The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)

While Eastern Mediterranean continues to be hotspot new players are trying to enter the game. One of them is France. According to Greek Daily Kathimerini:

French energy companies ‘Total’ and ‘Gaze de France’ bought three-dimensional seismic data for gas deposits in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The cost of seismic data was over the 2 million euros for the company “Gaze de France” and over 1.6 million euros for the “Total”.

So after Russia, France decided to stuck its nose to this hotspot. For years France was one of the main armament supplier of Greek Cypriots. Therefore their arrival is not a big surprise. It is a known fact that Mr. Sarkozy does not have much foundnes for Turks with the French elections on the horizon he will try to boast his popularity by bashing Turkey. Therefore the involvement of the French energy companies into Cyprus should not be a surprise.

In the meantime Russia decided to bolster its presence  in the Mediterranean. Apparently the invisible nuclear submarines they have sent did not make any noteworthy deterrence so that Russia decided to send her biggest warship the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the region. An aircraft carrier is a very large ship ands its presence in not disputable unlike submarines.

The heavy air-capable cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov at the head of a squadron of Northern Fleet ships will set out on a long-distance voyage in November this year to accomplish combat duty missions in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-Eastern Atlantic, anofficer at the Main Naval Headquarters (MNH) of Russia told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

“The Admiral Kuznetsov will go to the Barents Sea on November 13 and moor up there to take on board an air wing — eight jetfighters Su-33, several MiG-29K, as well as two ASW helicopters Ka-27. The air wing will be drilling the tasks of takeoff and landing onto the deck of the carrier for a week.

“On November 19, the Admiral Kuznetsov will set out on a three-month cruise to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko will be together with the cruiser among the carrier group of ships for screening and combat support purposes,” the MNH officer said.

Verification is under way of a list of foreign ports to be visited by the Russian ships, including an update in view of the developments in the Middle East and North Africa. The question of the Russian ships’ participation in joint exercises together with the navies of countries in the region is being worked out as well, the MNH officer pointed out.

The Turkish reasech vessel R/V Koca Piri Reis arrived its search zone south of Cyprus and started to work. According to Turkish daily Milliyet the area in which R/V Koca Piri Reis is working is adjundat to the famous Block 12. The reaserch ship is reported to be shadowed by two Turkish warships: the frigate F-491 TCG Giresun and the corvette F-504 TCG Bartın.

Since the early morning hours of Tuesday, the Turkish research vessel “Piri Reis” along with two Turkish warships, has been coming and going in plot No12, located at the marine area where, on behalf of the Cypriot government, the US company “Noble Energy International “is carrying out research to find gas.

There are rumors that Israeli fighters and military helicopters are providing company to the research ship R/V Koca Piri Reis. 

Israel Defense Forces jet fighters were scrambled toward a Turkish seismic research ship in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish media reported on Friday, in what seemed to be a further escalation in the already fraying ties between the once longtime allies.

According to the report, cited by the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman and based on a report by the Turkish Vatan daily, two Israel Air Force F-15s took off to face the Turkish vessel on Thursday night, flying through the airspace of both Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus.

The report added that the warplanes approached the Turkish ship despite incessant warnings by forces in Turkish Cyprus, according to which the planes had breached the territory’s airspace.

Ultimately, the report indicated, Turkey launched two F-16 fighters to track the Israeli planes, at which point the IAF fighter jets returned to Israeli airspace.

The above mentioned rumors were quickly denied by all parties:

Reached by satellite phone onboard the Koca Piri Reis on Friday, second mate Cevdet Kılıçer said he could see a Turkish military ship closely following his vessel as it conducted surveys about 45 kilometres south of Cyprus.

He declined to name the Turkish warship, or give details about the naval protection for his team. But he said the crew of the research vessel remains in regular contact with their military counterparts, and feels reassured by the armed presence. “There are no other ships around here, we are alone, so we are just doing our job,” Mr. Kılıçer said.

The officer also seemed skeptical about a flurry of reports about Israeli and Turkish aircraft jockeying in the skies nearby. Two newspapers in Cyprus, the Phileleftheros and the Cyprus Mail, citing military sources, reported that two Israeli jets and a helicopter flew into the area this week. Turkish media ran similar stories, adding that Turkey scrambled its fighter jets in response, and the Israeli planes retreated back to their own airspace. Such activity could have happened too far away to be visible from the Koca Piri Reis; the second mate sounded genuinely puzzled about it.

“There is no aircraft around here,” Mr. Kılıçer said. “This is a safe place for us. Everything is alright now, we haven’t seen anything.” An Israeli military spokeswoman also denied the reports. “It didn’t happen,” she said.

In the mean time there reports from Greece that the problematic submarine  H/S Papanikolis seems to be rehabilitated.

Three objectives were set simultaneously in the sights of the battle system of the submarine Type 214 Papanikolis under operational testing of weapon systems and subsystems that are underway and more specifically, in the final stage.

In particular, a triple – while firing torpedoes. The purpose of this operational energy was to evaluate the performance of the system for control of three weapons from the submarine combat system.

According to reports, the test has successfully. Recalled that the system tries regularly and participates in all activities of the Fleet which is very important especially lately grown continuously challenges to security and defense of sovereignty of the country, especially in the eastern Mediterranean.

What the above quoted article tactfully skips to tell is the type of the torpedoes Papanikolis supposed to have fired. The issue about this submarine’s main armament is not solved. Initially Greek Navy decided to use Italian Black Shark torpedoes. But this choice was cancelled in 2004 due to high cost of integration of the Italian torpedoes into German combat system. Currently there are no announced acquisition plans for modern torpedoes. So what kind of torpedoes are used?

For the previous updates of eastern Mediterranean:

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

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