The Procession Of Turkish Warships To The Black Sea

Today we have witnessed a procession of different types of Turkish warships and a submarine to the Black Sea:

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Y-36 TCG Meseha-2. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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P-1200 TCG Tuzla. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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A-587 TCG Gazal. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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A-595 TCG Yarbay Kudret Güngör. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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A-595 TCG Yarbay Kudret Güngör. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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An unnamed 209 Type 1400 class submarine.

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Ç-140 TCG Ç-140. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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P-333 TCG Tufan. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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P-330 TCG Kılıç. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

While the reason(s) for their deployment to the Black Sea has not been public, it is safe to assume that some of them may engage with SNMG-2 ships still in the Black Sea.

The below text is from the official statement from NATO with an emphasize of mine:

Varna, Bulgaria – Last weekend from 19 till 22 September 2014, the two ships assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO (SNMG2) Task Unit TWO (TU.02) stayed in Varna for a scheduled port visit during their deployment to the Black Sea.

Led by Commander Jason Armstrong (Royal Canadian Navy), SNMG2 TU.02 is currently composed of HMCS TORONTO (Royal Canadian Navy) and SPS AMIRALTE JUAN de BORBON (Spanish Navy).

SNMG2 is visiting the port as part of the Group’s deployment to the Black Sea to enhance maritime security and NATO’s readiness in the region.

“This visit has been planned for quite some time, and in light of current events it; has become all the more significant,” said Commander Jason Armstrong, Commander SNMG2 TU.02. “We are delighted to come and train together, eager to enhance our mutual understanding, and eager to bring a strong message to Bulgarian people and to all Allied Nations regarding NATO’s resolve and commitment to collective defence.

”In conjunction with the port visit, Commander NATO Allied Maritime Command, Vice Admiral Hudson will visit with the Bulgarian Minister of Defence, Dr. Velizar Shalamanov, and Bulgarian Navy leaders to discuss maritime security and other issues of shared interest.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the Bulgarian Navy for their support in making this visit possible.” said Vice Admiral Hudson. “While this deployment to the Black Sea is reflective of our naval forces’ regular activities, it is also part of a broader set of military measures agreed upon by NATO’s highest political body, the North Atlantic Council, to reinforce our collective defence and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity.”

During the remainder of its deployment in the Black Sea, SNMG2 TU.02 will engage with ships and aircraft of the Bulgarian Navy and air and naval units from Turkey.

SNMG-2 Passed Through Turkish Straits

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto passing through the Bosphorus.

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto passing through the Bosphorus.

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon passing through the Bosphorus.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon on Bosphorus.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon (left) and Canadian frigate FHH-333 HMCS Toronto (right) heading to the Black Sea .

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG-2) Task Unit 02 entered the Black Sea on 6 September 2014.

According to NATO the SNMG-2 is made up from the following ships: USS Leyte Gulf, TCG Kemalreis, FGS Nidersachsen, HMCS Toronto and ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon. Apparently this Maritime Group is sub divided into two task units as USS Leyte Gulf, TCG Kemalreis and FGS Niedersachen are in USA, while the other two are in the Black Sea.

This is the SNMG-2 press release on Task Unit 02:

Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO Task Unit 02 (SNMG2 TU.02), part of NATO’s four Standing Maritime Forces, entered the Black Sea today to participate in naval exercises with partners and to enhance NATO’s solidarity and readiness in the region.

Task Unit 02 presently consists of the Canadian frigate HMCS TORONTO and the Spanish frigate ESPS ALMIRANTE JUAN DE BORBON. They remain under the overall command of COM SNMG2 Rear Admiral Brad Williamson (USA N).

“HMCS TORONTO’s deployment in the Black Sea is an excellent opportunity for ship’s officers and crew to work closely with both Allied and partner naval forces,” said Commander Jason Armstrong, commanding officer of HMCS TORONTO. “The exercise, as well as other operations we undertake in the Black Sea, builds upon Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO’s deployment in July, as participant naval forces continue to demonstrate Allied commitment to collective defence and interoperability.

And this is the SNMG-2 press release on Task Unit 01:

Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO (SNMG2) arrived Tuesday in Norfolk, Va. for a scheduled port visit in conjunction with Amphibious Readiness Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercises (ARGMEU EX). ARGMEU EX are multi-warfare amphibious exercises with the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Readiness Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. SNMG2 has already completed Task Group Exercises and Fleet Exercises with assets from the U.S. and Canadian navies. ARG-MEU EX is SNMG2’s first opportunity to train with the U.S. Marine Corps.

This port visit and ARGMEU EX are part of a series of training exercises in which SNMG2 will participate during its deployment to the Western Atlantic. This is the first time in several years that a NATO task force has conducted transatlantic operations in North America. ARG MEU EX will provide valuable experience through integrated task group training, with a focus on amphibious warfare.

SNMG2 ships currently deployed to North America include the U.S. flagship, USS LEYTE GULF (CG 55), the German ship FGS NIEDERSACHSEN (F 208), and the Turkish ship TCG KEMALREIS (F 247). KEMALREIS is the first Turkish warship to visit the U.S. in 15 years, and this is the first trip to the U.S. for the majority of their crew.

“I’m extremely honoured to be the first Turkish ship to visit the United States in quite some time. I look forward to fostering relationships and training with our U.S. counterparts and I’m happy for many of our Sailors to make their first trip to the United States during this deployment,” said Cmdr. Fatih Guresci, Kemalreis Commanding Officer.

I must confess I have failed to understand the logic behind the decision to split up, SNMG-2 in two and deploying them an ocean apart.

USS Ross Passed Through Turkish Straits

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US Navy destroyer, DDG-71 USS Ross passed through the Turkish Straits today and entered to the Black Sea.

The Arleigh Burke class ship, is one of the 4 ships upgraded with the Ballistic Missile Defense System and forward deployed in Rota, Spain.

Breeze 2014 Naval Exercise

The Bulgarian Navy is hosting a nine day long naval exercise Breeze 2014.

The military exercise is to be held in the Western section of the Black Sea and is aimed at improving the tactical compatibility and collaboration among naval forces of the alliance’s member states.

Bulgaria’s port city of Burgas has peen picked to host the staff of the drills.

While Breeze 2014 is taking place, the staff of the Bulgarian Naval Forces will be certified for conformity of the level of planning independent operations to NATO criteria, according to the website pan.bg, specialized in defense issues.

The exercise, which ends July 13, starts amid stepped-up presence of alliance forces in the Black Sea over the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s decision to incorporate the Crimean peninsula in March this year. 

According to the information I have the following ships are taking part in the exercise:

 Number Name Type Country
F-582 ITS Aviere Frigate Italy
5561 ITS Rimini Mine Hunter Italy
M-37 HSM Chiddingfold Mine Hunter UK
M-270 TCG Akçay Mine Hunter Turkey
P-266 HS Machitis Patrol Craft Greece
S-352 TCG Dolunay Submarine Turkey
P-332 TCG Mızrak Fast Attack Craft Turkey
P-1200 TCG Tuzla Patrol Craft Turkey

As always I will appreciate any additional information about the participants.

Here is a nice video showing the arrival of the NATO SNMCMG-2 ships to Burgas.

A Submarine Sighted

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A Turkish Type 209/1400 Preveze/Gür class submarine passing through the Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

Today on 1 July 2014, in the late evening hours, one Turkish Type 209 / 1400 class submarine sailed through Bosphorus to the Black Sea.

Since Turkish Navy stopped painting the pennant number of the submarines on their hulls, it is impossible to identify each individual submarine anymore. While this new painting scheme helps the submarines to blend and prevents IR/FLIR/LLTV using trackers or electro-optic directors any high contrast target, it makes ship spotting difficult.
With 6 Type 209/1200, 4 Type 209/1400 and 4 Modified Type 209/1400 class submarines in service, Turkey has the largest conventional submarine fleet in the NATO.

The Montreux Convention Regarding The Regime Of The Straits: A Turkish Perspective

I have written the following text for the Turkish online defence magazine C4 Defence in Turkish. It was published in the March Issue. Since it was also published in web site Second Line of Defense, I’m publishing it here.

As I have delivered the text in Turkish, the English translation was without my influence. There are some places where I would have expressed myself differently. But I admire the hard word and the good job the (for my unknown) translator has put it, thank him/her wholeheartedly.

 

THE MONTREUX CONVENTION REGARDING THE REGIME OF THE STRAITS: A TURKISH PERSPECTIVE

The Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the Turkish Straits was signed on 20 July 1936 in Montreux. With this convention, the Republic of Turkey managed to end the issue of Straits, which was resolved temporarily with the Treaty of Lausanne, so as to protect its own safety and interests.

Considering the historical developments, Turkey had to allow the Straits as a gun-free zone to be administered by the Straits Commission under the Treaty of Lausanne. This situation which threatened Turkey’s absolute sovereignty and the security over its territory had to be corrected due to the increasing political tensions in Europe in the late 1930s. The Montreux Convention was the result of the political and diplomatic efforts that were made in this direction.

Through this convention that was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Japan, France, Romania, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, Turkey’s limited rights were given back. Turkey gained sovereignty over the Straits Zone. The USA was also invited to the conference that was held before the convention. However, the Washington Government preferred not to participate and thus couldn’t become a signatory.

500px-Turkish_Strait_disambig.svgNorthwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The channel passing between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara is named the Istanbul Bogazi, more commonly called the Bosporus. Istanbul is positioned at the south end of the Bosporus. The Sea of Marmara is connected to the Aegean Sea by a channel called the Canakkale Bogazi, also known as the Dardanelles. The Turkish Straits, comprising the Strait of Canakkale, the Strait of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara and, are unique in many respects. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more a kin to that of the river. It is an established fact that the Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous, waterways in the world for marines. All the dangers and obstacles characteristic of narrow waterways are present and acute in this critical sea-lane.

Northwestern Turkey is divided by a complex waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of a river. The Turkish Straits are one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous, waterways in the world for mariners.

The Montreux Convention guarantees free passage of civilian merchant ships without any restriction through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus in peacetime. Therefore, the adoption of the Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Services System, which was put into practice by Turkey when the number and tonnages of vessels passing through the straits increased dramatically, became possible after serious diplomatic negotiations between the signatories of the Montreux Convention.

Six out of 29 articles of the Montreux Convention were related to the civilian merchant ships while 16 of them were related to the war ships and aircrafts. Provisions regarding the passing of war ships through the Straits vary depending on whether these ships belong to a country with or without a shore on the Black Sea. Also, these provisions vary depending on whether Turkey is belligerent or sees itself under a close war threat.

The countries with a shore on the Black Sea have the right to transit their war ships and submarines through the Straits without any tonnage restriction provided that Turkey is notified eight days prior to the transit passage through diplomatic channels.

Ships that have a greater tonnage than 15.000 tons may pass through the Straits one by one and escorted by not more than two destroyers. The submarines are required to navigate on the surface and singly when passing through the Straits.

The definition of “ton” in the Montreux Convention, unless otherwise specified, refers to the long ton, which is equal to 1016 kg (2240 pounds) instead of the metric ton that is equal to 1000 kg. Moreover, the tonnage calculation of a war ship is made by taking into account the well-constructed and ready-to-sail ship’s fuel, all machineries, weapons and ammunition, its equipment, all its crew and their provisions and fresh water as well as all the tools and equipment that will be carried during a war.

Entry into the Black Sea
There are some restrictions in terms of type, number and tonnage for the transit through the Straits of war ships that belong to the countries without a shore on the Black Sea. These countries are required to notify Turkey eight days, but preferably 15 days, prior to the transit through diplomatic channels.

The countries without a shore on the Black Sea have the right to transit a naval force, which is not prohibited by the convention and whose total tonnage does not exceed 15.000 tons, from the Straits to the Black Sea. Even if the total tonnage does not exceed 15.000 tons, the number of ships cannot be more than nine.

The countries without a shore on the Black Sea cannot keep their war ships more than 21 days in the Black Sea. The total tonnage of war ships belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea cannot exceed 30.000 tons while the tonnage of war ships that can be kept by all of the countries without a shore on the Black Sea at the same time cannot exceed 45.000 tons.

Due to its date of signing, the Montreux Convention does not have a clear statement with regard to nuclear-powered vessels.

In fact, in the convention there is not a statement with regard to the engine types of the ships that will pass through the Straits. In theory, the transit of a nuclear-powered ship through the Straits is not restricted.

However, today the nuclear-powered war ships are either the submarines or aircraft carriers with huge tonnage. The transit of a submarine or an aircraft carrier belonging to a country without a shore on the Black Sea is not possible. Therefore, a nuclear-powered war ship has not passed through the Straits officially so far.

Straits during a War or Crisis

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

The Southern enterance of the Bosphorus. The old city, The Golden Horn are visible at the bottom. At far left the first Bosphorus Bridge can be seen.

In the event that one of the countries with a shore on the Black Sea enters into a war, the rules of the Montreux Convention that are applicable during peacetime change naturally. If Turkey is neutral in the war, the transit of war ships belonging to the belligerent countries is prohibited.

The peacetime rules apply for the war ships belonging to other countries. The only exception of this is that if the war ships belonging to belligerent countries with or without a shore on the Black Sea have already left the ports that they are affiliated to before the war, they have the right to transit in order to return to their ports.

In the event that Turkey is a party to the war, the transit of war ships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

Similarly, if Turkey considers itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war, the transit of war ships belonging to foreign countries through the Straits is left to the discretion of the Turkish Government.

By means of this authority, Turkey can prohibit the transit of war ships belonging to the countries that cause Turkey to consider itself to be threatened with danger of war while it can allow the transit of war ships belonging to countries that do not cause that such situation.

Montreux on a Global Scale
With the Montreux Convention regarding the regime of the straits, which we have tried to summarize above, the number, type and size of the war ships that can reach the Black Sea have been restricted. These restrictions increase the security of the countries with a shore on the Black Sea. However, the same restrictions prevent the desire of countries with powerful naval forces to be present and cruise in all seas all around the world.

Turkey has been trying to implement the Montreux Convention with great precision since 1936. Therefore, occasionally Turkey is exposed to criticism from countries both with and without a shore on the Black Sea.

The first big test of the Montreux Convention was, no doubt, the Second World War.

Turkey closed the Straits to the war ships of the belligerent countries during this war in which Turkey remained neutral. This situation served to the purpose of the Soviet Union since the transit of German submarines and war ships through the Straits was prevented. Axis countries couldn’t bring new war ships to the Black Sea except for those that were already in the Black Sea before the war. Submarines were transferred in pieces by land or through the Danube River so that they could be assembled in Romania.

However, in the following process Moscow’s perspective changed. The main reason of this change was the fact that the military aid convoys coming from its allies, the UK and the USA, could not pass through the Straits.

During the Cold War, Turkey was exposed to criticism of the Soviet Union and the NATO allies from time to time due to its way of implementation of the Montreux Convention.

The fact that in 1976 Turkey allowed the transit of Kiev, which was launched in the Nikolayev Shipbuilding in the Black Sea in 1972, through the Straits caused the protests among the NATO allies, including the USA. Kiev was the first aircraft carrier constructed completely by the Soviet Union according to the Westerners. However, having been quite aware of the fact that violating the Montreux Convention would not be good for its own benefit, the USSR classified the Kiev as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser instead of an aircraft carrier.

Moscow couldn’t solve the problem with a simple change of name.

In the Montreux Convention, the aircraft carriers were defined as surface war ships, regardless of their tonnage, constructed mainly to carry aircrafts and enable the operation of these aircrafts in the sea or designed for this purpose. If a war ship was not designed or arranged with the purpose of carrying aircrafts and enabling them to operate in the sea, having a suitable deck for the aircraft’s take-off and landing was not enough for its inclusion in the aircraft carrier class.

In Kiev and the ships that came after her in this class, there were long-range anti-ship and air defense missiles as well as anti-submarine warfare rockets. Thus, the Soviet Union was able to classify these ships as a heavy anti-submarine cruiser. Today, having been taken out service by Russia, the Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk and Baku that was constructed afterwards passed frequently through the Straits while on duty.

This is not a carrier. Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov passing through Bosphorus.

A similar crisis happened in 1991 when the RFNS Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, which still serves in the Russian Army, passed through the Straits. Although this ship looked like a classical aircraft carrier in terms of its structure, the Soviet Union classified it as a heavy cruiser due to some weapon systems deployed on the ship. Some NATO member countries put serious pressure on Turkey not to allow this ship to pass through the Straits, but they didn’t succeed in this effort. Unlike Kiev-class ships, the RFNS Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov didn’t pass through the Straits again after leaving the Black Sea in 1991.

The second ship belonging to this class was launched in 1988 with the name of Varyag, but no studies had been carried out on this ship for many years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This ship, as the flagship and first aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy, passed through the Straits in 2001 with the name of Liaoning. Since its construction was not completed at that time, it wasn’t categorized as a ship and thus its transit wasn’t subject to the provisions of the Montreux Convention.

Montreux in the New World
After the terrorist attacks happened on 11 September 2001, the U.S. Government requested for help from the NATO countries within the scope of Article 5 of NATO Treaty. According to this article, an armed attack against a NATO country is considered as an attack against all of the NATO countries.

In this context, on 26 October 2001 the Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) that was the first anti-terror operation of NATO was launched. The operation that began with the patrols of the war ships belonging to NATO countries in the Eastern Mediterranean was later on expanded so as to search the suspicious ships and their loads.

Upon the success of the OAE in the Eastern Mediterranean, the operation was expanded to whole Mediterranean area in March 2004. On the same date, the Turkish Naval Forces launched the Operation Black Sea Harmony (OBSH).

The purpose of the operation, in which surface ships, submarines and aircrafts belonging to the Turkish Naval Forces were used at first, was to ensure the security in the Black Sea, create situational awareness and control the suspicious ships.

The OBSH actually had the same purpose with the OAE. The recognized maritime picture obtained within the scope of the operation, which is still ongoing, is shared with the NATO authorities and headquarters.

The Turkish Naval Forces invited all littoral countries in the Black Sea to participate in the operation that was launched with its own initiative, and Romania, Russia and Ukraine responded positively to this invitation.

The most important effect of the OBSH was that all the pressure exerted to modify the Montreux Convention and expand the OAE coming from the NATO countries without a shore on the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea could be resisted.

If the Turkish Naval Forces hadn’t launched the OBSH and made it accepted by other NATO countries, the OAE that was launched by the joint efforts of all NATO countries would have expanded to include the Black Sea. Therefore, they could have been in this sea and the war ships belonging to NATO countries without a shore on the Black Sea would have made it impossible to implement the Montreux Convention.

The Montreux Convention became a current issue after the Russia-Georgia War in 2008. Turkey didn’t allow the transit of the 69.552-ton hospital ship named USNS Comfort with the bow number of T-AH-20 that was desired to be sent to Georgia due to the Article of the Montreux Convention that read as: “In the event that one or more countries without a shore on the Black Sea desire to send naval forces into the Black Sea, for a humanitarian purpose, the said forces cannot exceed 8.000 tons.”

The U.S government did not welcome this development, which was neo-conservative during that period. Many American war ships that were carrying aid for Georgia had to shuttle back and forth between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea due to the restrictions of the Montreux Convention.

Another crisis broke out during the missile shield program which was established by NATO in order to protect Europe against ballistic missiles originating from the Middle East. Some of the Ticonderoga-class and Arleigh Burke-class ships in the U.S. Navy were fitted with the capability of ballistic missile prevention.

The Black Sea provides the most convenient location to these ships for hitting the enemy ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere.

Washington’s desire to deploy these ships, which represented the floating team of its missile shield program in the Black Sea, brought great discussions together.

However, the articles of the Montreux Convention that restrict the tonnage and duration of the ships passing through the Straits made it impossible for the American war ships to be deployed in the Black Sea within the framework of the missile shield program of NATO.

And 2014 Crimea
The presence of the foreign war ships passing through the Straits during recent Crimean events brought the Montreux Convention to the attention of the public once again.

When the Montreux Convention was signed, its duration was determined as 20 years. However, the freedom to pass through the Straits is unlimited. Termination of the convention can be only brought to the agenda by one of the signatory countries.

The USA, which will be able to bring its war ships for a time period depending on its own will with the repeal of the Montreux Convention cannot directly request the termination of the convention since it is not a party to the convention.

The countries with a shore on the Black Sea that have acquired rights by signing the convention prefer the continuation of the convention in consideration of their national security.

The fact that the convention hasn’t been terminated as described in the convention at the end of the 20 year-period and that this issue has never been raised until today shows that the Montreux Convention still has an important role for the signatory countries.

 

USS Donald Cook Returned To The Mediterranean

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USS Donald Cook passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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USS Donald Cook passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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USS Donald Cook passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

On 24 April 2014 in the early morning hours, the US destroyer USS Donald Cook made a southbound passage through the Bosphorus and left the Black Sea.

With the departure of USS Donald Cook, US frigate USS Taylor and the French intelligence gathering ship FS Dupuy de Lôme have remained in the region.

USS Taylor Passed Through The Bosphorus

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USS Taylor passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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USS Taylor passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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USS Taylor passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

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USS Taylor passing through Bosphorus. Photo: Yörük Işık. Used with permission.

44 days later US Navy frigate FFG-50 USS Taylor returned to the Black Sea. On her own power.
The Perry class frigate was deployed to the Black Sea before the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games started. USS Taylor and the flag-ship of the US 6th Fleet USS Mount Whitney were send to the Black Sea to help with the evacuation of US athletes and spectators in case of a terror attack to the Games.
USS Taylor had a grounding in Samsun harbour on 12 February 2014 as she arrived here for refueling. Her only propeller was damaged during the accident and all the work done to repair the ship turned out to be not effective. US Navy contracted the company DonJon specialized in marine salvage and towing, to tow USS Taylor to Souda Crete where her propeller hub and blades were replaced.

There are no information about her current deployment to the Black Sea.

For further reading:
USS Taylor Passed Through Bosphorus Being Towed
USS Taylor Departs Samsun
USS Taylor Commanding Officer Relieved of Duty
Update On USS Taylor
USS Taylor Damaged In Samsun
USS Taylor In Samsun

Dissecting Jpost Op-ed “Turkey vulnerable to rising Russian power in the Black Sea”

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A ESSM missile being fired from a Mk-41 launcher on board of a Turkish frigate. But Mr. Tanchum tells us that these missiles will get into Turkish inventory in 2016. May be these are not the ESSM missiles Mr. Tanchum is looking for.

Yesterday, The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by Micha’el Tanchum, which was first published in the Turkey Analyst.  This this op-ed Mr. Tanchum explains that:

With the annexation of Crimea, Turkey faces a stronger and bolder Russian naval power in the Black Sea. A resurgent Russia may be tempted to exploit its temporary naval dominance to alter current Black Sea energy exploitation and transportation arrangements more in its favor and to the detriment of Turkey and its partners in the Caucasus.

While there a some aspects in this op-ed where I whole hearty agree there also some obvious and large material mistakes that raises questions about the credibility of the writer and his reason the write such a text.

Let’s start:

After gaining experience from the building of the slightly larger but more lethal TF 100 anti-air warfare frigates, Turkey then intends to build a series of TF 2000 frigates. Double the size of the TF 100, the TF 2000 anti-air warfare frigate will significantly advance the Turkish fleet’s transformation into a blue-water navy.

This is not correct. TF-2000 air defense ship project will supersede TF-100 project. TF-100 project is scheduled to start around 2020 to replace the MEKO 200 Track I frigates. On the other hand TF-2000 will be a major ship program and will form the mainstay of Turkish Navy with long range air defense sensors and weapons. TF-2000 is in early design phase and TF-100 does not exists even on blue-paper. Therefore it is not possible to say that one class of ships will be the double of the other as there is no data to compare at all. But I agree that TF-2000 will advance Turkish Navy into a blue-water navy.

The TF 100 frigates will be the first Turkish vessels to carry the American-manufactured RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) system capable of countering the current generation of supersonic anti-ship missiles.

It is absolutely and utterly false that TF-100 frigates are going to be the first ESSM capable ships in Turkish Navy. As you can see from the photo above Turkish Navy has today ESSM capable ships in operation. As the regular readers of this blog and people who really follow the developments in Turkish Navy know, Turkish Navy has installed Mk-41 vertical launcher systems in 4 of its 8 Gabya (ex Perry) class frigates. And the main 2D search radars of these 4 ships with Mk-41 are being replaced by 3D radars. The main reason for the installation of the Mk-41 is to use the ESSM missile which is incompatible with the Mk-13 launcher on these ships.In addition to 4 Gabya class frigates 2 MEKO 200 Track IIB class frigates have Mk-41 launchers. This 2 ships are also capable to use ESSM missiles. And this capability will be retrofitted to the 2 MEKO 200 Track IIA frigates when their Mk-29 launcher will be replaced by Mk-41 VLS.

 Turkey’s strategic vulnerability was not anticipated because of the view in Turkish policy circles that Turkey enjoys a relative parity with Russia in the Black Sea. However, the approximate parity exists only when Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is matched against all the major assets of the Turkish navy. Prior to the Crimean conflict, Russia’s Black Sea fleet consisted of 24 major surface combatants and one diesel submarine while Turkey’s major naval assets consist of approximately 24 surface combatants and 14 submarines. The parity is illusory as it is unlikely that Turkey would be able to deploy all or most of its naval assets in a Black Sea conflict.

I have always found making a comparison between Turkish and Russian Naval Forces very difficult as Russia has 3 other Fleets and it is not clear whether Turkey can mobilise all its major naval units to the Black Sea.
But I have difficulty to calculating Mr. Tanchum’s math on units numbers. The Turkish side is simple: 8 Gabya frigates + 8 MEKO 200 frigates + 6 Burak corvettes + 2 Ada corvettes and came up to 24 major surface units. On Russian side the math is not so simple. I have tired to remake Mr. Tanchum’s calculation based on Jane’s Fighting Ship reference book: 1 Slava cruiser + 1 Kara cruiser + 1 Kashin destroyer + 2 Krivak frigate + 6 Grisha frigate + 2 Sivuch corvettes + 5 Tarantul corvettes + 2 Nanuchka corvette makes 20 major surface units.
I have no idea where the other 4 units mentions in the op-ed were added to the Russian side. On the other hand if one is adding Tarantul and Nanuchka class ships to a comparison on Russian side then one has to add Yıldız and Karayel class fast attack craft on Turkish side. As in terms of displacement, on board weapons and sensors there is not much difference between Tarantul and Nanuchka class corvettes and Yıldız and Karayel class fast attack craft. Therefore I am thinking that Mr. Tanchum’s numbers are either biased or he has chosen his sample units poorly, which makes the above quoted comparison dubious.

With the annexation of Crimea, Turkey faces a stronger and bolder Russian naval power in the Black Sea. Russia now possesses the Ukrainian navy’s submarine and several, if not most, of Ukraine’s 11 major surface combatants. Even without the Ukraine’s naval assets, Russia’s own new additions to its Black Sea Fleet will enable Moscow to dominate the region. Russia recently put to sea the first of its six Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates. All six frigates are designated for service in the Black Sea Fleet.

It is true that the annexed Ukrainian naval assets increased the roster of the Russian Black Sea Unit. But this is only on paper. In reality most of the Ukrainian units taken by Russians are unfit for service and pose no thread to anyone. There are some reports that Russia has started to return some of the Ukrainian naval units back to Ukraine as they are not fit for service in Russian Navy. The Ukrainian submarine Zaporizhzhya sized by Russian forces was declared unfit for service but is still in Russian hands. Thus until newly build naval units start to arrive in the Black Sea the enlargement of Russian Black Sea units through the influx of Ukrainian naval units is not realistic thread.

Russia’s own new additions to its Black Sea Fleet will enable Moscow to dominate the region. Russia recently put to sea the first of its six Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates. All six frigates are designated for service in the Black Sea Fleet.

It’s true that Russia wants to improve its Black Sea Fleet with new frigates and submarines. But it is wrong to assume that these ships are going to be an addition the current warships. On the contrary these new constructed warships will replace existing old warships which reached the end of their usefulness. Therefore these new warships will not increase the number of Russian warships in the Black Sea 1:1.

Within the same 2016 timeframe, Russia will also add six newly improved Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines to its Black Sea Fleet ahead of Turkey’s deployment of an equivalent number of Ada-class anti-submarine corvettes. These two Russian procurement programs alone will quickly tilt the balance of naval forces in Russia’s favor, giving Russia a significant strategic advantage for a window of four to eight years depending on the pace of Turkey’s resumed production schedule

The above quoted paragraph shows that making naval analysis is not Mr. Tanchum’s strong suit. He is fundamentally wrong in his assumption that the main Turkish adversary of the Russian Kilo class submarines will be the Ada class corvettes. One does not fight airplanes with SAM missiles. One does not fight enemy tanks with ATGMs. The main weapons Turkey will use against the Kilo class submarines that will start to enter into service in (at least) 3 years time will be the submarines Turkey possess.   And with 14 submarines in service Turkey has the strongest diesel-electric submarine force in NATO. These submarines are a huge force multiplier and one of our countries most important silent and deadly weapons. Six of the 14 submarines in Turkish inventory are nearing their useful life and they will be replaced by AIP Type 214 submarines. Even if Russian Black Sea Fleet enjoys an advantage in numbers for a time the air independent submarines will have the upper hand against the Russian submarines as they will not be AIP equipped.

It’s noteworthy that the new submarine construction programme of Turkey was never mentioned in this text.

Until Ankara can rectify the gap in naval capabilities created by MILGEM’s delays, Turkey will not be able to defend its national interests adequately as Russia attempts to reestablish its sphere of influence in the greater Black Sea region

During the Cold War the Black Sea was divided between NATO nation Turkey and 3 Warsaw Pact nations Bulgaria, Romania and USSR.  How we have 3 NATO nations Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. Plus Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. With the annexation of Crime by Russia the status quo in the Black Sea which was created at the end of the Cold War has changed. But this change is not unmanageable for Ankara as long as we have a long term political goal and will toreach it.

It is beyond any doubt that the cancellation of Milgem construction tender given to RMK Marine shipyard has created a havoc among the Turkish naval armament projects. But believing this delay will hamper Turkey’s ability to defends its national interest is wish full thinking.

 

FS Dupuy de Lôme Passed Through Turkish Straits

Today the French intelligence collection ship FS Dupuy de Lôme passed through Turkish Straits too, following the US destroyer USS Donald Cook.

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French spy ship FS Dupuy de Lôme passing through the Bosphorus. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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French spy ship FS Dupuy de Lôme passing through the Bosphorus. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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French spy ship FS Dupuy de Lôme passing through the Bosphorus. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

The French Navy has been usually active in last couple of weeks in this region:

On 28 March 2014, FS Alizé, diving support ship used by the French external intelligence agency passed through Turkish Straits. She took part in a naval exercise in Varna, Bulgaria. I have no idea about her present whereabouts, but she could be still in the Black Sea.

On 7 April 2014, FS Var, replenishment tanker arrived in Marmaris for a 3 day port visit.

On 14 April 2014 we expect the destroyer FS Dupleix to pass through the Turkish Straits.

But by far the intelligence gathering ship FS Dupuy de Lôme will be the most controversial one. She is fitted with COMINT and ELINT equipment.  Her helicopter pad might be used to launch and recover unmanned air vehicles which can carry additional intelligence gathering sensors. According to Jane’s Fighting Ship,  the ship is available for 350 days a year and active for 240 days.

May be France is better in making strategic communication at a level that can be correctly interpreted by Russians by sending two spy ships to the back yard of the Russians.

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