28 Jul 2013 1 Comment
27 Jul 2013 1 Comment
On 24 July 2013 late afternoon NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2) arrived in Istanbul.
The group was in the Black Sea since 5 July and visited Bulgaria, and Ukraine and conducted training with Bulgarian and Romanian naval units.
Currently, SNMG-2 consists of the Spanish frigate F-103 SPS Blas De Lezo and Turkish frigate F-246 TCG Salihreis
I was invited to the press conference on board of SPS Blas De Lezo on 25 July 2013. It was my third visit of a Spanish warship but my first press conference so it was quite an interesting event.
Rear Admiral Eugenio Diaz Del Rio is the current commander of the Maritime Group 2, for a period of a year starting June 15th 2013.
He, with the commander of the SPS Blas De Lezo Commander Fernando Alvarez Blanco and the commander of TCG Salihreis Commander Levent Bingöl answered the question of the press.
Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio explained that there will two different stages during his command. In the first stage SNMG-2 will remain mainly in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea and will support NATO’s Operation Active Endevour and take part in naval exercises Doğu Akdeniz organized by Turkish Navy, Briliant Mariner/Mare Aperto by Italy or Naias by Greece.
In the second stage in 2014 will relived SNMG-1 in the Gulf of Aden and will take the responsibly of the NATO’s anti-piracy operation Ocean Shield for the first 6 months.
He also told that the current composition of SNMG is going to change in late August as more warships will join the group.
Upon my question how he would elaborate this the Black Sea cruise of the SNMG-2 he told that being in the Black sea was interesting as a member of the Spanish Navy he did not had many opportunities to be there. The training of SNMG-2 with the Bulgarian and Romanian naval units was in his opinion very good and helped these NATO navies in gaining the experiences other older NATO navies already have.
Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio compared this force to the fire fighters and said “We must always be ready for any kind of situation emerging in our area. We do not have luxury of saying we need 24 hours to be ready”
He also praised the support of Turkish Navy. SNMG-2 was refueled by Turkish oiler 3 times when it was in the Black Sea. Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio informed that during his tour as Staff Operations Officer at NATO’S Standing Naval Force in the Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) in 2000 he was stationed on board of a Turkish ship and had a very good working relations with Turkish Navy.
The admiral answered my question whether a plan at NATO level or at national level for Spain existed to position AEGIS platforms such as the frigate Blas De Lezo on the Black Sea, to support NATO initiative to provide a BMD for Europe by saying that NATO was to provide command and control for the BMD system components and every participating nation was going to provide their equipment accordingly.
Upon a question how it feels to have an admiral and his staff on board the commander of the SPS Blas De Lezo Commander Fernando Alvarez Blanco said that Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio, was his boss in their previous tenure and they have been working together for a long time.
Commander Blanco also told that Turkish delegations have visited the frigate and they have been extensively briefed about the working of the AEGIS system. He also told us that the AEGIS system was working well in coastal/littoral Sea such as the Mediterranean or the Black Sea especially if you have a previous knowledge of the area and the expected threads.
16 Apr 2013 Leave a comment
A large mine warfare exercise organised by Spanish Navy has started off the coast of Cartagena and Alicante.
The ‘Spanish Minex-13′ is an advanced exercise Naval War Mine Action organized annually by the Spanish Armada in order to implement common procedures for defense against the threat of naval mines.
Among the participants to this exercise are NATO’s SNMCMG-2 and EU’s Euromarfor, along with many units from Spanish Armada.
The exercise will last till 26th April 2013. Turkish Aydın class mine hunter TCG Alanya is taking part in this exercise as a member of SNMCMG-2.
The exercise is led by the Commander of the Force Mine Action, Captain Juan Jose Fernandez Garcia, who will command the more than 500 soldiers of the Spanish Armada and France, Turkey and United Kingdom.
The mines used in the ‘Spanish Minex-13′ are simulated submarine artifacts completely harmless and safe for the environment, which will be collected at the end of exercise. As usual in this type of maneuver, it will take the opportunity to make a clean seabed area exercises.
This is the list of participating naval units to this exercise. More info is always welcomed.
|P-77||SPS Infanta Cristina||Frigate||Spain|
|P-81||SPS Torella||Patrol craft||Spain|
|P-82||SPS Formentor||Patrol craft||Spain|
|M-31||SPS Segura||Mine hunter||Spain|
|M-32||SPS Sella||Mine hunter||Spain|
|M-35||SPS Duero||Mine hunter||Spain|
|M-36||SPS Tajo||Mine hunter||Spain|
|A-101M-31||SPS Mar Caribe||Logistic support ship||Spain|
|M-653||FS Capricorne||Mine hunter||France|
|M-31||HMS Cattistock||Mine hunter||UK|
|M-265||TCG Alanya||Mine hunter||Turkey|
6 Oct 2011 1 Comment
Spain agreed to host the ships US Navy is deploying to Mediterranean for NATO’s missile defense system.
“Today the [NATO] security partnership takes a major step in the right direction,” Panetta told reports at the briefing.
“With four Aegis ships at Rota,” he added, “the alliance is significantly boosting combined naval capabilities in the Mediterranean and enhancing our ability to ensure the security of this vital region.”
The relocation of assets is part of an ongoing U.S. effort to better position forces and defensive capabilities in coordination with European allies and partners, the secretary added.
In 2009, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would adopt a new approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe called the European Phased Adaptive Approach. The architecture would be more comprehensive than a previous program, Obama said in a statement at the time, and would deploy proven, cost-effective capabilities and ultimately protect the United States and its NATO allies against short-, medium- and intermediate-range missile threats.
The program is being implemented in four phases, beginning this year and ending in 2020. So far, Romania, Poland, Turkey and now Spain have agreed to participate by hosting land-based radars or missile sites or porting Aegis ballistic-missile-defense-capable ships carrying interceptor missiles.
“These ships will support NATO’s critical efforts to build an effective missile defense alongside important agreements that were recently concluded with Romania, Poland and Turkey,” Panetta said.
Spain’s decision represents a critical step in implementing the European phased-adaptive approach, as the alliance’s leaders agreed to at the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, he added.
Beyond missile defense, the secretary said, the Aegis destroyers will perform other missions, including participating in standing NATO maritime groups and joining in naval exercises, port visits and maritime security cooperation activities.
The other candidate host nation was Italy. I guess Rota’s legacy as a US navy forward base during the Cold War, and Spain’s own Aegis equipped ships with an option to be upgraded to engage in BM defence was among the factors favoring this city’s selection.
Needles to say Greece or Turkey, much closer to the ultimate patrol areas for the BMD ships were not considered as candidates because they are considered unreliable in US views. My comment from last years post about the topic turned to be correct.
But I do not expect any US warship to be home ported in Turkey as the political climate is not suitable yet. The politics of the previous US government alienated Turkey and the recent administration has not done enough to reverse the trend. The neocons in USA feel angry against Turkey as they think Turkey did not gave enough support for their war against global terrorism. Therefore it would be very difficult for both governments to sell the idea of permanent existence of US warships in Turkish ports to their nations.
2 Jun 2011 1 Comment
Today I was on board of the Spanish amphibious ship Juan Carlos 1 for a press conference and a guided tour of the ship. The attendance to the conference was higher than I have expected.
The press conference started with the speaking of the commanding officer Captain Christopher Gonzalez-Aller Lacalle. He talked in general terms about the ship and its role in the Spanish Navy. He stated that Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest ship ever operated by the Spanish Navy in history. On a question why the ship was here in Istanbul, he answered that the ship was still in the warranty period of Navantia and they were on a endurance trip to determine how the ship operated away from their logistical base. This 45 day endurance trip will end soon when the ship returns to Spain. She will be declared operative in November 2011.
Later Lt. Commander Calvo made a small briefing about the capabilities of the ship. I have asked about the turning radius of the ship and its stopping distance. As the ship does have two pods with pulling and pushing propellers instead of conventional propellers and rudders she can turn basically on the spot. And if an crash stop order is given when the ship is cruising on standard 15 knots she can come to full stop in less then 2 time the ship length. That means the 26.000 ton ship can decelerate from 27 km/h to 0 km/h in less than 462 meters. I think that this is impressive.
As there are no propeller shafts and ruder in traditional sense the main machinery consisting of one gas turbine and two diesels are used for producing electricity to run the ship. There are also no reductions gears. The main machinery is capable of producing 36 MW @ 6600 volts.
The number of aircraft, helicopters, main battle tanks and other military vehicles depends on the mission profiles and on the types of the vehicles. In general she has 6 spots on the flight deck for a simultaneous operation of NH-90 size helicopters. This number decreases to 4 if large helicopters such as CH-47 Chinooks are operated.
After the press conference first we taken to the bridge and then to the flight dispatcher. Both are very specious and all the windows which are necessary to see every thing going around creates a greenhouse effects. The black interiors painting does not help either. On the bridge the controls for the pods and bow thrusters were more prominent than the helm. In the era of pods and bow thrusters , the size and the importance of the helm is diminishing.
The CIC is very specious compared to the CIC’s I have seen on various frigates. The CIC is dived in two one half is for maritime component the other half is for amphibious and air operations. There are large office spaces for the staff officers on the same level of the CIC. The direct access the CIC from these office space which makes going back and forth and easy walk.
The combat management system SCOMBA was developed by Navantia in house. Obviously were not informed about the sensors and the SCOMBA. But according the internet gossip, it is not without any problems.
When were walking and climbing up/down the stairs I have realized that the gangways and the bulkheads were wide. I do not want to compare my Lowepro Pro-Trekker 300 AW camera backpack to a marine infantryman’s rucksack but I had no difficulty in moving inside the ship with my backpack on my back.
The ship has a citadel for protection against NBC weapons and a sprinkler system for decontamination. One cannot fully close a ship that has so many elevators, doors and access hatches. Therefore I assume that the citadel is limited to the living and main working areas inside the ship.
The hangar / garage spaces appeared to me very large. This may be due to the fact that the ships was not fully loaded for this endurance cruise. The height of the hanger was sufficient for a mechanic to stay on a wing of a Harrier or to work on a helicopter like SH-3D.
The dock can be flooded in 90 minutes and emptied in same duration. The dock can hold 4 LCM’s. The gangway in the middle of the dock makes it easier for the marines to climb to the LCM’s on the second row but makes it impossible for any craft wider than a LCM to operate.
I was told that a demo was made for high ranking Turkish Admirals visiting the ship. In that demo it took only 5 minutes for a army truck to be loaded on a LCM and for the LCM to depart the dock.
When I was younger I would ask questions about the sensors, weapons and such stuff. I have realized as I grow older I am more interested in the habitat of the ship for its crew. When I asked the young engineering officer about the habitability of the ship his eyes glowed. He said that the ship is as comfortable as civilian cruise ships.
The officers berthing is comfortable with two officers sharing a stateroom. 4 to 6 petty officers share a stateroom. The seamen are accommodate in dozens. The officers and petty officers have their own WC in their rooms. The sailors share communal WC’s/baths. The marines stay 18 in a stateroom. In each officers cabin there is a PC for personal use. There are films and music on the shared on board LAN. Besides there is satellite TV, and phones to call home. I have seen vending machines. The sole galley of the ship is located in the middle of the eating area and is easily accessible. The quality of the food was good according to my guide and hey there is alcohol on board if you are not on duty.
The tour ended with a small reception inside the aircraft hangar.
SPS Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest warship I have ever visited yet. After seeing the capability, the amenities and the facilities such a warship provides I know now why amphibious ships are dreadnoughts of our era.
25 Jan 2011 1 Comment
Yesterday, I was cordially invited like all other citizens of Istanbul to the temporary SpanishEmbassy in Istanbul.
It was one of the most interesting and enjoyablehalf an hour I have had. This is a benefit of being unemployed at the moment. I could never spare me time to visit the ship if I was working.
Of course Spain has a permanent representation in Istanbul where you can go by appointmentbut it is no match in advertising for Spain with the one I havevisited: the sailing training ship of the Spanish Navy: Juan Sebastián Elcano.
The four mast schooner Elcano is making a four day visit in Istanbul instead of their yearly trip to the United States and the ship is open for the public.
In the brochure given to us it says
Her role as floating embassy is reviewable as well. Her presence in foreign ports supports Spanish foreign policy and besides showing a beautiful image of our motherland, she also let those Spanish people living abroad to take one step in this “piece of Spain that sails”
She does these things very efficiently I must say. I have alwaysfound the lack of a sailing training ship in Turkish Navy a big andalmost fatal shortage.
Currently, two old ex German supply ships are used for the training cruises of the naval cadets. There are also about 10 sailing yachts at the Turkish Naval Academy. But these assets are not sufficient to teach the future naval officers the challenges of the seas and torepresent Turkey in foreign ports.
In December 2008, the Defence Industry Executive Committee gave approval for the start of training ship acquisition project. And on 29 January 2009,Undersecretariat for Defense Industries issued a Request forInformation (RfI) document about schooner type ships. But nothingsince then happened.
Until we see our “piece of Turkey that sails” in foreign ports admiredby locals, we have to admire those who come to us.