The Russian Federation Navy (RFN) is to reactivate two laid-up Kirov-class (Project 1144) battle cruisers, according to statements attributed by Russian media to the country’s deputy defence minister.
Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin reportedly said that the Ministry of Defence has decided to renovate and modernize its heavy nuclear-powered missile cruisers Admiral Lazarev (ex- Frunze ) and Admiral Nakhimov (ex- Kalinin ).
The 24,300-ton ships were commissioned into the Soviet Navy in 1984 and 1988, the second and third vessels in a class that eventually numbered four. Col Gen Popovkin made no mention of the lead ship, Admiral Ushakov (ex- Kirov ), which entered service in 1980 and was decommissioned in 2004, appearing to confirm earlier reports that it is to be scrapped.
The RFN currently has one ship of the class in service, Pyotr Velikiy which was launched in St Petersburg in 1989 and commissioned in 1998.
Retired U.S. Vice Admiral Lee Gunn is warning that climate change could be the next great threat from the military perspective. In the October 20th edition of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists he writes the article below. (For those interested in this topic we also highly recommend the National Bestseller Climate Wars by geopolitical analyst, Gwynne Dyer.)
Climate Change Could Be Next Great Military Threat
- Although the United States has faced many threats over the last few decades, climate change may be the most ominous.
- Specifically, it will contribute to resource scarcity, state failure, increasingly mobile populations, and regional instability.
- The U.S. military may not be the best body to tackle climate change, but it still should be quick to reassess its global engagement strategy and be proactive in minimizing the effects of climate change on U.S. and international security.
The United States currently faces one of its greatest and most misunderstood threats: climate change. And as changing climate patterns affect the water supplies critical to human life and agriculture, as sea levels rise and threaten coastal communities, and as changes in the environment increasingly weaken marginal states, the implications for U.S. defense will only grow.
Specifically, instability and conflict abroad will affect three important dimensions of U.S. national security: how the United States chooses to use its power, how and where the U.S. military operates around the world, and with whom Washington will and will not ally itself.
How power is applied. As societies struggle to adapt to changing climate conditions, the U.S. military will be called on more frequently to provide assistance, support governments, fight extremism in weak states, and anticipate natural and human-made disasters. In short, Washington will have to consider carefully why U.S. defense forces fight.
Take Central and South Asia, for example. The region’s main water source–the Himalayan glaciers–continues to recede due to climate change. The trend will no doubt lead to a dramatic reduction in freshwater availability, particularly in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and parts of China. In fact, a 2007 U.S. Marine Corps report ranks Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India in the top 10 states at risk of instability and violent conflict over water.
A fight for resources among these states–which are already mired in violence and mutual suspicion–would be disastrous for U.S. security interests in the region, particularly since declining conditions among poor segments of the population would be a boon for terrorist and extremist groups’ recruitment. Climate-intensified conflict between mobile populations seeking fresh water amid wanton state instability may prompt future policy makers to deploy U.S. forces not only to combat extremism in the region, but also to provide aid to the hungry and displaced.
How and where the military operates. Climate change also will force a re-evaluation of how the United States operates its forces around the world. Facilities, logistics, and strategic planning will need to be reassessed. The British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia, for example, is home to a critical staging facility for U.S. and British naval and air forces operating in the Middle East and Central Asia. But this atoll sits just a few feet above sea level. If sea levels rise as projected, the facility could be lost, forcing the U.S. and British militaries to adapt and adjust their logistics and operations throughout the region.
Who will U.S. allies be? Changing climate conditions also will test traditional alliances and may even inspire unexpected new ones as states grapple with altered topographies, climate refugees, and changes in commercial and economic circumstances.
For instance, the U.S. Navy has been concerned about the loss of sea ice in the Arctic for nearly a decade. Specifically, it worries that as the fabled Northwest Passage opens, military and commercial activities there will increase. One need not look further than the 2007 Russian expedition that planted its flag on the seabed at the North Pole. Not surprisingly, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the United States–all bordering the Arctic–reacted critically to Russia’s perceived act of encroachment.
In addition, the effects of climate change could strain U.S. relations with Mexico. As Latin American water and arable land resources decline, poverty and internal unrest are likely to spread in the region, leading to increased human migration northward–both legal and illegal. Mexico’s perceived inability to staunch the flow north would likely raise tensions with Washington, hampering U.S. collaboration in the fight against Mexico-based drug cartels.
Given all of this, the decision, therefore, isn’t whether U.S. planners and strategists should adapt and prepare, but how they should adapt and prepare. Looking ahead, China is predicting the loss of 5-10 percent of its wheat harvest by 2030 due to climate change. In southern Sudan and the Darfur region, existing conflicts will be severely exacerbated by increasingly scarce water, food, and arable land. Responding to these and myriad other climate-influenced changes presents great challenges for the United States and the international community–far beyond the specific capabilities of the U.S. military.
Thus, here’s how Washington should begin preparing for the consequences associated with climate change:
- Invest in capabilities within the U.S. government (including the Defense Department) to manage the humanitarian crises–such as a new flow of “climate refugees”–that may accompany climate change and subsequently overwhelm local governments and threaten critical U.S. interests;
- Prepare military officers and troops to address the security and humanitarian needs of resource-stressed populations and climate refugees;
- Expand global public health programs (e.g., malarial eradication);
- Negotiate an agreement with Canada and Mexico to govern the use of fresh water in North America;
- Lead the world in developing conflict-resolution mechanisms to mediate between climate change’s winners and losers.
If it doesn’t take these steps, the United States will be ill-equipped to face climate-induced threats when they’re most acute, forcing future generations to deal with a world full of conflict, disease, hunger, displacement, and extremism.
Despite the fact that summer 2009 had more sea ice than in 2007 or 2008, scientists are seeing drastic changes in the region from just five years ago and at rates faster than anticipated. The findings were presented October 22 in the annual update of the Arctic Report Card, a collaborative effort of 71 national and international scientists.
“The Arctic is a special and fragile place on this planet,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Climate change is happening faster in the Arctic than any other place on Earth — and with wide-ranging consequences. When I visited the northern corners of Alaska’s Arctic region earlier this year, I saw an area abundant with natural resources, diverse wildlife, proud local and native peoples — and a most uncertain future. This year’s Arctic Report Card underscores the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas pollution and adapting to climate changes already under way.”
Among the changes highlighted in the 2009 update to the report card were:
- A change in large scale wind patterns affected by the loss of summer sea ice,
- The replacement of multi-year sea ice by first-year sea ice,
- Warmer and fresher water in the upper ocean linked to new ice-free areas,
- A continued loss of the Greenland ice sheet,
- Less snow in North America and increased runoff in Siberia, and
- The effect of the loss of sea ice on Arctic plant, animal, and fish species.
Scientific assessments are key to informing our understanding of climate — how and why it is changing and what the changing conditions mean to lives and livelihoods.
The Arctic Report Card established a baseline of conditions in the region at the beginning of the 21st century and the annual updates track and monitor the often quickly-changing conditions in the Arctic. Using a color-coding system of red to indicate consistent evidence of warming and yellow to indicate there are mixed signals about warming from climate indicators and species, the report card is updated annually in October and tracks Arctic data in six categories: atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land, and conditions in Greenland.
“The Arctic we see today is very different from the Arctic we saw even five years ago,” said Jackie Richter-Menge of the USACE Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. and the report’s chief technical editor and contributing author. “It’s a warmer place with less thick and more mobile sea ice, warmer and fresher ocean water, and increased stress on caribou, reindeer, polar bears and walrus in some regions.”
The 2009 update to the report card reflects the contributions of an international team of 71 researchers from countries that include the United States of America, Canada, Belgium, China, Denmark, Japan, The Netherlands, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
The Report Card can be found at http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard
Military scientists are moving ahead with plans to monitor the approaches to the Northwest Passage as part of the federal Northern Watch program.
Northern Watch tests the surveillance devices used to watch for foreign vessels and other craft travelling through the Arctic waterway from the east.
The program was launched in 2008 but scaled back earlier this year because of logistical difficulties.
“We discovered that we needed to do some more planning and preparation,” Rick Williams, director general of science and technology operations with Defence Research and Development Canada, told CBC News.
Williams said he had to delay this year’s work on Northern Watch to bring the team back together, re-establish expectations and rebuild a base camp on Devon Island.
“There was mould on the inside of some of the buildings and at some of the washing facilities and some of the storage facilities,” he said.
The crew also had to find a new path leading to the main camp from a remote lookout site — on an outcrop 300 metres above water — because the existing route turned out to be dangerous.
“The weather conditions are pretty variable,” Williams said. “Things can change dramatically and [in a] very short amount of time.
“If someone gets hurt, we had to have plans in place to be able to do things like medical care, evacuations.”
Despite the logistical problems, Williams said, the team was able this past summer to install an underwater array of surveillance sensors that gathered data for about four weeks in Barrow Strait.
“We’ve got pictures of vessels that have actually gone by the test set-up over the course of this summer,” he said.
“The kind of information we gather, the kinds of pictures we can take from the shoreline — that demonstrates we’re getting smarter about how to do that channel surveillance.”
Some of the sensors had problems and had to be removed.
Still, Williams said the Northern Watch team will return in full force next summer, working on developing technology that can operate year-round in the High Arctic.
Williams said the program is important in the North, which is becoming a bigger priority for the military.
“I think we’re playing a key role to understand how we can bring all this high technology into the North and use it effectively,” he said.
The U.S. Navy’s top admiral said on Monday he hoped to speed up work on unmanned weapons systems, including unmanned underwater vehicles and an unmanned combat plane being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp.
“I tend not to want to put things off. I’d rather put a little pressure on the system and get things done,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead told reporters after a speech to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
He cited the Navy’s earlier-than-planned deployment last month of the MQ-8B Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter also being developed by Northrop, on board an aircraft carrier in the eastern Pacific, and said it was performing “wonderfully.”
But if the Navy had stuck to its original plan, the helicopter would still be going through testing in southern Maryland, he said.
The Navy will continue flight tests and operational evaluations of the helicopter aboard the carrier. Eventually it is to be used aboard a new class of smaller littoral combat warships, working in tandem with a manned H-60 helicopter.
Roughead said there were differing opinions about the technical maturity of the systems involved in the Navy Unmanned Combat Aerial System, but he was pressing to accelerate the program and roll it out sooner than planned.
Some analysts had suggested the program could be slowed down to save money in the short-term.
“I believe that this is an area … where I think we can move a little more quickly than what we have in the past. As we do that, I believe that there has to be an acceptance that it’s not all going to be perfect,” he said.
Sometimes it was better to field a system that met 90 percent of one’s targets and then upgrade it later after learning about its performance and any shortcomings, he said.
Roughead said he was also exploring ways to move forward as quickly as possible on autonomous underwater vehicles, where he said technology was actually further advanced than the Navy’s operational concepts for using such vehicles.
He said the Navy’s decision to reorganize its operations putting intelligence and command and control functions under one leader would allow better decision-making on cyber warfare and unmanned technologies.
He said the pace of technological advancement in both areas necessitated a different way of thinking about future military operations and how the Pentagon buys weapons.
It was important to factor in the people needed to operate, service and maintain such systems, as well as the fuel they would consume, to arrive at serious estimates for their long- term operating costs, he said.
He said unmanned weapons were not a panacea for future challenges, but they could prove very useful for helping the U.S. military prevent and prevail in future conflicts.
Roughead said he favored close cooperation among the military services to ensure unmanned systems had a lot of commonality, which could help save costs and would ensure that they could work together in the future.
“If we don’t do that, we’re going to end up spending more money for the same capability and it won’t be as effective,” he added. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Andre Grenon)
The outgoing chairman of the European Union Military Committee wants more assets to combat piracy in the Somali basin because of the vast area that needs to be covered.
“The EU has committed three or four frigates, in 2010 but we probably need between six and 10 to cover that vast area,” General Henri Bentegeat said at a news conference following a meeting of the EU Chairs of Defense Staff (CHODs). He insisted that there was coordination between the EU and NATO naval assets in the area and “certainly no duplication.”
As for progress on developing military capabilities at the EU level, he said it was “hard to tackle shortfalls in a time of economic crisis” but stressed that “countries cannot afford to go on focusing on national priorities without giving more thought to European cooperation.”
But he pointed to an embryonic European Defence Agency project for third-party logistics support that enables civilian contractors to make logistics offers to EU countries for crisis-management operations, and which resulted in considerable savings in the EU mission to Chad and Central Africa.
Regarding the use of EU battle groups, Bentegeat said the concept would not be changed but that some countries might be allowed to use them as a reserve force for current operations.
General Syrén, who will take up his duties Nov. 6, underlined the importance of civil-military cooperation given that there is often a need for conflict prevention and stabilization.
Finally, with regard to the notion of “permanent structured cooperation,” in which some EU countries could press ahead with military cooperation with or without others, Bentegeat said this was a “complex subject” and that the CHODs would allow the Spanish presidency of the European Union, which will begin in January, to launch its own program on the issue.
France will send a warship to Russia in November in the run up to an unprecedented deal to sell it a helicopter carrier, a top defense ministry official said Oct. 31, RIA Novosti reported.
“In November, the Mistral helicopter carrier will arrive on a visit to St. Petersburg,” the first deputy chief of the Navy general staff, Oleg Burtsev, told the news agency.
Burtsev also confirmed that Russia was planning to purchase one of the Mistral warships and to construct a further four warships under license.
“We plan to buy one Mistral-class ship in France, and with technical support from the French to build four helicopter carriers of this class under license,” Burtsev told the news agency.
Burtsev said that he attended talks on the warship deal in France two weeks ago and that France agreed to Russia’s proposal to buy the ship, RIA Novosti reported.
The Mistral warship can carry 16 heavy helicopters, landing-craft and troops and can also act as a command and control vessel.
Burtsev did not name a price, but the ship is set to cost up to 500 million euros ($740 million) RIA Novosti reported Saturday, citing French media.
The Russian armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said in August that Moscow planned to buy a Mistral in an unprecedented deal that experts said reflected Kremlin efforts to accelerate military modernization.
The naval commander-in-chief Vladimir Vysotsky raised questions over the deal in September when he said that Russia might look to Spain or the Netherlands to buy the ship-building technology.
Since World War II, Russia has insisted on producing all military hardware for its own use and export, but it has failed to keep up with the West.
In recent years, Russia has talked a lot about modernizing its armed forces, which still rely heavily on Soviet-era equipment, and steadily increased its procurement budgets during Vladimir Putin’s presidency.
The Mistral-class warships would be based at Russia’s northern and Pacific fleets but might also be used against Somalian pirates, Burtsev said.
“The ships are being acquired for troop-carrying, peace-keeping and rescue operations. What’s more, this ship can be effectively used for fighting pirates, including those off the coast of Somalia,” Burtsev told RIA Novosti.
Russia is one of several countries to have sent naval ships to the coast of Somalia to try to combat the rising tide of attacks on vessels passing through the strategic Gulf of Aden.
In the most recent attack, Somali pirates seized a Thai fishing trawler with a crew including 23 Russian sailors, the Russian foreign ministry said Oct. 30.
Last week, a French fishing trawler returned machined gun fire on a group of Somali pirates who were apparently trying to seize the vessel, according to European naval forces operating in the area.
Royal Navy Commander John Harbour, head of the EU task force, said the exchange of fire took place between two pirate skiffs and the trawler about 350 miles east of the Somali capital Mogadishu. The pirates opened fire on the fishing vessel. Her embarked military Vessel Protection Detachment fired warning shots after which the pirates broke off their attack.
The German warship FGS Karlsruhe, on anti-piracy patrol in the area, was ordered to set course to the attack position. Simultaneously, the helicopter of the Spanish warship ESPS Canarias, also on anti-piracy patrol, was launched and located two fast attack skiffs trying to flee the area of the attack. The helicopter fired warning shots to stop both skiffs, after which the pirates stopped and were seen throwing items, presumably pirate paraphernalia, overboard.
On arrival of FGS Karlsruhe her boarding team secured both skiffs, and found seven persons on board of the two skiffs. The French fishing vessel was requested to return to the scene to identify their attackers. Upon receiving their statements the seven suspected pirates were detained on board FGS Karlsruhe.
Several European fishing trawlers are operating in that part of the Indian Ocean and they have started to come under increasing attack from pirates. Just over a month ago the Spanish trawler Alakrana, and its entire 36-member crew were hi-jacked and taken to a rebel port. Two of the assailants were later arrested by security forces and flown to Spain where they have been charged and are expected to face trial for piracy. The Somali captors are demanding US$ 4 million ransom as well as the freeing of the two suspected pirates being held in Spain.
Fishing companies are being warned not to send vessels to fish the tuna grounds east of Mogadishu.
The United Kingdom’s deepest diving Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), Autosub 6000, has been put through its paces during extremely successful engineering trials from 27 September to 17 October 2009.
Autosub 6000 was working in regions of the Iberian Abyssal Plain in the North Atlantic deeper than 5600 metres and also around the steep and rugged terrain of the Casablanca Seamount, between Madeira and Morocco. The vehicle was designed and constructed by engineers at the Underwater Systems Laboratory in the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
- Operating at 5600 metres depth. Very few (if any) AUVs have ever operated autonomously at this depth.
- Survey at 3 metre altitude — paving the way for deep ocean photographic surveys.
- Terrain following at 10 metre altitude over very rough relief.
- Testing improved fault detection software so that the AUV can recover from hardware faults.
- Testing of recently fitted magnetometer, turbidity and precision salinity sensors
One of the main goals of the Autosub 6000 engineering trials was the demonstration of the accessibility of deep ocean regions approaching the 6000 metre design depth limit. On 3 October 2009, the AUV descended and reached its pre-programmed target depth of 5525 metres in 1.5 hours. At this point, a navigation update procedure was undertaken to update and correct for the Autosub 6000’s drift which was incurred as it descended through the moving water column.
After 2.5 hours from deployment, the Autosub 6000 was on station at a depth of 5600 metres, positioned to accuracies of a few metres, and ready to start collecting scientific data.
Autosub 6000 has been enhanced with a forward-looking vertically scanning obstacle-detection sonar and improved terrain-following control software, giving the AUV the ability to operate safely, closer to the seabed. This was demonstrated at low altitudes in the steep and rugged slopes of the Casablanca Seamount with a 10 metre altitude run starting at 3000 metres depth and rising up to 700 metres depth over a course of 7.5 kilometres.
The ability of Autosub 6000 to perform low-altitude colour photographic surveys was demonstrated on the more level summit regions of the Casablanca Seamount with low-speed surveys at altitudes of as low as 3 metres.
Steve McPhail, Autosub 6000 project leader, said, “Apart from the correct functioning of the vehicle during the trials at extreme depths, what particularly pleased me was that we have now developed the control and obstacle avoidance systems such that we have the confidence to send the AUV into a hostile and rugged terrain. This will lead to more challenging and interesting scientific campaigns in the future.”
Autosub 6000 is now being prepared for a cruise to the Caribbean Sea near the Cayman Islands in April 2010, where it will be used to search for deep hydrothermal vents.
The US Congressional Research Service suggests that Iran has purchased several midget submarines from North Korea. In June, the Iranian Navy commissioned its fourth, fifth and sixth units in its Qadi (also written Ghadir), r-class program, an indigenous midget submarine program which first became known in the west five years ago.
Military sources report that the North Korean miniature subs are capable of dropping small teams of commando forces on enemy shores, damaging large warships and mining the approaches of naval bases and harbours. They are capable of sowing EM-52 “rising mines” originally developed by China, which lurk on deep sea beds until triggered by a passing ship to release a missile which shoots up to strike its hull.
This weapon substantially enhances the Iranian navies’ menace, a development Israel will have take into account in the defense of its Mediterranean naval bases and commercial ports.
In 2005 Iran announced it would start production of its first indigenous submarine. In May 2005, Iran officially launched the production of its first locally built submarine, a craft capable of operating stealthily, state-run television reported. Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Imani was quoted as saying “the enemy would not be able to detect the submarine.” He did not elaborate. One submarine had already been built and was shown on television, cruising at sea level. The Defence Ministry had commissioned an unspecified number of the craft that’s been dubbed “Ghadir.”
The hull was launched in 2006. In 2007 the Iranian navy unveiled a submarine, named the Qadir (also written Ghadir), first of a number of planned midget submarines of the Yono class. Some observers suggested that the Qadir was otherwise similar to the North Korean Yugo boats, leading observers to suggest that this was an Iranian design based heavy on that class. But the Ghadir was 50% longer than the Yugo, and in fact resembled the North Korean Sang-O Class coastal submarines.
Iranian authorities asserted that the Qadir was an entirely Iranian design, and that the vessel could launch anti-ship missiles. Such a capability would have required the installation of more advanced systems into the submarine or the operation in concert with other vessels capable of guiding any such missiles. The Qadir does have provisions for mounting a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV), a type of craft that Iran has also developed.
Iran described the Ghadir as a “light” submarine, meaning it is smaller than the attack subs used by the United States. Iran has provided very little information about the craft, including its dimensions or the size of its crew.
The submarine, which is capable of operating in the Persian Gulf and Oman seawaters, can launch both missiles and torpedoes at the same time, the television reported, without specifying the range of the projectiles. In December 2004, Iran announced the production of a line of stealth torpedoes that could be launched from helicopters, ships or submarines. Iranian officials have repeatedly said the Islamic Republic will defend itself should the United States or archrival Israel initiate any aggression. Pressure has mounted on Iran recently with suspicion over its nuclear program which Washington suspects is aimed at building unconventional weapons, a charge Iranian officials vehemently deny.
In November 2007 Iran claimed to have built a small submarine equipped with sonar-evading technology, saying the craft had been launched in the Persian Gulf. The navy chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, was quoted by state television as saying the new Ghadir-class submarine is the second Iranian-built underwater craft outfitted with “state-of-the-art electronic equipment.” He said it took 10 years to build.
Iran’s Naval Submarine fleet will be equipped with a new domestically manufactured submarine, the senior Iranian navy commander said in August 2008. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that Iranian technicians have used indigenous technology to build the new submarine. He did not specify the class of the new submarine. Iran’s Navy currently operates Ghadir and Nahang (meaning whale in Persian) submarines. According to Rear Adm. Sayyari, the Ghadir submarine is equipped with the latest military and technological equipments.
On 26 November 2008 the Commander of the Islamic Republic Army’s Navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that in next 15 days another Ghadir class submarine would be delivered to the Navy. Sayyari told reporters after touring IRNA head office that the submarine has been designed and built by Marine Industries Organization. He said moreover, a light submarine will join the Navy’s fleet on the Navy Day. He added that once the submarines join the Navy, its deterrent power deep inside the sea will increase dramatically. This would mark possibly the fourth submarine in this class.
Reportedly being mass produced [supposedly at a cost of $18 million each], the first of this class, Ghadir, has been paraded for the press. Although generally described as a mini-submarine, it is rather larger that Iran’s other mini-subs. The Ghadir, with an estimated displacement estimated at between 120 tons and 500 tons, is probably better described as a littoral submarine, similar in concept to the Italian Sauro class though significantly smaller. Photographs indicate it has a pair of bow torpedo tubes which appear to be 21” allowing them to fire typical heavyweight torpedoes. It could thus serve as a launch platform for the infamous Shkval rocket torpedo, which has been transferred to Iran.