February 23, 2018

Chinese Navy Innocent of Maldives Meddling - Ask India

It seems China and India are jockeying for economic and political position in the strategically important Maldives islands. The Maldives is a Muslim nation of around 430,000 people sitting in the Arabian Sea but just to the south of regional power India (map above). The Maldives is suffering a leadership and judicial crisis which began this month. Some in the Maldives are seeking Indian military peace-keeping while others are mindful that the Maldives is heavily financial indebted to China. Also China is the largest source of blameless tourist traffic to the Maldives.

Over the last week many of the Western press believe or disbelieve that China despatched a mixed fleet of around 10 ships (including destroyers, frigates, supply and a landing ship) to put some gunboat diplomacy pressure on the Maldives and India. 

A Western website reported that  Chinese News outlets appeared to concoct the story "Last week, the state-aligned paper Global Times warned that “If India one-sidedly sends troops to the Maldives, China will take action to stop New Delhi." Sina.com.cn reported [on February 17, 2018] that there are presently 11 PLA(N) surface warships in the Indian Ocean".

The Indian Press has covered the Maldives Crisis more closely, soberly, with miniscule sabre-rattling.

On February 22, 2018, Prabhash K Dutta reported from New Delhi along the lines:

In January 2018 before the Maldives crisis started the Chinese Navy began an exercise in the South China Sea..."The Chinese naval fleet proceeded towards South Pacific Ocean and touched Australian waters before turning back. Reports suggest that on their backward journey, the Chinese naval fleet had to pass through the Indian Ocean for some distance....no Chinese warship were deployed close to the Maldives....A Chinese destroyer and a frigate had crossed into the Eastern Indian Ocean through the Sunda Strait and exited the Indian Ocean through the Lombok Strait 
[the straits are on each side of the most important Indonesian island of Java with Jakarta the capital. See map below]
 while heading towards the South China Sea. The two sea passages are located on the margins of Indian Ocean near Indonesia, and some 2,500 nautical miles or over 4,600 kilometres from Maldives."


So the sailors of China are, as always, chock full of innocence and international goodwill despite what Chinese news-sites concoct. Confused?

It is but a slur that "The cost of Chinese [financial assistance to the Maldives] may prove to be steep. Like Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Maldives is deeply indebted to China, and it may eventually come under pressure from Beijing to give up large assets - like land or port facilities - in return for debt forgiveness." 

The Chinese destroyer and a frigate following the dotted line crossing into the Eastern Indian Ocean through the Sunda Strait then east exiting the Indian Ocean through the Lombok Strait. These straits are on each side of the most important Indonesian island of Java with Jakarta the capital. The Chinese were safely some 2,500 nautical miles or over 4,600 kms from the Maldives. 

Any Chinese submarine movements near the Maldives remain unknown!


February 21, 2018

Disappearances of Two (High Security) Russian Shipbuilding Engineers

The following draws on a French language article of January 24, 2018 titled "Mysterious disappearances of two Russian engineers" on  "Khan's" mainly Russian website, The portal of the naval forces of the Russian Federation. 

Engineer A

Over the last 4 weeks, two Russian shipbuilding engineers have been reported missing. Life working in trusted positions of the Russian military-industrial complex can be grim. 

Engineer A, aged 38, formally employed by the Yantar shipyard at Kaliningrad (see map below) was officially reported missing on January 11, 2018. Kaliningrad is a high security Russian Baltic Fleet Base area. There the Yantar shipyard builds, amongst other things, Project 11356M frigates, which are equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles.

The Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) had become suspicious of Engineer A's activities in nearby Vilnius, Lithuania (a NATO country) in July 2017. Engineer A had then, in agreement with Yantar, stopped working for Yantar in August 2017. On January 11, 2018 the FSB issued a "search" warrant for Engineer A.  It is unclear whether the FSB eventually arrested Engineer A.

Engineer B

Engineer A's disappearance raised suspicions of a pattern occuring with the later disappearance of Engineer BEngineer B was a "first class" engineer [1] of the Malakhit Design Bureau [2] (St. Petersburg) on January 24, 2018. Engineer B lived alone in the suburbs of St. Petersburg.

Tragically, on January 25, 2018, it was reported (Russian article) that Engineer B was found hanging in his St. Petersburg apartment.

[1]  By implication Engineer B held a senior position with access to nuclear submarine Top Secrets.
       This may have included nuclear submarine design information collected by espionage from all

       other nuclear submarine building nations (as well as the German 212's smoothly faired 
       demagnetised hull).

[2]  The Malakhit Bureau along with Rubin Design Bureau are the two leading Russian engineering
       firms that specialize in the development of nuclear submarines. The Malakhit Bureau designed
       Russia's latest SSGN, the Project 885 Yasen> The Yasen is probably of high interest to Western
       countries and certainly its stealth and SSGN VLS features are of interest to China.


Not all is known about the reasons for Engineer B's suspected suicide. If it was work related, high security work can be highly isolating and alienating. In Russia security pressures are not improved by the low pay Russian engineers recieve for highly sensitive defense work. Russia's dark, very cold,  northern Winter also doesn't help. 

Engineer A was based at the highly militarized Kaliningrad, "exclavein orange on the Baltic, problematically surrounded by NATO countries, separating it from the main Russian landmass. Kaliningrad functions as the headquarters of  Russia's Baltic Fleet, ringed by Chernyakhovsk (air base)Donskoye (air base) and Kaliningrad Chkalovsk (naval air base). Engineer B lived and worked in St. Petersburg, also marked on map. (Map courtesy of Geography in the News via National Geographic)


February 19, 2018

Russian Submarine Building Statistics 2017 - Yasen-Ms

The following is a translation from French, drawing from a long excellent article by "Khan" of January 12, 2018, titled "Russian Shipbuilding [Statistics] 2017". That article is contained in the French language, but mainly Russian website, The portal of the naval forces of the Russian Federation. 

The end of 2017 reveals information on the financial and industrial priorities of [shipbuilding in Russia]. This provides context to some long delays in delivery of some surface vessels and submarines...The nature of the platforms is changing, with a trend toward combat units of lower tonnage [eg. more corvettes] but still with a high weapons load (eg. Kalibr missiles). So, what do we have to remember about shipbuilding for the Russian fleet in 2017?

... Submarines

No submarines were commissioned in 2017. However 3 subs were launched in 2017 (see TABLE below):
-  the second Project 0885.1 Yasen SSGN (K-561 Kazan) was launched by Sevmash shipbuilding at
   Severodvinsk (which is by the White Sea, north of St. Petersburg). 
-  the seventh Yasen (Ulyanovsk) was put "on hold".
-  6 Project 636.3 Kilo class SSKs for the Pacific Fleet were commenced at the Admiralty shipyard
   St. Petersburg. This was starting with 2 Kilos (B-603 Volkhov and B-274 

TABLE of Submarines Commissioned or Launched 2013 to 2017.







See the WHOLE ORIGINAL ARTICLE in French HERE (right-click mouse to translate into your own language).

Separately soumarsov advises regarding the Project 885 Yasen SSGN class:
-  one (the first, named Severodvinsk K-560 ) is active in the Northern Fleet. She has been in
   experimental service for years and only in March 2016 was she fully combat ready.
-  the follow-on Yasens are designated 885M or “Yasen-M”. 
   :  the first one, Kazan, was launched in March 2017 and is expected to be commissioned at the end
      of 2018. 
   :  the last one, Ulyanovsk, is due to be commissioned 2023 at the earliest.

More on Russian SSKs, SSGNs, SSNs and SSBNs from soumarsov next week.


February 15, 2018

Russian Submarine Development as at 2018

In terms of conventional subs (SSKs) Russia has only been able to build and sell Kilo submarines (Project 877) since 1980 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilo-class_submarine#Project_877_units 

and Improved Kilo subs (Project 636) since 1996 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilo-class_submarine#Project_636_units

In 2012 Russia also 10 year leased one Akula II SSN (known as INS Chakra) to India https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_submarine_Nerpa_(K-152)

Due to a limited submarine defense budget Russia has spent more on nuclear submarine development and production (new Yasen "Multipurpose", Borey/Borei SSBNs and updated Akula SSNs, Delta SSBNs and Oscar SSGNs) with insufficient money to develop AIP for conventional diesel-electric subs. 

Thus Russia has been unable to develop and market AIP submarines which it hoped to sell under marketing names of Project Amur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur-class_submarine and Kalina https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Kalina

What Russia has announced as Project Haski or Husky may only produce new nuclear multipurpose and SSBNs in the 2040s or later.