>Ukraine Sends A Warship To Libya While Romania And Bulgaria Prepares One


U-402 Konstantin Olshansky. NATO photo.

Exactly at midnight of 23th March 2011, the Ukrainian Ropucha 1 class landing ship U-402 Konstantin Olshansky Sevastopol to conduct Non-Combatant Evacuation of Ukranian citizens trapped in Libya.

She has passed through Bosphorus on 24 March 2011 early in the morning and left Turkish territorial waters late at night.

According to Ukrainian Goverment Portal the ship can accommodated 500 to 600 evacuees on board.

Large landing ship Konstantin Olshansky has all the necessary stores, including fuel and lubricants, and foodstuffs. To ensure the safety and security of citizens of Ukraine except the crew aboard the ship there is the unit of Marines with standard weapon, doctors from the Military Medical Clinical Centre of Crimean region and psychologists, interpreters with knowledge of Arabic.

It was not stated on the portal how long the NEO will last.

Ukraine is not the only Black Sea country that sends a warship to Libya. Both Bulgaria and Romania have announced that they each will send a frigate to participate NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.

Romania decided to send the frigate F-221 Regele Ferdinand. The Type 22 class frigate was purchased from UK in 2004. The Romanian government decided to increase the defence budget by 4,5 million Euros from reserve funds in order to pay the participation of the frigate.

Bulgaria, too will send a frigate to Libya. Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov has issued orders to prepare the F-41 Drazki  of the Bulgarian Navy for participation in the NATO naval operation of Libya’s coast.

Both Regele Ferdinand and Drazki are currently in Black Sea and did not passed though Bosphorus yet.

>Bulgaria Allows Women To Serve In Submarines And Decommissions It’s Sole Submarine

>Bulgarian defense ministry allowed women to serve in submarine force but the Bulgarian parliament slammed the door as it decided to decommission the country’s only submarine.

The Romeo class (Project 633) class submarine, Slava was inoperational since 2000 anyway, and as reported earlier, she has been slated for decommissioning.

Bulgaria’s defence ministry on Thursday lifted a ban on women serving aboard submarines just as parliament decided to mothball the country’s only submarine.

“There is no such ban anymore,” Defence Minister Anyu Angelov told journalists, adding that women would be free to apply for jobs on submarines and in the national guard — which was also banned previously — as early as next month.

In effect, however, women wishing to serve on submarines will have no such opportunity, as parliament on Thursday also passed a plan to reform the armed forces that involved mothballing the nation’s lone sub.

Click here to read the original story.

H/T: Kobus

>New Ships For The Russian Black Sea Fleet


The Russian naval website rusnavy.com reports that Russian Black Sea Fleet will receive six Admiral Gorshkov class (Project 22350) frigates, six Lada (Project 677) diesel submarines, two Ivan Gren class (Project 11711) large landing ships, four ships of other projects, modernized bombers Su-24M instead of obsolete versions, and ASW aircrafts, Il-38 instead of amphibious aircrafts Be-12 till 2020.

This reinforcement of Black Sea Fleet will be conducted under State Arms Program 2011-2020.

This statement, the latest in a series of similar announcements of semi dubious seriousness was made shortly after, Russian and Ukrainian defense ministers signed a document providing that Russia will inform Ukraine about manpower, arms, and strength of Black Sea Fleet.  Russia’s Defence Minister Anatoly Serdiukov pointed out that the significant agreement signed is the first step to renewal of Black Sea Fleet.

I have expressed my personal opinion of the news about the rejuvenation of the BSF previously herehere,  and here. The continuations of these statements show me a few things:

  • Two of the former allies of Russia in the Black Sea basin Romania and Bulgaria rejuvenated their fleets with second hand warships from NATO. By buying cheap ships from NATO countries these two states improved their navies’ operational capabilities and gained access to NATO standards and operational procedures. There are rumors that Ukraine may follow their lead and buy second hand ships from German Navy. The road of Ukraine to join to NATO is a long a winding one. But this is not a hindrance for this country to buy NATO equipment. Ukraine regularly cooperates with NATO and send warship to NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor. Recently an EU military delegation visited Ukrainian Navy to discuss Ukraine’s participations to EU led Operation Atalanta among other things.
  • Romanian and Bulgarian navies and if Ukraine buys warships from Germany then Ukrainian navy will have warships that are younger and have better C3I suites, modern sensors and capable weapons compared to most of the BSF.
  • The current state of the ships in the BSF is not bright and most of them been in service for over 35 years and the Russians are very well aware that current status quo is not sustainable and replacements are vital. As explained above if Russia does not replaces its old ships she will witness a further weakening of her naval authority in the region. This would a blow to Russian national pride and to the political ambitions of the Kremlin.
  • The flow of reports about the new ships joining BSF in the future is an indication of the realization the need for a replacement and an indication of intentions getting rid of old ships. But the number and the classes of the new ships is almost different in every official statement. A few months ago the BSF was to get 15 new frigates and submarines. But the in the latest announcement it is 6 frigates and 6 submarines. This shows that although the Russians have an intention to build new ships their long and mid term acquisitions programme is not clearly prepared. The lack of a concrete programme will leave the whole new ship building projects open to economical and political threats.

>Bulgaria Will Cease Its Submarine Force

>Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, stated that the life of the only operational Bulgarian submarine Slava has expired, and it will probably be retired in the coming months.

“Calling it a submarine force is too strong because any such unit must include at least two vessels. As you know, we have only one submarine. Its life has expired, and thus the submarine component of the Bulgarian Navy probably won’t exist any more,”

declared the Defense Minister according to novinite.com.

The decommissioning of Romeo (Project 633) class Slava will mean the termination of Bulgaria’s submarine force after 94 years.

Bulgaria is not the only Black Sea country that struggles to keep its submarines in operational condition. The Romanian submarine Kilo (Project 877E) class Delfinul has not been to the sea in the recent years. Ukraine’s sole submarine the Foxtrot (Project 641) class Zaporizya is in dry dock since last February and her operational status is douptful. There has been no public information released about Russian Kilo (Project 877) class Alrosa submarine after the fire in her engine room and her operational status is not clear.

Keeping submarines operational is a very costly business both in material and in personal aspects.

Currently, besides Turkey’s submarines in the Black Sea, there are no other submarines in operational status.

Photo by BGNES via novinite.com. H/T: Kobus

>Bulgaria To Buy More Minehunters From The Netherlands

>The Bulgarian news portal novinite.com reported that Bulgaria was planning to but two second hand minehunters from Netherlands in 2014.

Currently Bulgarian Navy has one Tripartite class minehunter 32 BNS Tsibar in active service. The ship originally destined for Belgian Navy was decommissioned in 2007 after 20 years of service. She was re-activated and transferred to Bulgaria in 2009.

The minehunters Bulgaria intents to purchase from Netherlands are Tripartite class as well. Therefore there will be no problems with logistics and infrastructure in blending the news minehunters into the Bulgarian service.

Tripartite class was a co-operation between France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Hence the name. According to Wikipedia, Tripartite class of minehunters were conceived in the 1970s and built in the 1980s. France built the mine-hunting equipment, Belgium provided the electronics, and the Netherlands constructed the propulsion train. France and the Netherlands originally bought 15, with Belgium buying 10.

There is one other very important bit of information in novinite’s news however:

Rear Admiral Manushev, commander in chief of Bulgarian navy, welcomed Divisional Admiral Jean-Paul Robyns, CinC of Belgian Navy, in the Bulgarian Navy headquarters in Varna, who came for the signing of an agreement for the technical maintenance of the four used vessels that Bulgaria purchased from Belgium over the past couple of years.

A major issue with the use of the four ships has to do with the lack of transformers for the voltage of the electricity that they receive when they are on anchor. Thus, the vessels have to use their diesel-powered electricity generators the entire time, even when they are at port, wasting tonnes of diesel each month.

In a recent interview for the 24 Chasa Daily Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov said his institution could not afford to purchase the transformers at the current prices in Bulgaria, and said it planned to seek providers from the entire EU.

“I don’t want to blame my predecessors but I will say that the Belgians offered them such transformers at a twice cheaper prices but they were refused,” Angelov said.

I believe that there a few lessons to be learned from this incident:

1. It clearly demonstrates how difficult it is to adapt and imported piece of military hardware in to your own existing infrastructure. It is more difficult in Bulgaria’s case as they have to change from old Warsaw Pact equipment and infrastructure to NATO standards.

2. This incident also clearly shows that sometimes buying cheap second hand military hardware can create unpredicted hidden costs which if they have been know prior to the purchase might have been changed the purchase decision fundamentally.

3. And lastly, importing military hardware increases one’s dependence on the country that sells the hardware. The more you buy from abroad; more you are dependent on them which of course can be a big risk for your sovereignty.

Photo courtesy of http://www.netmarine.net/ via Wikipedia

>Varna Visit Of BlackSeaFor Is Over

According to the Blackseafor commander, the On-Call Naval Force of Black Sea navies BlackSeaFor has left the Bulgarian port of Varna to conduct its next stage of exercises. The April 2010 activation of BlackSeafor is scheduled to end on 27th April and is commanded by Bulgarian Navy.

As reported earlier, the first stage of the exercises was conducted in the south-western region of the Black Sea which involved search and rescue operations, and replenishment and refuelling at sea as well as monitoring of civilian aircraft.

During the next stages, the Blackseafor warships will exercise tactical manoeuvres, conduct combat operations against surface ships, practise air defence and communications, assistance to ships in distress and ship inspection.

Click here for photos of the Ereğli port visit.

>Bulgaria Is NOT Sending A Warship To Somalia…

>Bulgaria is not sending a warship to Somalia. And this time this decisions seems to be definitive. So end of the stroy.

According to Bulgarian news portal novinite.com, Bulgaria Defense Minister Nikolay Mladenov has stated that the  41 Drazki” (Intrepid) frigate will not be sent to the Gulf of Aden to participate in operations against Somali pirates due to a lack of money.

It is just like the song says: You ain’t got no money you just ain’t no good.

H/T: SeaWaves Magazine

>Bulgaria Is Intending To Send A Warship To Somalia

>I guess, I was a little bit zealous yesterday when I wrote about Bulgarian contribution to the fight against piracy.

At the moment is not clear whether a Bulgarian warship will be sent to the Gulf of Aden or not. Apparently the intent is here but the funding is yet to be found.

According to Rear Admiral Plamen Manoushev, the Bulgarian Navy is contemplating deploying the Druzki (Daring) frigate to the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to boost the international task force currently entrusted with keeping international waters free from pirate attacks.

“We made an assessment of the situation. If the frigate is deployed for a two-month period, then one month of that time would be taken up with the round trip to the Gulf while, for the other month, she would be on active patrol service. This could cost up to six million leva,” he was quoted as saying.

“The issue is the availability of necessary financial resources, and not the readiness of personnel,” the Rear Admiral said.

I do not know the USD value of six million leva on today’s exchange rates but I am ready to bet that is less than what the owners of the UK-flagged ship, Asian Glory, with Bulgarian crew members on board will be paying as ransom.

Sending the Wielingen class frigate 41 Druzki is a better choice that previously reported Smeli. 41 Druzki (ex-BNS Wandelaar), the first frigate Bulgaria has bought, was handed over to the Bulgarian Navy in October 2005.

The photo shows another Wielingen class, frigate 43 Gordi passing through Bosphorus on her maiden journey to Bulgaria.

Druzki is newer, has better communication facilities and better sea keeping performance. More importantly she looks more comfortable on a long voyage. On the other hand Wielingen class frigates lack helicopter capability which is important because helicopters play a pivotal role in rushing to the scene in an emergency.

In many cases the early arrival of armed helicopters prevented pirates to climb up to the merchant ship and capture it. As Bulgarian Navy does not have any ships with helicopter capability, Bulgaria’s their contributions in Gulf of Aden might be limited than other nations.

>Bulgaria Is Sending A Warship To Somalia


Bulgaria will send a warship to Gulf of Aden according to Turkish maritime portal denizhaber.com.tr

The Koni class (Project 1159) frigate 11 Smeli (Valiant) will join the naval task forces combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. At the moment it is not clear whether the Bulgarian warship will join EU led Operation Atalanta or US led CTF-151.

I am quite surprised to see that an old ship such as Smeli will be send to the Indian Ocean instead of the newer Wielingen class frigates Drazki, Gordi or Verni. Smeli seems to have more life in her or the newer frigates are too valuable to be send for this mission.

Any additional information about her departure and her crossing the Turkish Straits is appreciated.

>Bulgaria Cancels French Corvettes Deal

>According to Bulgarian news portal novinite, Bulgaria officially declared that it will not buy Gowind 200 corvettes from DCNS.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, said the commitment made by the three-party coalition government for the purchase of the French corvettes is not feasible at the moment because the country’s previous rulers not only did not slate any money in the budget for such splurge.

The French company “Armaris” planned to sell to Bulgaria corvettes, a deal that was blessed by Bulgaria’s former government.

The number of the corvettes and their price kept changing during the negotiations. After joining NATO, Bulgaria was in dire need of warships within NATO standards. Gowind project seemed to be an easy way of purchasing ships of NATO standards. But budget realities forced Bulgaria to buy second hand ships from Belgium for a friction of the cost of the Gowind 200’s.

41 Drazki (ex-BNS Wandelaar), the first frigate Bulgaria has bought, was handed over to the Bulgarian Navy in October 2005 with the second frigate, 42 Gordi (ex-BNS Westdiep ), following in August 2008. The third Wielingen-class frigate 43 Verni and the Flower-class minehunter 32 Tsibar were transffered in February 2009.

Compared with the Gowind 200 class corvettes, Wielingen class frigates lack helicopter capability, stealth design. Probably Gowind corvettes would have newer version of Exocet anti-ship missile (MM40 vs MM38) and more up-to-date electronics and Combat data system software.

But would these be enough to justify the expense? Currently the main missions of Bulgarian navy are:

1) protecting Bulgarian shores and harbors,
2) keeping SLOC’s of Bulgaria open,
3) surveillance missions,
4) maritime interdiction and anti-terror operations such as Active Endeavour and BLACKSEAFOR

Although old and second hand the Wielingen class ships are very well capable of executing these task without any ado.

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