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26 mars 2015 4 26 /03 /mars /2015 08:45
Indian Ocean Rim Association to host blue economy workshop in Durban


25 March 2015 by defenceWeb


In six weeks’ time the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), of which South Africa is a member, will, along with the Human Sciences Research Council, host a blue economy workshop in Durban, to which the South African Navy will be paying close attention.


Titled “Promoting Fisheries, Aquaculture, Maritime Safety and Security Co-operation in the Indian Ocean region” it dovetails neatly with the maritime component of the South African government’s Operation Phakisa.


Late last year Rear Admiral Sagaren Pillay, Director Maritime Strategy at Navy headquarters in Pretoria, told defenceWeb “from a mandate perspective, the Navy remains responsible for the protection of South Africa’s territorial integrity and sovereignty with the maritime border being the Navy’s responsibility”. After Phakisa was announced, the Navy began looking at the implications of direct future force employment missions resulting from the Operation.


Phakisa comes from the “Big Fast Results” methodology employed by Malaysia and it is seen as being a launch platform for delivery of priorities set out in the National Development Plan. “Phakisa” means “hurry up” in Sesotho.


Speaking in Durban last June where he officially put the first implementation phase of Phakisa into operation, President Jacob Zuma said it would be led by the Department of Environment Affairs and would have four priorities. These are marine transport and manufacturing; offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture and marine protection services.


“South Africa is bordered by the ocean on three sides. With the inclusion of Prince Edward and Marion islands in the Southern Ocean, the coastline is over 3,900 kilometres long,” Zuma said, adding the full economic potential of this marine space remained largely untapped.


The President sees it as having the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while creating up to a million new jobs by 2033. By comparison, the ocean economy generated R54 billion and served 316 000 jobs in 2010.


One item on the Phakisa ocean agenda of particular interest to the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is marine protection services. This will include improving protection of South Africa’s oceans, particularly around critically endangered ecosystems.


Ahead of the May 4 and 5 blue economy core group workshop, IORA notes the Indian Ocean rim region is home to nearly a third of the world’s population.


“Additionally the region possesses a variety of resources vital for the well-being of its inhabitants. As such, IORA has placed more emphasis on growing the blue economy in the region,” the Association said.


Other IORA members include Australia, India, Malaysia as well as SADC countries Kenya, Mozambique and Seychelles.


The May workshop will concentrate on maritime safety and security as well as fisheries and aquaculture. One of the planned outcomes is improved knowledge on member states’ capacities, requirements, priorities and weaknesses in the area of maritime safety and security.


The workshop will also be looking into funding and regional co-operation for the important issues of safety and security as a precursor to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. Indications from government are the South African EEZ (exclusive economic zone) is home to nine billion barrels of oil and 11 billion barrels’ equivalent of natural gas. These reserves are equal to 40 years of South African oil consumption and 375 years of gas consumption.


The SA Navy is internationally accepted as a small one but it has a clear blue water capability in the form of four Valour Class Frigates and three Heroine Class Type 209 submarines. The fleet currently includes three revamped strikecraft serving as offshore patrol vessels. This number will be augmented by another three in the next three to four years as well as three dedicated inshore patrol vessels.


At this stage there is no indication from government on what role, if any, the SA Air Force (SAAF) will have in the maritime security sector of the ocean phase of Operation Phakisa. The defence force’s airborne arm is dependent of ageing C-47TP aircraft, operated by 35 Squadron out of AFB Ysterplaat. The SAAF is seeking to acquire maritime surveillance/patrol aircraft to replace these vintage aircraft.

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23 mars 2015 1 23 /03 /mars /2015 08:35
Think Tank: Hainan Island and China’s South Sea Fleet


20 March 2015 By David McDonough* – Pacific Sentinel


Recent reports talk about China’s possible establishment of a ‘fourth’ naval fleet with jurisdiction over the Indian Ocean region (IOR), joining the existing North Sea Fleet, East Sea Fleet, and South Sea Fleet. This mysterious fourth fleet will supposedly be based on Hainan Island—even though the island falls under the jurisdiction of the South Sea Fleet and is some distance away from the IOR. For that reason, many see a prospective Chinese fleet covering the IOR to be either entirely speculative or, at best, a hollow force existing in name only.


One should certainly be wary of overstating China’s military capabilities or, indeed, ambitions. Taking a worst-case view of a Chinese naval fleet in the IOR could overshadow more modest but also more plausible concerns about other possible roles for a fourth fleet based out of Hainan Island.


The island faces the South China Sea (SCS), over which Beijing has proffered expansive historical claims, such as the famous nine-dash line which encompasses nearly all of this maritime zone. Maritime incidents between China and its neighbours, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, are increasingly frequent.


The People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN) is undoubtedly moving to buttress its presence on the island. On Yalong Bay near the island’s southeastern tip, China’s recently constructed Longpo naval base is a deep-water port complete with submarine piers, an underground submarine facility with tunnel access, and a demagnetising facility to reduce the magnetic residuals on ship hulls. This new nuclear submarine base is expected to be serve as a home for the PLAN’s new Jin-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). It also features long piers designed for surface combatants, making it a multi-purpose base. The PLAN has an existing base at Yulin, situated just west of Longpo and designed to service PLAN’s conventional submarines. Facilities for surface ships and construction of new piers have also been reported there.


The Hainan complex underpins the PLAN’s rapidly growing South Sea Fleet. Once the least important of China’s three fleets, the South Sea Fleet has since become the primary recipient of China’s more advanced naval warships, including the Shang-class nuclear attack submarine, conventional submarines (Kilo-, Song- and Yuan-class), the above-mentioned Jin-class SSBN, and a dozen of China’s more advanced guided-missile destroyers and frigates and three new amphibious warfare ships, bringing its total to 29 major surface combatants.


Moreover, according to John Patch (PDF), China’s fast-attack Houbei-class missile catamarans are also primarily based with the East Sea and South Sea Fleets. Those small, cheap vessels might have limited range and defensive capabilities but they have an impressive anti-surface warfare capability, each being armed with eight long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.


The South Sea Fleet may be based out of Zhanjiang on the Chinese mainland. But, given the new submarine and surface warship facilities on the Hainan naval complex, it’s clear the island plays an increasingly important role in its fleet operations. On one hand, it can be seen as a potential SSBN bastion for the undersea leg of China’s nuclear deterrent—in which attack submarines, fast attack ships, and a surface fleet heavy with both anti-ship and air-defence capabilities would be geared towards providing a protective cover for its Jin-class SSBNs against potential anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets.


On the other hand, this naval build-up could be construed in more offensive terms; less about protecting SSBNs and more about magnifying the country’s sea control. While allowing for greater power projection in the IOR, they’re more likely geared for operations in strategically vital locations like the dispute-laden SCS. Attack submarines provide a particularly formidable capability against both submarines and surface ships, while guided-missile destroyers/frigates could provide protection for China’s fleet of missile catamarans and amphibious warships.


Such a possibility puts a worrisome light to recent revelations about land reclamation and construction on numerous reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands. Reports indicate a possible airstrip and anti-aircraft tower being constructed, which could strengthen China’s capacity to operate around these disputed islands. That would be especially true if some of those facilities are capable of providing logistical support for the short-range Houbei catamarans, thereby eliminating one of the key weaknesses of this ‘thoroughbred ship-killer‘.


It’s difficult to determine which interpretation of China’s naval activities is correct, and it’s possible (and likely) that both approaches are being pursued simultaneously. China would, after all, need protective cover for its SSBNs for its bastion strategy to succeed, requiring a capacity for sea control equally usable against other maritime claimants in the South China Sea. Indeed, an SSBN bastion near Hainan Island logically places a premium on China’s capacity to control the surrounding ‘near sea’.


Rather than being distracted by an unsubstantiated red herring, like a putative fourth PLAN fleet over the Indian Ocean, attention needs to be rightly placed on these more immediate and concrete developments. To do otherwise wouldn’t only be detrimental from a security perspective, but strategically foolish as well.

* David S. McDonough is research manager and senior editor at the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute in Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the CDA Institute
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11 mars 2015 3 11 /03 /mars /2015 16:45
FS Floréal – photo Consulat de France Cape Town

FS Floréal – photo Consulat de France Cape Town


11 March 2015 by Dean Wingrin - defenceWeb


Cape Town has seen a profusion of visiting foreign naval ships these past few weeks and now it is the turn of the French surveillance frigate Floréal to delight in what the Cape has to offer.


Floréal (F730), based in Port-des-Galets, Reunion Island, is visiting Cape Town as its first port of call since departing on a patrol of French overseas territories approximately 30 days ago.


Floréal’s main action areas are the Indian Ocean (Eastern Africa and Southern Asia) and the French Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) north of the Antarctic. Thus, she is a regular visitor to Cape Town. Having arrived on 6 March, she will be using her short stay to refuel, perform routine maintenance and allow the crew a few days R&R (Rest and Recuperation).


Commander Marc Woodcock, Officer Commanding Floréal, told defenceWeb that they had just endured some really rough seas and cold temperatures whilst performing surveillance in the EEZ of the islands of Kerguelen, Crozet and St Paul and Amsterdam, also known as the Desolation Islands, in the southern Indian Ocean.


These islands, among the most isolated places on Earth, are part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and are administered as a separate district. There are no indigenous inhabitants, but France maintains a permanent presence of scientists, engineers and researchers.


The area is known for being rich in the fragile Patagonian Toothfish species and thus the Floréal ventured as far as 50 degrees south to ensure no illegal fishing activities were taking place.


“The temperature went down to approximately 2 degrees Celsius,” Woodcock said, “We can’t go beyond 60 degrees south as it is an international demilitarised zone and warships can’t go down there.”


Of course, fishery patrol is not their main mission. “It is, first of all, sovereignty. Because it is French zones, it is important to show we are there and know what is happening. It is our number one mission. Fishery, EEZ is the economic aspect of it,” Woodcock explained.


Floréal carries out several different tasks such as anti-piracy missions, maritime surveillance, fishing patrols in Austral and Antarctic French economic areas as well as public service operations and the enforcement of France’s international defence agreements.


Woodcock notes that the frigates (Floréal and her sister ship Nivôse which is also based at Reunion Island) are multi-mission vessels and are deployed in various types of operations.


“We have a Panther maritime helicopter aboard and a large boarding team. Also permanent satellite communications and air surveillance radar. Our assets allow us to do all kinds of things, which differentiates us from the patrol boats,” he remarked.


Floréal will resume her patrol on Thursday 12 March and is expected to be back in Reunion in mid-April. The route home will include patrolling French islands and protectorates in the Mozambique Channel.


Although France is not part of the Operation Copper anti-piracy mission in the Mozambique Channel, Woodcock says that they are available to assist should they be close and in international waters.


Floréal is the first vessel of a series of six surveillance frigates of the same class. She was built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire and commissioned in March 1992. With an overall length of 93.5 meters and breadth of 14 meters, the frigate Floréal displaces 2 800 tons. She is armed with one 100 mm and two 20 mm multipurpose guns and four 12.7 mm browning guns. The Floréal is also fitted with a Eurocopter Panther helicopter. The crew is composed of 98 sailors: 14 officers, 65 petty officers and 19 seamen.


Floréal will be back in South African waters in September this year when she participates in Exercise Oxide 2015, the joint maritime exercise held between the French naval forces stationed at Reunion Island and the South African Navy. The exercise will once again take place in the Richards Bay area. The Reunion Island-based French Navy Amphibious Supply Ship La Grandière”visited Richards Bay in mid-February.

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29 janvier 2015 4 29 /01 /janvier /2015 18:35
Océan Indien : le Guépratte en exercice avec la marine indienne au large de Goa


29/01/2015 Sources : Etat-major des armées


Le 26 janvier 2015, au terme d’une relâche opérationnelle à Goa, le Guépratte a participé à une intense journée d’exercices avec la frégate Talwar de la marine indienne.


Ces exercices à la mer (PASSEX) ont été l’occasion pour certains marins indiens et français d’embarquer à bord du bâtiment de leur partenaire pour y découvrir, de l’intérieur les savoir-faire déployés par l’équipage. Ces échanges entre les deux navires ont permis à chacun d’améliorer la connaissance des procédures et de mobiliser conjointement leurs compétences dans le cadre de manœuvres tactiques, comme la présentation pour ravitaillement à la mer, la mise en œuvre de moyens héliportés et des exercices de visite de bâtiment croisés (VISITEX). Au terme d’un exercice d’évolutions tactiques, ce PASSEX a été clôturé par des tirs d’artilleries de 20 mm et 12,7 mm.


L’objectif de cet entraînement était multiple. Tout en renforçant l’excellence des liens d’amitié et d’estime réciproque entre nos deux marines, ce PASSEX permettait d’illustrer la capacité des deux marines à conduire ensemble des exercices dans la perspective de l’important exercice bilatéral Varuna qui réunira au printemps des bâtiments indiens de la Force Navale de l’Ouest et le groupe aéronaval français.


Cette journée intense est venue conclure une escale durant laquelle les échanges et contacts avec la marine indienne ont été nombreux. Les visites réciproques du Guépratteet celle de la base aéronavale d’Hansa tout comme les activités sportives entre les deux équipages ont été de belles occasions pour renforcer les liens opérationnels et humains entre nos deux marines.


L’Inde fait partie de nos principaux partenaires dans la zone maritime océan Indien avec lesquels nous renforçons notre coopération opérationnelle, notamment maritime.


Le Guépratte reprend désormais  la mer pour patrouiller de nouveau au sein de la Task Force 150, volet maritime de l’opération Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Océan Indien : le Guépratte en exercice avec la marine indienne au large de Goa
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23 octobre 2014 4 23 /10 /octobre /2014 11:30
photo Royal Navy

photo Royal Navy


Royal Navy


HMS Kent left Portsmouth today for a six-month deployment focusing on maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean. HMS Kent will continue the Royal Navy’s long-term presence East of Suez as she replaces HMS Northumberland currently on station. Having been through intense training the ship is ready for a challenging deployment as part of the Royal Navy’s standing commitment in the Middle East.


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13 juin 2013 4 13 /06 /juin /2013 07:30
Nimitz Strike Group Enters 5th Fleet

Jun 12, 2013 ASDNews Source : US Navy


The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) with embarked Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 and Destroyer Squadron 23, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations June 9.


"I am proud of the Sailors and Marines of the strike group," said Rear Adm. Michael S. White, commander of CSG 11. "They have worked tirelessly to ensure that we arrive in theater ready to support ongoing operations. We look forward to working with our regional partners to demonstrate our commitment to security operations."


While in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, Nimitz Strike Group will conduct maritime security operations, which help set conditions for security and promote regional stability and global prosperity.


"We are eager to participate in fostering trust, cooperation and mutual respect with our partner nations while working together to increase stability in the area and ensure the vital sea lanes of this region remain free for all maritime traffic," said White.


The squadrons of CVW-11 include the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146, the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the "Gray Wolves" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142, the "Wallbangers" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, the "Indians" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6 and the "Wolf Pack" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 75.


U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, and is responsible for about 2.5 million square miles of water including the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.


While operating in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, Nimitz and CVW-11 will also conduct missions in direct support of troops participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.

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29 mai 2013 3 29 /05 /mai /2013 07:20
EODMU 11 Participates in Mine-Pouncing Training Exercise

May 28, 2013 ASDNews Source : US Navy


Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 11 participated in a mine pouncing training exercise in the Indian Ocean May 26.


"Back in the day, they would jump out of a helo near a mine and attach an explosive to it," said Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician 2nd Class Ruben Villegas. "They would then get picked up and go on to the next one, then the next one. That's where the term mine pouncing came from."


Currently assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and equipped with the knowledge to detonate mines safely, EODMU 11 has been training to clear the way for Nimitz and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 during deployment.


"It's not as common anymore," said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class David Medwedeff, another member of EODMU 11. "We're doing this in case it happens again."


"It has happened where we're going," said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Ruben Villegas, one of EODMU 11's team members. "They're not all conventional mines."


These EOD technicians held a demolition buildup earlier in the week for Rear Adm. Michael White, Commander, CSG 11, and members of his staff in preparation for the mine pounce exercise.


"The admiral and some of his staff came to increase their awareness of this capability so we can keep practicing," said Lt. j.g. Thomas Rollow, the EOD Platoon 11-0-1 officer in charge. "We've practiced on land, but this is the first time we've done this on a floating platform."

During the demolition buildup, members from mobile unit 11 constructed charges used to demolish mines.


"If this were real and there was a contact mine, they would need us to get rid of it," said Villegas.

Starting with time trains, a type of fuse, EOD technicians calculated the lengths needed to create a charge that would be used to safely detonate a training mine.


"It's extremely crucial," said Rollow. "All it takes is one mistake."


With the word of a (training) mine spotted ahead, two MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6 took off from Nimitz' flight deck carrying members of EODMU 11.


Upon arriving on the mine and given the okay by the demolition operation supervisor, two EOD divers jumped out of the first helicopter into the ocean; one with the charge, one with the time fuse.


The divers attached the charge to the mine together. For safety reasons, once it was set, one diver swam for the helicopter where he was picked up at a safe distance. The remaining diver then set the charge and followed the first.


"We want it to be 15 minutes," said Villegas.


The operation is marked as a success with a thunderous explosion on the horizon. All personnel are safe, and the way is clear for the strike group to move forward, thanks to the members of EODMU 11.


"The admiral was thoroughly impressed and happy at his new found capability in the strike group brought by our team," said Rollow. "It gave us the opportunity to practice a real scenario and get the kinks out so everyone knows their responsibilities to contribute to the overall success of the mission."


Nimitz Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

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