for weeks at a time."
Following more than a decade of construction and sea trials, only operational Lada-class submarine, Sankt-Petersburg (B-585), entered into service with the Russian Navy four years ago.
Being built by Admiralty Shipyard, the Lada-class submarines are improved version of the Project 636 Kilo-class submarines, featuring much quieter, powerful propulsion and new combat systems.
The submarines can support missions such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (AsuW) operations, protection of naval bases, reconnaissance and patrol missions.
With submerged displacement capacity of 2,700t, the vessels have a maximum diving depth of 300m and can cruise at a surface speed of 10k and submerged speed of 21k.
The Russian Rubin Design Bureau-designed Lada-class boats are armed with club-S submarine launched cruise missiles, as well as six 533mm torpedo tubes to launch up to 18 torpedoes, tube-launched anti-submarine and anti-ship missiles.
Capable of defending naval bases, coastal waters and sea communication lines, the submarine features electronic support measures (ESM) system, radar warning receiver and direction finder.


* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. Cal seguir molt de prop l'evolució de la classe Lada, si la classe Kilo ja era ( i és) temuda pel seu silenci, què podem esperar de la següent generació?

German supply ship gives navy peek at new design*


FGS Bonn in Halifax harbour giving sailors, officers a look at the future of Canadian supply ships
Feb 21, 2014 4:17 PM AT
The German navy has pulled into Halifax with its latest warship to give Canadian sailors a sneak peek at what they can expect within a few years.
The Canadian government has bought the blueprints for the Federal German Ship Bonn and the navy is hoping a promise to supply two to three of the joint support ships (JSS) comes through by 2018.
 
Fregattenkapitan Bjorn Laue, is the commander of the 20,000-tonne supply ship FGS Bonn.(CBC)

The navy's quest for new supply ships has been a lengthy voyage, subject to dramatic course changes and even sudden reversals.
In the early summer of 2013, the federal government announced it was buying the blueprints of an existing supply ship from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada.
Construction on the new vessels, based on a German design, will begin in late 2016 with an in-service target of 2019 to 2020 — almost two years later than the last estimate contained in the spring of 2012 federal budget.
That delay could mean the navy's existing supply ships are removed from service before the new ones arrive. That might force Canadian warships to rely on other allies for fuel and ammunition when deployed overseas.
Canadian sailors are previewing the FGS Bonn, because they'll be working on vessels similar to it in the future.
"The Canadian JSS team asked us to come here so they can show the sailors and officers what they will get in a few years,'' the Bonn's commander, Fregattenkapitan Bjorn Laue, told CBC News in an interview aboard the 20,000-tonne supply ship.

Ships to carry food and fuel

The dark grey hull of FGS Bonn sticks out at the navy's dockyard on the Halifax waterfront — not just because of its distinctly un-Canadian navy colour, but also because of its huge size.
The Bonn looks like a merchant ship, complete with large cranes that can easily lift any two of the 73 sea containers the ship can carry. Large platforms, or gantries, hold heavy lines that can pump fuel into warships sailing on either side of the Bonn.
The ship can also carry two to four helicopters and a mini-hospital, built into several sea containers, can be lashed to the deck.
"It was a originally a kind of merchant design but changed for the military," said Laue.
Despite its merchant ship beginnings, the military ships are armed.
"Yes. We have some small guns," said Laue.
Unlike a merchant ship, the Bonn has four 27-mm automatic cannons and Stinger surface-to-air missiles to protect it from missile and aircraft attacks.
FGS Bonn is only lightly armed because it’s not a fighting ship. Its main mission is to supply destroyers and frigates at sea with fuel, ammunition and food.

Aging vessels banned from some waters

Canada's navy is now supplied by two aging vessels that are approaching five decades of delivering food and fuel to the fleet.
HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver are banned from travelling into the home waters of many countries because the ships have single hulls that could allow fuel to spill into the sea if they were damaged.
The new JSS ships, dubbed the Queenston class by the federal government, will have double hulls that would better contain fuel if the ship runs aground or is damaged in battle.
Despite a firm commitment and projected funding from the federal government, the procurement of JSS ships has been rough over the years.
The JSS project started in 2004 with a promise of supplying the navy with two or three all-Canadian designed, state-of-the-art vessels. Those ships were to have the capability of  ferrying hundreds of soldiers and their equipment to a potential hot spot and landing them ashore. The Queenston class doesn't have that feature.
The 2004 JSS vessels should now be in the Canadian fleet but the program was put on hold in 2008 because of rising costs. There is a fear in the navy that any more delays might mean the fleet would be without any supply ships while it waits for the German-designed, Canadian built vessels.
But the German ambassador to Canada says not to worry.
"The Canadian supply ships can be used until 2018 and that leaves plenty of time to build the new ships,'' German Ambassador Werner Wnendt told CBC News in an interview aboard the Bonn.
The Queenston-class ships are part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and will be built by the Vancouver Shipyards in British Columbia.


* Notícia publicada al web de CBC News. Interessant notícia, no només pel Canadà, sinó per recordar que Alemanya, amb discreció, torna a estar capacitada per operacions marítimes a escala global.

dijous, 20 de febrer de 2014

Submarines in Southeast Asia: Proliferation, Not a Race*





In early January this year, Vietnam formally joined the Southeast Asian “submarine club” with its first Russian-built Kilo-class submarine christened the Hanoi. Not too long ago, Jakarta expressed interest in acquiring the same model of submarines from Russia or more boats from South Korea, ostensibly to augment the incoming new fleet of three SS-209 boats purchased from South Korea back in August 2012. Just recently in November 2013, Singapore contracted German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp to develop the Type-218SG, the first of two boats slated to enter service in 2020.
Other Southeast Asian countries have evinced interest in acquiring an undersea warfighting capability, but were prevented from doing so largely because of budgetary constraints. In the case of Thailand, even though no submarines were bought after the German offer of second-hand Type-206A boats lapsed in March 2012, the Royal Thai Navy has reportedly constructed submarine basing support and training facilities in anticipation of future acquisitions. The Philippine Navy has been eyeing submarines but for now, decided to prioritize the use of limited funds to beef up surface and naval aviation forces, with anti-submarine warfare capabilities tipped as the next major focus to substitute for a submarine capability.

A “Submarine Race” in Southeast Asia?
This recent spate of submarine acquisitions being implemented or planned has characterized Southeast Asian naval modernization efforts to date, which could lead to observers highlighting the revival of a “submarine race” in the region after the bout of submarine purchases made in the 1990s to early-2000s. A superficial survey of open remarks by the region’s defense and naval planners seemed to allude to this. For example, Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro reportedly remarked that the submarine purchase, among other defense equipment, is designed to signal Jakarta’s commitment towards Indonesian defense modernization so that “we can keep up with ASEAN members.” Bangkok referred to the submarine programs of neighboring Southeast Asian navies when it emphasized the need for submarines as part of the country’s naval capabilities.
However, technical and geopolitical indications point to neither the existence of a “submarine race” nor the prospective emergence of such a phenomenon in the foreseeable future. Any negative effects of submarine proliferation in Southeast Asia appear to be at least counterbalanced by rising trends of regional cooperation in the submarine field.

Key Patterns in Submarine Capabilities
While there are evident efforts among regional submarine operators to look beyond a mere “fleet-in-being” force to create a more effective and sustainable force to guard their national waters, there are no indications of a rapid expansion of submarine forces. The Vietnamese submarine force will number six boats by 2016 while the Indonesians will muster three new submarines around the same time, whereas the existing pair of West German-built Type-209s will most likely be decommissioned. With the progressive phasing out of the ageing Challenger-class boats by then, Singapore will most likely have just two Archer-class submarines in service before the first Type-218SG is inducted. In short, the number of submarines in service throughout Southeast Asia will remain more or less stable within the next decade, with new boats supplanting old ones for existing submarine users while any expansion will take place over a significant span of time, primarily dependent on the countries’ economic health.

There is also no indication of a qualitative submarine race. When Singapore became the first Southeast Asian navy to introduce submarines with the air-independent propulsion (AIP), designed to prolong the underwater endurance of conventional submarines with reduced need for snorkeling, the consequent submarine buys of the other regional navies did not include that capability in response. The only area where there is some “catching up with the Joneses” has been submerged-launch anti-ship missiles. The Royal Malaysian Navy’s Scorpene-class submarines touted the region’s first such capability in the form of SM-39 Exocet, followed by Vietnam with the Klub-S, while Indonesia’s intent to purchase Kilo boats from Russia is intricately linked to a similar capability. In fact, new conventional submarines on the global market are typically offered with submerged-launch anti-ship missiles as an optional part of the entire sales package. This is an international trend in contemporary proliferation of submarine technologies, by no means unique to Southeast Asia. Navies in the Northeast and South Asian sub-regions have in fact long possessed such a capability.
Submarine-launched cruisemissiles (SLCM) for land attack purposes, however, represent a wholly different ballgame. Such weapons are potentially destabilizing, especially when launched from a platform as stealthy as a submarine, since they can project offensive firepower at standoff ranges deep into another country’s territory. It is noteworthy that whereas other major navies in the region have either acquired or explored the SLCM option, at present no Southeast Asian navy is seriously considering this capability. Another point is that none of the ASEAN member states is partner to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which restricts proliferation of missiles (and associated technologies) with a 500-kilogram payload out to a minimum range of 300 kilometers.

It is not yet ascertained whether the Kilo boats, which Indonesia is reportedly keen to purchase, will be armed with SLCM, such as the Klub-S land-attack variant. Scant information has emerged thus far regarding the capabilities of the Type-218SG. Nevertheless, SLCM is unlikely to appear on the future wish-lists of Southeast Asian navies unless serious evolution of geopolitical circumstances compels the introduction of such a weapon into the region. For now and the foreseeable future, AIP and submerged-launch anti-ship missiles constitute key submarine capability patterns in Southeast Asia.

The Geopolitical Underpinnings
Perhaps more crucial is that a “submarine race” – embodying the classical, arms-tension spiral consequences – emerging within a political void looks unlikely. The geopolitical environment in Southeast Asia has never been as benign as it has over the past decade or so. The region was once fraught with maritime territorial and sovereignty disputes, but since the early 2000s, Southeast Asian countries have amicably resolved most of the pressing maritime disputes through international law proceedings. The Sipadan and Ligitan Islands and the Pedra Branca islet disputes are examples. Maritime boundary issues are also addressed bilaterally, for instance the agreement reached in 2011 between Indonesia and Vietnam to jointly determine common fishing corridors in their overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Bilateral technical working groups continue to discuss outstanding maritime boundary issues, as seen in the case of Indonesia and Singapore in the Singapore Strait, and between Malaysia and Singapore concerning the post-2008 International Court of Justice verdict on the Pedra Branca. The various General Border Committees established back in the early years of ASEAN continue to be active in addressing common bilateral border issues, including areas of territorial contention and EEZ jurisdictional problems.

Since the last reported naval incident in the disputed Ambalat offshore oil block in the Sulawesi Sea between the Indonesian and Malaysian naval patrols in 2009, there had been no other reported instances of close encounters among Southeast Asian navies in disputed maritime zones. This tranquil situation looks set to persist, especially given that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has reiterated in recent years its commitment towards a community, a geopolitical construct that envisions refrain from the threat or use of force against fellow ASEAN member states. Moreover, in the context of regional uncertainties arising from ongoing geopolitical problems, for instance disputes in the East and South China Seas, ASEAN strives to retain its relevance as the driver of the regional security architecture. The threat or use of force among ASEAN member states would be regarded as antithetical to this objective.

Rising Trends of Concord Over Discord
While submarines feature prominently within the overall scheme of Southeast Asian naval modernization efforts, often overlooked is the recent intensification of cooperation among regional navies. Indonesia and Singapore established a submarine rescue and cooperation agreement back in 2012, followed by an equivalent pact between Singapore and Vietnam in 2013. These bilateral efforts augment existing multilateral arrangements in the region, such as Exercise Pacific Reach – a multinational submarine rescue exercise since 2000 – and the Asia-Pacific Submarine Conference (APSC) which first began in 2001 as a platform designed to promote cooperation and mutual trust among submarine operators and aspiring ones in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Considering the operationally sensitive nature of submarine operations, these gradual, incremental steps are noteworthy. They can facilitate the creation of wider multilateral participation and institutionalized cooperative arrangements in the future, modelling on foreign examples such as the NATO Submarine Escape and Rescue Working Group (SMERWG).

With more submarine operators entering the scene, which means more submarines roaming the waters of Southeast Asia, the risk of underwater accidents is also multiplied. This calls for a further conceptualization of regional submarine rescue cooperation.

Prospects for Further Submarine Cooperation

Because submarine operations are much more hazardous for naval servicemen, a rescue capability is necessary. The recent mishap revolving around the Indian Navy submarine INS Sindhurakshak highlighted the necessity of a submarine rescue capability which is, however, expensive to obtain, operate and maintain. Rudimentary submarine rescue capabilities, such as a basic diving bell lowered by the rescue vessel onto the submarine escape hatch, are limited by sea conditions and depth. Modern submarine rescue techniques encompass the use of more robust equipment such as a mobile diving bell, or more commonly deep-submergence rescue vehicles (DSRVs) – essentially mini-submarines designed to mate with the submarine in distress and transport submariners to the rescue ship. DSRVs and their operations are more complex to handle than diving bells. The entire package – the “mother ship” and its DSRV payload, trained personnel and supporting infrastructure altogether – may entail costs beyond the reach of many regional navies’ budgets.

To date, in Southeast Asia only Singapore operates a DSRV-type submarine rescue capability. Malaysia has in recent years expressed the intent to acquire a similar capability but is apparently prevented from proceeding with procurement due to a lack of funds. Nonetheless, the bilateral agreements reached with Indonesia and Vietnam indicated intra-regional attempts to share naval expertise and resources, at least until more submarine-operating regional navies acquire their own submarine rescue capabilities. The role of extra-regional navies cannot be discounted, given that the Australian, Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and U.S. naval forces all possess full-fledged submarine rescue capabilities. An Asia-Pacific submarine rescue framework, perhaps emulating NATO’s SMERWG, can be established on the basis of existing arrangements such as Pacific Reach and APSC. This is an interim arrangement after all, since activating and deploying a submarine rescue capability from overseas foreign bases requires time and colossal logistical efforts. The ideal would be multiple submarine-operating navies in the region mustering their own rescue capabilities and pooling them together under an institutionalized framework. However, taking into account the budgetary constraints faced by navies in Southeast Asia, sharing of submarine rescue capacity will remain the way to go.

Final Thoughts

Because of the persistent interest in submarines, in no small part influenced by the outstanding requirements to fill envisaged capacity shortfalls, submarines look set to remain on the wish-lists of various Southeast Asian navies. This proliferation pattern will continue in the foreseeable future. But to label this as a “submarine race,” in view of the technical and geopolitical trends observed so far in Southeast Asia as well as evident growth in inter-navy submarine rescue cooperation, may be a mischaracterization of what is more likely a concerted drive by Southeast Asian navies to achieve balanced naval force capabilities.

Koh Swee Lean Collin is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His primary research interests cover naval modernization in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Southeast Asia.
* Article publicat a The Diplomat. Sens dubte un bon article de reflexió que invita a seguir estudiant els canvis el les diverses marines asiàtiques en matèria de submarins i, especialment, les seves implicacions futures.

dimarts, 18 de febrer de 2014

China plans to build 4 carriers, including nuclear: report*

China plans to build four aircraft carriers in total to boost its naval power and exert its maritime claims, according to a Russian media report.

Official reports in January said that the PLA plans to have at least two aircraft carriers by 2015 or 2016 and said the country's second aircraft carrier is indeed under construction as previous unofficial reports had claimed. The country plans to build four aircraft carriers in total, the state newswire Xinhua citing a Russian weekly newspaper as reporting.

China commissioned the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine, in 2012. Future carriers are expected to be built domestically and take the Liaoning as their blueprint, at least initially.

The report further said construction appears to be behind schedule, but Beijing has mapped out a clear plan for its development. China's aircraft carrier program is set to be implemented in two phases, the report said, the aim being to build two carriers to establish carrier battle fleets to operate while two more advanced carriers are developed.

The report said the first two planned conventionally powered aircraft carriers may have a displacement of between 50,000 to 55,000 tonnes. The second phase may see the construction of two nuclear-powered carriers with an electromagnetic catapult system and displacement of 65,000 tonnes. These could possibly enter service by the late 2020s.

In order to carry out the second phase, the government approved a plan in February to build vessels that use nuclear power, the report said.

However, the Ministry of National Defense denied claims that it has plans to build more aircraft carriers at present.

The Communist Party secretary of Liaoning province, Wang Min, had said in January that an aircraft carrier was being built in Dalian, the port city where the Liaoning carrier was refitted. But reports related to Wang's remarks were promptly deleted from the internet for unknown reasons.

*Notícia publicada a Want China Times. Compartim aquesta notícia per complementar les anteriors sobre aquest tema.

divendres, 14 de febrer de 2014

Tornaran els vaixells de guerra americans al Port de Tarragona*




El Port de Tarragona acollirà un dels vaixells de guerra més grans del món el pròxim mes d'abril. El USS Dwing Eisenhower, de la flota americana, farà escala durant quatre dies a Tarragona, segons ha avançat avui el Diari de Tarragona. El vaixell de guerra porta fins a 90 aeronaus, entre avions i helicòpters, i més de 6.000 persones, entre personal aeri i tripulació. Si s'acaba confirmant l'arribada d'aquest vaixell a les costes de Tarragona, es convertiria en la nau més gran que mai hauria atracat al Port de Tarragona. Ho faria al Dic de Llevant o al Moll de Cantàbria.


Tot i que sembla confirmat que el vaixell de guerra americà farà escala a Tarragona, des del Port de Tarragona expliquen que la confirmació oficial no es farà fins pocs dies abans. Fa poques setmanes un comandament de l'exèrcit americà va ser a Tarragona per analitzar les instal·lacions del Port. Tot i que, Tarragona va ser durant un temps una ciutat contrària als vaixells de guerra americans, el passat 15 de març CiU i el Partit Popular van votar-hi en contra (amb l'abstenció del PSC i només el vot a favor d'ICV) i des de llavors que la ciutat pot tornar a acollir militars al Port. 

Una oportunitat econòmica per la ciutat

La portaveu del Govern municipal, Begoña Floria, en declaracions aNotíciesTarragona.cat ha recordat que el «Port de Tarragona fa molts anys que rep vaixells de guerra i portaavions americans» i que l'Ajuntament de la ciutat «sempre ha treballat des de l'àmbit del respecte a les relacions internacionals». Floria afegeix que «la cultura de la pau a la qual donem suport no té res a veure amb l'antimilitarisme».

La portaveu ha volgut recordar també que l'arribada del portaavions JFK a Tarragona l'any 2004 va tenir una repercussió de 4 MEUR als comerços de la ciutat. «Es tracta d'un impacte positiu molt important i més fora de temporada», afegeix Floria. En aquest sentit, el grup municipal de CiU ha valorat també de forma positiva els beneficis econòmics que pot aportar la tripulació del USS Dwing Eisenhower a la ciutat: «Hem d'aprofitar qualsevol oportunitat que hi ha per promocionar Tarragona i la sisena flota nordamericana ho és».

Per aquest motiu, la coalició demana que l'Ajuntament posi els mecanismes necessaris per aprofitar l'arribada de 6.000 persones «que poden tenir interessos molt diferents». Una promoció en la qual no es començarà a treballar fins que no es confirmi l'arribada del vaixell, segons Floria. «Quan sapiguem més detalls decidirem que fem però com a mínim avisarem als comerços», ha explicat.

Crítiques a l'arribada del portaavions nuclear

Arga Sentís, portaveu d'ICV-EUiA, he explicat a NotíciesTarragona.cat que «el Port és una instal·lació civil i no militar que no hauria d'acceptar aquest tipus de vaixells». Sentis recorda que es tracta d'un vaixell que va amb proporció nuclear i que, per tant, amb la seva visita a Tarragona «no només es perjudica el compromís amb la pau sinó que comporta un risc per la població».

Pel que fa al suposat benefici econòmic que defensen la resta de grups municipals, la portaveu ecosocialista diu que «encara hem de veure les dades i si són acceptables» i recorda que pel JFK «es van omplir autocars de prostitutes». Sentís conclou que «si bé genera demanada en determinats sectors cal veure si és el que vol l'Ajuntament. Entre els casinos de BCNWorld i els soldats no anem pel bon camí».

La plataforma Tarragona patrimoni per la pau recorda que «el Port i l'Ajuntament sempre havien dit que no permetrien l'arribada de vaixells nuclears». Amadeu López, membre del col·lectiu, lamenta que «una vegada més els diners estan per sobre de la voluntat popular» i recorda que «és la primera vegada que ve un vaixell amb propulsió nuclear a Tarragona».

La CUP demana al PSC que es posicioni

La CUP exigeix al grup municipal del PSC que es posicioni d'una vegada sobre aquesta possibilitat, després de l'última abstenció al plenari. Creuen que el govern de la ciutat està sent còmplice de l'acolliment d'aquests bucs i, per tant, dels esdeveniments bèl·lics a l'est del Mediterrani. Apunten que això pot comportar la militarització de Tarragona i futurs perills per a la població —a causa de la propulsió nuclear dels bucs—.

D'aquesta manera, la Candidatura es fa seu l'argumentari de deu punts de la Coordinadora Tarragona Patrimoni per la Pau, entitat antimilitarista referent a la ciutat, que va emetre l'abril passat i en què assenyala, entre d'altres, la falsedat dels motius dels «suposats beneficis econòmics» que podria generar la visita de soldats al port tarragoní. En aquest sentit, demanen a CiU el "dret a decidir" dels tarragonins sobre aquest afer, deu mil dels quals van votar en una consulta popular contra aquests vaixells de guerra.

* Notícia publicada a Nació Digital. És una gran notícia per Tarragona i per Catalunya l'arribada de l'"Ike". Animem a tots aquells qui puguin, si els és possible, anar-lo a visitar.

dimecres, 12 de febrer de 2014

New shore integration facility launched for Brazil’s submarine combat systems*

DCNS has successfully launched a new shore-based integration facility for the Brazilian Navy's next-generation conventional-propulsion submarines combat system at the French defence procurement agency's Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer centre near Toulon.
Developed in cooperation between DCNS and the Brazilian Navy under a technology transfer agreement spanning submarine design, development and construction, the new facility will be used to test the submarines' sophisticated data processing systems prior to installation while providing significant time savings.
The combat system of the first Scorpene submarine of the Brazilian Navy will be integrated and interfaced with the shore integration facility in a technical configuration.
DCNS/Brazilian Navy teams will test combat systems for Brazil's Scorpene submarines, as well as train Brazilian officers and crew in accordance with the technology transfer agreement over the next two years.
"The Scorpene submarines will protect and defend Brazil's 8,500km coastline."
Following completion of testing, the components will be transferred for integration onto the submarines at the Itaguaí shipyard near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Brazil placed an order in December 2008, for the construction of four diesel-electric-powered submarines based on the Scorpene to joint venture company set up by DCNS and Odebrecht of Brazil.
Scheduled to enter service in 2017, the Scorpene submarines will protect and defend Brazil's 8,500km coastline, while meeting the detailed specifications of the Brazilian Navy.
The versatile vessels can conduct a full range of missions including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, special operations and intelligence gathering.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. L'construcció de moderns espais d'allotjament de submarins, amb assessorament francés, demostra que la política de defensa brasilera no és en absolut arbitrària, sinó meditada i pensant totes les necessitats que implica una força realment operativa.

Italian warship training Mozambican Navy*

by Dean Wingrin, February 10, 10:04 am
The Italian Navy vessel Borsini is in Mozambican waters for the next two months as it trains the southern African nation's small navy, following the signature of a maritime collaboration agreement between the two countries.
The 30th Naval Group of the Italian Navy, comprising the aircraft carrier Cavour (CVH550), frigate Bergamini (F590), patrol ship Borsini (P491) and supply ship Etna (A5326), left Italy on 13 November on a circumnavigation of the African continent. Commanded by Rear Admiral Paolo Treu, the Naval Group arrived in Maputo, Mozambique, on 27 January.
Titled "A Country on the Move", the Naval Group is a joint Italian Navy and industry campaign involving multiple objectives, such as training, maritime security operations, confidence building, naval diplomacy, humanitarian assistance and the promotion of Italian industry.
The technical agreement for collaboration with the Mozambique Navy was signed by the Italian Chief of Navy during his visit to Maputo between 28 and 30 January.
In terms of the agreement, the Italian and the Mozambican navies will carry out naval cooperation activities in Mozambican waters for two months. In particular, training will be organized at sea and on land with specific emphasis placed on anti-piracy and patrolling in Mozambican territorial waters. Other areas of cooperative training include protection of commercial shipping, the fight against trafficking and rescue at sea.
The Italian Navy has experience with anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, being a participant in Operation Atalanta, the European Union's counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia.
As a result of the cooperation agreement, the patrol ship Borsini detached from the Naval Group on 1 February and will remain in Mozambican waters for the next two months.
Speaking to defenceWeb, Treu said that the Borsini will be helping the Mozambican Navy to grow. "It's a small navy, so we are trying to provide them (with) our experience in maritime security operations, in particularly in anti-piracy activities and protecting the ships from terrorist attacks," he said.
In light of the recent natural gas deposits discovered in Mozambique, Treu noted that the country has to learn how to protect its resources.
"We are there just to help them grow as a navy, providing them with our experience," he explained. "We will show them how to perform operations (like anti-piracy patrols). If there is a real event going on, of course we could be tasked to do a real operation to fight piracy in case of need," he continued.
The South African Navy, supported by the South African Air Force, has maintained a permanent anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel since early 2011, under Operation Copper. The frigate SAS Spioenkop is currently on station.
Having departed Maputo on 31 January, the three remaining vessels of the Naval Group arrived in Cape Town on 5 February.
Following their departure from Cape Town on 11 February, the Naval Group will continue its circumnavigation of the African continent, visiting Luanda in Angola next.
Mozambique's small navy has only a few serviceable vessels, including two Namacurra boats (donated by South Africa), eight patrol vessels (including RHIBs) and a Conejera class patrol craft (Pebane - donated by Spain). However, last year French firm Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie (CMN) was given a $200 million contract to build three Ocean Eagle 43 patrol vessels, three HSI 32 interceptors and 24 CMN 23.5 trawlers for the Mozambican navy. Deliveries are scheduled to take place by 2016.

* Notícia publicada a Defence News. Un altre exemple de col·laboració en matèria de lluïta contra la pirateria. Caldrà veure si aquesta és efectiva, doncs d'això en depèn que les flotes europees puguin reduïr el nombre d'unitats en desplegament permanent a les aigües orientals de l'Àfrica.

dimarts, 11 de febrer de 2014

Iranian Warships; Heading Towards US Waters*

Iran has ordered a number of its ships to approach US maritime borders in response to American vessels operating in the Persian Gulf, according to a naval official.
The Fars news agency reported overnight on Saturday that several ships are already in the Atlantic and are making their way to the edge of US territorial waters.
The agency said it was part of "Iran's response to Washington's beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf."
Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad is reported to have said: "Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message."
Haddad, described as commander of the Iranian navy's northern fleet, said the vessels had started their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean via "waters near South Africa".
The report could not be confirmed independently.
In Washington, a US defence official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, cast doubt on the claims but added that "ships are free to operate in international waters."
Iran has a small navy, made up mostly of aging vessels at least 35 years old and a handful of home-built newer frigates. Some are fitted with Chinese ship-to-ship missiles.
It came as Iran agreed to start addressing UN nuclear agency suspicions that it may have worked on designing a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had agreed during talks in Tehran to take seven new practical measures within three months under a November transparency deal.
On Saturday, Iran's Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated the country's stance towards the US.
In a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 revolution,  he said American officials who claimed they did not want to see regime change in Iran were 'lying'.
He accused Washington of having a "controlling and meddlesome" attitude towards Iran.
America and Iran have had no official ties since 1980 when Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran, taking 52 diplomats hostage.
Despite his apparent hostility, Mr Khamenei has given his guarded support to talks on Iran's nuclear programme being led by the new reformist government of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The moves are seen as further signs that Iran is determined to exert its influence as an emerging regional economic and strategic power in the Middle East.
*Notícia publicada a Sky News. Curiosa resposta iraniana a la rebaixa de les tensions recentment assolida.

India to manufacture indigenous submarines soon*

With its underwater arm severely depleted, India is preparing the ground to launch an indigenous submarine design and development plan.

In the first step, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will set up an agency in Hyderabad to test and certify the steel that will be used in making the indigenous submarine.

The underwater vessel will be made using the same DMR-249A and 249B steel - manufactured by the Steel Authority of India Ltd - that was used to make aircraft carrier Vikrant and P-28 missile corvettes.

"For underwater applications, we need extensive certification while for surface ships, if the material’s property matches with the benchmark, it could be used. The new agency will have best equipment to test the properties of naval steel,” G Malakondiah, one of the chief controllers at DRDO, told Deccan Herald.

The first industrial scale trial of submarine steel was accomplished successfully. Now, the material needs intensive testing for which the agency would be set up in two years. "The unit would be located close to Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, he said.

A parallel effort is on to develop suitable welding technologies and consumables for submarines at Naval Material Research Laboratory, Ambernath.

After the massive accident of INS Sindhurakshak last year, Navy currently has just about 10 functional submarines, most of which are pretty old. Realising the consequences, the government has decided to upgrade four Kilo-class and two HDW-class submarines.

India has purchased six French Scorpene submarines, which are under construction at Mazgaon Dock Limited. The first one is expected in 2016, to be followed by a new submarine in every nine months.

The defence acquisition council approved a second submarine assembly line (P-75I) under which four submarines (out of six) will be built within the country (three at Mazgaon Dock and one at Hindustan Shipyard, Visakhapatnam on transfer of technology) while the remaining two will be made at the collaborator’s yard abroad.

"Tender requirements for P-75I (request for proposal) have been firmed up. It took some time as we wanted to involve four-five major shipyards and had detailed discussions with them,” said Rear Admiral LVS Babu, assistant chief of naval staff (submarine).

The two assembly lines would be the stepping stone for indigenous submarine production as engineers and technicians at the dockyards would receive training and gather experience to take up the challenge.

* Notícia publicada al Deccan Herald.

dilluns, 10 de febrer de 2014

In Eastern Indian Ocean Sends Mixed Signals *

Earlier this week, China held a three-ship naval exercise in the Indian Ocean, conducting a series of exercises including combat simulations. According to the Associated Press, the task force then sailed through to the western Pacific by way of the Lombok Strait near Indonesia’s Bali island, approaching the Philippines. Before conducting a five-day exercise in the Indian Ocean, the ships had additionally patrolled the James Shoal, which is currently disputed between China and Malaysia (although Malaysia military officials are reportedly disputing the idea that China patrolled the area in late January).

The task force consisted of the Changbaishan–China’s largest amphibious landing ship–and two destroyers–the Wuhan and Haikou. According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, the ships carried out counter-piracy, search and rescue, and damage control drills. The ships eventually left the Indian Ocean to continue their drills in the Western Pacific Ocean. The Changbaishan is one of the more advanced ships in the PLAN’s fleet and is capable of launching helicopters and amphibious landing craft.

China has conducted naval drills in the Indian Ocean in the past but has generally focused on restricting these to its western waters, by the Gulf of Aden. For example, an exercise in August 2013 saw the U.S. and Chinese navies jointly practice counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden which is generally a hot region for pirates based off the Horn of Africa.

These exercises by contrast are potentially far more provocative for India, Australia, and ASEAN states (even though Southeast Asia isn’t bereft of pirates by any means). For India, a Chinese approach in the eastern Indian Ocean raises anxieties about the reach of China’s navy. India regards the eastern Indian Ocean–the space between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sumatra–as its domain. Any Chinese exercises in this area, particularly combat simulations, will not be taken lightly by New Delhi.

Australia is generally content to accept the Indonesian archipelago as a comfortable buffer zone from the busy sea lanes of the South China Sea. By way of this exercise, China demonstrates an operational ability in Australia’s northern waters which could have implications for Australia in the future. Rory Medcalf of the Lowy Institute, an Australian think-tank, notes that “the precise strategic implications of the Chinese navy’s newly-demonstrated ability to operate in Australia’s northern approaches are open to debate.”

For China, the exercises make perfect sense in its bid to field a blue-water navy capable of operating outside China’s proximate waters. Medcalf notes that while these exercises will surely spook some observers in the region, there is “nothing illegal or fundamentally hostile about what the Chinese navy has just demonstrated.”

Indian observers appear to be more concerned by the exercise. One Indian commentator, Srikanth Kondapalli, notes that the exercise sends a signal to India that China “can come closer to the Andaman & Nicobar joint command through Lombok, and not just through Malacca.” He additionally notes that China could be testing the waters in the eastern Indian Ocean, including its ability to operate some distance away from its bases in the region.

The Hindu’s Ananth Krishnan notes that the exercises could also reflect China’s desire to hedge its reliance on the Strait of Malacca–a major waterway for Middle Eastern oil and other imports. 80 percent of China’s fossil fuel imports travel via the strait. Beijing has already invested heavily in Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh to better connect itself with the Indian Ocean. Generally speaking, China hasn’t seen the less-trafficked straits of Lombok, Sunda, and Makassar to the south as vital to its so-called “Malacca dilemma,” but this could be changing.

* Article publicat a The Diplomat. Més enllà de l'anàlisi en qüestió, queda fora de qualsevol dubte que la Xina pot realitzar operacions a llargues distàncies, i ja no de forma excepcional