French Warship FS Alizé Passed Through Dardanelles


A-645 FS Alizé passing through the Dardanelles. Photo:

On 26 March 2014, French warship A-645 FS Alizé made a northbound passage through the Dardanelles.

According to news reports her destination was not disclosed but it is safe to assume that she is heading to the Black Sea.

She is a very peciluar ship to send to the Black Sea.

First of all she is not a front line combatant like a destroyer, frigate of corvette. She is a diving support ship, meaning that she carries all the necessary support equipment for diving operations and hyperbaric chamber and specialized medical facilities.

Second, if Wikipedia is correct she is mainly used for the operations of divers from Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure. That’s France’s external intelligence agency

Now the million dollar question is why is France sending an auxiliary warship mainly tasked with supporting spy divers to the Black sea?

Here is a video of A-645 FS Alizé as she passes Çanakkale:

Russian Warship Alexander Shabalin Still Needed In the Mediterranean

The Baltic Fleet warship Alexander Shabalin in one of her many passage through the Bosphorus in February 2013.

The Baltic Fleet warship, Alexander Shabalin in one of her many passage through the Bosphorus in February 2013.

Russian landing ship Korolev replaces Alexander Shabalin in L’Armada event.

The Ropucha class landing ship, from the Baltic Fleet, Alexander Shabalin was scheduled for a 4 day visit in Rouen for the L’Armada event.

This entry is from this blog in April:

The Kaliningrad and Alexander Shbalin have left Russia in mid April and I had the impression that they were heading back home as Alexander Shabalin is supposed to be attending Rouen’s  L’Armada event. But apparently they had to do one more round trip to the Mediterranean.

If you visit the L’Armada webpage for Korolev, you see her information on the page but Alexander Shabalin‘s name on the URL! But either she is much needed in the Med or her current trips across the Turkish Straits made her unattractive for a such a high profile PR event, she was replaced with her sister ship Korolev from the same fleet.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 8)

D-615 FS jean Bart with a Cypriot helicopter. From last years exercise. Photo: Cypriot Defence Ministry

D-615 FS Jean Bart with a Cypriot helicopter. From last years exercise. Photo: Cypriot Defence Ministry

The Russian ship movements have stolen the show from the actions in Eastern Mediterranean. So it is time again to focus to that region.

Today between 9.00 and 13:00 the French Navy conducted a search and rescue exercise with Cyprus. The Cassard class, destroyer D-615 FS Jean Bart took part in the exercise. From Cyprus two AW -139 helicopters of the National Guard and the Police as well as a Navy vessel and a patrol boat have taken part, including the medical unit of the Larnaca Civil Defence rescue team, according to Farmagusta Gazette.

The French destroyer is scheduled to conduct a port visit in Novorossiysk from 23 to 26 April. Thus I believe she is heading north as you are reading this post.

I didn’t realized that Jean Bart went through a modernization process similar to Turkish MEKO 200 class frigates. The original French radar DRBJ 11B was replaced by 3D Smart-S Mk2.

Next week there will be another search and rescue exercise roughly in the same area.

The Ministry of Defense in Cyprus announced that in the context of the cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and the State of Israel in matters of search and rescue within the Exclusive Economic Zone and the areas of responsibility for search and rescue of the two countries, a joint search and rescue exercise will take place on April 23.

The exercise will be carried out in a marine area southwest of the Cypriot city of Limassol.

On the Cypriot side, patrol vessels of the Cyprus Port and Marine Police and of the Cyprus Navy, search and rescue helicopters of the Police and the Aviation of Cyprus, as well as the Medical Rescue Teams of the Cyprus Civil Defense and of the Medical and Nursing Services will participate in the exercise.

On the side of Israel, five ships of the Israeli Navy will participate in the exercise.

The exercise has been planned by a joint design team and is coordinated by the Search and Rescue Center in Larnaca, in cooperation with its counterpart in Haifa

I am glad to see that despite the recent economical troubles,  Cyprus can find  the needed resources to conduct these exercises. 

Is This Necrophilia?

I know what necrophilia means. But I think the word’s definition needs some rewriting especially, after reading DCNS’ intention to sell FREMM class frigates to Greece:

France wants to deliver two to four new frigates to the Greek navy and to allow the highly indebted nation to postpone payment of the €300 million ($412 million) purchase price per ship for the next five years.

 Under the deal, Greece will have the option of paying up after five years, with a significant discount of €100 million, or returning them to the French navy. The “stealth” frigates are designed to avoid detection by enemy radar and are built by state-owned French defense company DCNS.

Well the French consider themselves as good lovers and an authority on almost everything about l’amour. I didn’t know that this expertise also included loving of the dead. Well any way they are not alone in this business:

The [French] deal is being criticized by German rivals that have been competing for the contract for years.

In a letter to the German government, an executive from the ThyssenKrupp group complained that the vessel purchase will in effect be co-financed by German taxpayers because Greece, reliant on aid from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, may have to restructure its debts.

A Greek debt haircut is looking increasingly likely. If this happens and Greece is rescued again with funds from the European bailout mechanisms, Thyssen’s scenario would come true. German taxpayers would shoulder part of Greece’s government spending and thereby be forced to pay for a portion of the frigate purchase.

“While German naval shipyards aren’t getting any orders, DCNS and Greek shipyards are being subsidized and kept alive, probably with German money in the end,” the ThyssenKrupp executive said.

Uwe Beckmeyer, a member of parliament from the the center-left Social Democrats, says German jobs are at stake and called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to get French President Nicolas Sarkozy to abandon the ship sale. “The Chancellor must stop her friend Sarkozy,” said Beckmeyer.

So the Germans think they can beat the French in “love-making”. This is something I would like to see.

While France and Germany bicker about who is going to make love to the corpse, sell warships to Greece, this is the hard reality:

Greek unions began a 48-hour general strike on Wednesday, the biggest protest in years, as parliament prepares to vote on sweeping new austerity measures designed to stave off a default that could trigger a crisis in the wider euro zone.

The strike shut government departments, businesses, public services and even providers of everyday staples like shops and bakeries and will culminate in mass demonstrations outside parliament, which was the scene of violent clashes in June.

The industrial action comes as European Union leaders scramble to set the outlines of a new rescue package in time for a summit on Sunday that hopes to agree measures to protect the region’s financial system from a potential Greek debt default.

Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou made a final appeal for support late on Tuesday, comparing the situation facing Greece to a war and telling deputies in the ruling PASOK party that it was their duty to support the tough new measures.

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)

Turkish Navy Received ASW Training In France

Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft. Official French Navy Photo

Turkish Navy personel received training in France according to French internet naval portal Mer et Marine.

In order to maintain the necessary know-how for airborne ASW and AsuW missions, Ankara has thus called on twice in DCI-NAVFCO for operational training of two groups of six tactical coordinators. The mission of DCI – NAVFCO , naval component of the Défense Conseil International group, is to transfer French Navy know-how to requesting friendly foreign navies.

The Turkish officers were given a general upgrading of knowledge of anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare, and operational training at Naval Training Center of St. Mandrier. Later they received 6 weeks aviation training on the Nîmes-Garonne airbase. There the Turkish officers operated two Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft of the French Navy.

This training in France was a neceesity as Turkish Navy retired last Grumman S-2E Tracker ASW planes 16 years ago and needs patrol planes for maritime surveillance, monitoring territorial Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters, for detecting all forms of illicit trade and trafficking, accidental pollution and oil dumping, and for search-and-rescue operations

The ASW plane acquisition project (also known as Meltem project) of Turkish Navy is a very long saga and consist of 3 parts:

  • Meltem (I): purchase of three CN-235′s for Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance missions by the Turkish Coast Guard and six CN-235′s in AsuW and ASW missions. This has been the only part completed so far.
  • Meltem (II): integration of AMASOC and its sub components on the above mentioned planes. Thales made AMASCOS (Airborne MAritime Situation and COntrol System) was selected and the main C3I system for the above mentioned CN-235 planes back in 2002. Thales acts as the main contractor and Turkish companies TAI, Havelsan, Aselsan and Milsoft are acting as sub contractors. According to the contract the planes were to be in service in 2007. But the first modified plane made its maiden flight one year after the contractual delivery date.
  • Meltem (III): purchase of ten ATR-72 ASW planes and integration of AMASCOS on to them. For Meltem (III) Aleina is the prime contractor.
The planed commissioning for CN-235 ASW planes is in 2011 and the scheduled delivery of the first ATR-72 ASW is in 2012.
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