As fighting continues Friday between Israel and Hamas, the region braces for an expanded Israel Defense Force (IDF) incursion into the Gaza Strip – a possibility indicated by the government approval of a mobilization of up of 30,000 reservists. Such a move would consist mostly of air and ground forces, but the Israeli Navy would also have a role to play.
The bulk of the Israeli Navy consists of these missile boats and patrol craft, plus a handful of more-capable corvettes and subs. Missile boats have already shelled (and perhaps struck with missiles) Hamas security positions along the coast, and the Navy continues to enforce its blockade of the Strip. As Dr. Robert Farley and Galrahn, a pair of prominent naval bloggers (see our @CIMSEC twitter stream conversation), say naval options during this and expanded Israeli operations will mostly be confined to further shore bombardment and interdiction, along with ISR and effective surgicial strikes ashore. Martin Skold, another CIMSEC member, notes that the normal missile load-out of Israel’s naval platforms limits the frequency of such strikes, especially when options such as the F-16 are readily available. On the flip side, Israeli naval vessels may tempt Hamas as targets – especially as with the case of the Hezbollah attack on the INS Hanit in 2006 if they let their guard down. It will be interesting to see if Hamas has the capability to attempt a similar strike.
Other scenarios tossed about for expanded fighting in the region include Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Egypt. The latter would present the greatest naval challenges with 6 American-built frigates, 4 Romeo-class submarines, and roughly 200 other ships and craft. But as the former showed with the Hanit, one should never count out the damage non-state actors can do to a Navy.
LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.
As of 31 October, the Russian Navy moved its headquarters back to the Admiralty building in St. Petersburg where it had been based until 1925. This is further, if superficial, evidence of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to revitalize and modernize the Russian fleet, and “maintain Russia’s place as a leading sea power.” Also on 31 October, the head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, stated that he expects to add “up to five warships and auxiliary ships every year” through 2020. That is not a particularly impressive figure, but it is nothing to scoff at either. The number of ships added to the Russian Navy’s lists is only half the story. If President Putin hopes to strengthen Russian sea power relative to other maritime powers, then the Russian shipbuilding plan must be competitive with what others are doing. After accounting for the rate of decommissioning of Russian ships and the amount actually budgeted for Russia’s shipbuilding plan to 2020, as compared to U.S. plans, for example, it quickly becomes apparent those five ships a year are insufficient to achieve Putin’s desired revitalization of the fleet.
According to the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian government set aside $156 billion for shipbuilding to 2020, or roughly $19.5 billion annually. This funding is expected to result in eight nuclear missile submarines, 14 frigates, 35 corvettes, six small artillery ships, and six landing ships – a total of 69 vessels. The average cost per unit under this plan is $2.26 billion, with only a handful of the hulls major combat assets. On the surface, the only major concern is the rather high cost for ships with limited capabilities. However, since Putin is concerned with improving the Russian Navy in both absolute terms and relative to its rivals – he wants Russia to be a great power again- it is a useful exercise to compare this shipbuilding plan with those of other leading sea powers.
A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reporton the U.S. Navy’s 2013 30-year shipbuilding plan notes some interesting differences. The U.S. Navy plans to add 268 ships by 2042, at a CBO projected cost of $599 billion.1 This is just shy of $20 billion per year, with a mean 8.9 ships commissioned annually.2 The cost per ship, however, comes in at $2.23 billion on average, cheaper than their Russian counterparts.3 On top of this, the planned U.S. ships are much more capable vessels. The plan includes 70 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 12 new ballistic missile submarines, 46 new attack submarines, 18 amphibious warfare ships, 46 logistics and support ships, and several aircraft carriers.4 Furthermore, these figures exclude the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), roughly equivalent to a Russian corvette. When the two plans are held up against each other – admittedly an inexact comparison given the different time frames – the Russian Navy will continue to decline vis-à-vis its U.S. counterpart.
If the Russian Navy is to match President Putin’s ambitions, the rate of construction will not only have to be competitive with other naval powers, but will also have to be sufficient to compensate for the number of vessels decommissioned annually. In 2011, for example, two SSBNs and five landing ships left the fleet while one frigate and six landing craft entered service.5 A net neutral quantitative change, but arguably a net negative qualitative change. In 2010, one SSBN, a cruiser, two destroyers, two frigates, nine patrol craft, 13 mine countermeasures vessels, and seven landing craft entered or re-entered Russian service. This is compared with the loss of one SSBN, 28 patrol craft, an amphibious ship, a landing ship, and 11 landing craft.6 That is a net loss of seven vessels, but an arguable gain in capabilities. In 2009, the Russian Federation Navy added four attack submarines, one destroyer, and a landing ship but lost one SSBN, a destroyer, six frigates, and a landing craft.7 This is a net loss of three vessels, and a definite decline in capabilities. Now, admittedly this is not a perfect record of the comings and goings in the Russian Federation Navy as The Military Balance could be inaccurate. The Russian military is not known for its transparency, after all. The trend over the last three years appears, however, to be a decline in the size of the Russian Navy with, perhaps, some countervailing improvement in capabilities in certain areas. In 2011, seven ships were decommissioned, in 2010, 42 left service, and in 2009, nine were removed from the lists. Given the age of the majority of Russian vessels, it is unavoidable that a significant portion of the current Russian fleet will have to be decommissioned over the next five to ten years. Some of the oldest ships in the Russian fleet happen to be some of the most capable, meaning the loss will not be simply quantitative. The addition of five ships a year until the end of the decade certainly will help rejuvenate the aging Russian fleet, but it will not counteract its decline to the extent desired.
The Russian Navy appears dead in the water at this point. President Putin may wish for Russia to “maintain its status [as] one of the leading naval powers,” but the fact is that the Russian fleet is in decline and present plans are insufficient to absolutely or relatively increase its size and capabilities.8 Russia may or may not be America’s – or any other state’s9 – main geopolitical foe, but in the naval arena it is not much of a contest. Without even more money, the Russian Navy looks set to continue its decades’ long decline.
Ian Sundstrom is a graduate of the War Studies Masters Program at King’s College London. He is currently engaged on a research project for Imperial War Museum – Duxford in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
 International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012 and The Military Balance 2011
 International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 and The Military Balance 2010
 International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2010 and The Military Balance 2009
 The recent firing of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov may signal a change in Putin’s designs for the military, but it is too soon to tell.
 Space considerations have prevented me from discussing other navies’ shipbuilding plans. The reader may wish to consider the trajectory of the British, Japanese, and Chinese navies and how they compare to the Russian fleet. My very brief, preliminary look suggests Russia is set to make some quantitative headway against Britain and Japan, but Russia’s position sandwiched between four major seas renders the gains less than impressive. Compared to the Chinese Navy Russia is in clear decline.
The Canadian Forces Naval Reserve (CFNR), with its headquarters in Quebec City, is the primary Reserve component of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The Naval Reserve employs around 4,000 citizen-Sailors, 35 percent of whom are women. The Reserves are divided into 24 naval division spread throughout the country, which act as hubs for Reservists.
The history of the CFNR actually begins with the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Service (RNCVS), established in 1914 during the WWI. The initial mandate of the RNCVS created three sub-commands, each responsible for a third of Canada. During WWI, around 8,000 men enlisted for service either at home or abroad through the RNCVS. By the end of WWI the RNCVShad risen to prominence, but was soon neglected once peace had been established. The Reserve was in a precarious situation because of a significant lack of funding. Reservists ultimately had to pay for their own uniforms and were not paid for their weekly muster and drills.
In the end the RNCVS fell apart due to financial strains, but was soon replaced in 1923 by the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR). The organization’s commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hose, thought that the establishment of a robust reserve force would be a strong method of building popular Canadian support for the fledgling Canadian Navy. Rear-Admiral Hose authorized the creation of Naval Reserve Divisions in every major Canadian city.
Like its predecessor, the RCNVR quickly rose to prominence during the outbreak of war. The organization was heavily used by the government of Canada to recruit and build the navy during World War Two (WWII). At its peak the Royal Canadian Navy exceeded 100,000 men, with over half belonging to the Reserves.
The Canadian Forces Naval Reserve was officially formed in 1968 as part of the Maritime Command during the amalgamation of the Armed Forces. Aside from providing manpower for the RCN, the CFNR also crews Canada’s 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs). The Kingston-class ships were originally designed for minesweeping, but have been refitted for patrol and various multi-role duties. Aside from their capability to wage war, Reservists are heavily involved in their community.
Naval Reserve Divisions frequently hold community events and initiatives such as holiday celebrations or fundraising campaigns for charities. Naturally, they are also deployment ready during provincial emergencies such as the Red River floods in Manitoba or the forest fires in British Columbia. The Naval Reserve Divisions themselves provide valuable employment opportunities to locals.
The CFNR, however, is a constant target for funding cuts. While the Canada First Defence Strategy advocates for an increase in the number of total Reservists from 26,000 to 30,000 by 2028 in order to meet future challenges, there’s a certain level of uncertainty regarding the future. It remains to be seen if this policy in fact increases the number of Naval Reservists.
In July 2010, a Canadian Forces spokesperson stated that the fleet of MCDVs would be cut in half, and that there would also be a50 percent cut in training. The order was soon rescinded however, by outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk stating that the Reserves “do a great job” and that “we’re actually growing the Reserves.”
The defence policy also has yet to specify any replacements for the aging Kingston-class ships the Naval Reservists use to patrol Canada’s coasts. However, a commitment to new frigates and destroyers based on a common hull design for the Navy, coupled with the numerical increase in Reservists suggest that the Naval Reserve’s MCDVs could potentially be replaced by a variation of the Navy’s upcoming frigate.
While it is clear that a certain level of difficulty lies in the future for the Naval Reserves, it is not for lack of ability. The CFNR has a tradition of service excellence, as exemplified by LT Robert Hampton Gray, a reservist from Nelson, British Columbia, who served with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. His citation for Canada’s last Victoria Cross of the war stated:
“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to: – the late Temporary Lieutenant Robert Hampton GRAY, R.C.N.V.R., for great valour in leading an attack on a Japanese destroyer in Onagawa Wan, on 9 August 1945. In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack, flying very low in order to ensure success, and, although he was hit and his aircraft was in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit, sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Gray has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership.”
A memorial was erected at Onagawa Bay, Japan, in 2006, to honour Lieutenant Gray’s heroism. It stands in solitude, the only memorial dedicated to a foreign soldier on Japanese soil.
Despite Canada’s history of frequently defunding the Reserves, the mission in Afghanistan demonstrated the value of a robust Reserve force.
The Polish Navy may be small, but it actively participates in many international exercises and NATO operations. Its core consists of two unmodernized Olivier Hazard Perry frigates (short hull), three Fast Attack Craft (FAC) upgraded with RBS Mk3 missiles and Thales C2, three minesweepers turned modernized mine-hunters, four German-designed Kobben-class diesel coastal submarines, and a Soviet-era Kilo-class. In March 2012, the Polish Ministry of Defense announced a long-awaited Navy modernization plan. In contrast with previous practice, the plan has been made public (unsurprisngly, but perhaps unfortunately for readers of NextWar, in Polish).
The new plan foresees replacing virtually all existing ships (except the newly modernized Orkan-class FAC) within more than 25 years. In simple terms, we’re talking about the complete reconstitution of all Navy platforms. Yet, many people remains skeptical. One reason is a previous plan, stalled for 10 years, to build a series of Gawron corvettes. Recently Ministry of Defense decided that the ship will be finished as a patrol corvette with ASW capabilities. But this skepticism has a deeper roots and to understand it better we need to look at broader context.
Role of the Navy
Beyond the superficial popular arguments about inadequate military funding, we find more useful reasoning, surprisingly in A.T. Mahan works:
The necessity of a navy, in restricted sense of the word, springs, therefore, from existence of a peaceful shipping, and disappears with it, except in the case of a nation which has aggressive tendencies, and keeps up a navy merely as a branch of the military establishment.
The Polish Navy finds its purpose from the first part of the above phrase, while the General Staff is more concerned about other countries taking theirs from the latter portion. In fact, both the MoD and BBN (National Security Bureau), following the logic “home first,” have defined the area of interest for the Navy as “Baltic Plus.” BBN’s recently concluded survey on the security environment of Poland stated that there is no danger of open armed conflict in foreseeable future. However, Prof. Stanislaw Koziej, who leads BBN, is concerned about the fact that Poland is a frontier country of the European Union and as such is exposed to some tensions and conflicts. Not surprisingly the most recent investment for the Navy was a shore battery of the Kongsberg anti-ship Naval Strke Missile (NSM), while the next priority is for new submarines, mine hunters, and then ASW helicopters.
Poland is geo-strategically located between two traditional European powers – Germany and Russia. All armed conflicts with these two powers have been resolved on land. Likewise, the 17th century wars with Turkey ended with a great Polish victory at Vienna, far from the sea. The only war with an important, although not decisive, naval episode was the war with Sweden. In 1627, the Polish fleet achieved victory over the Swedish squadron at Oliwa. The Polish Navy was restituted immediately after regaining independence in 1918. 20 years later, a young and small navy unable to save the country continued its fight at the side of the British Royal Navy. One participant of these struggles, the destroyer Blyskawica has been depicted by CDRSalamanderin his Fullbore Friday series. The Polish Navy, rightly proud of its traditions, nevertheless historically had little influence on the outcome of wars of the past. And this is probably the General Staff’s point of view.
A few years ago, the investment budget of all the Armed Forces was centralized. All projects now compete for resources within the same structure of the MoD. Such centralization theoretically allows for better spending of scarce money, but it leaves Services without control over their own future. Even much bigger navies have from time to time had problems in justifying their mission, a problem amplified for a small navy in a continentally oriented country.
Although there are shipbuilders in Poland with profitable operations, none of them is now involved in warship design and construction. The dilemma therefore follows: should a navy rely on foreign construction and unknown support or on a local industry which has no expertise. It is possible to build such expertise over time, but is Poland’s new modernization plan enough to support such a venture?
As outlined above, some skepticism has well-founded reasons. On the other hand, my belief is that a navy should be confident in its better future, and the reason is simple. Poland, as a young member of the European Community, wants to be active in the international arena. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan allowed our Armed Forces and politicians to learn a lot. The price of these lessons is high and the next step is discovering that using a navy to express political will is typically much cheaper.
The basic assumptions of the concept include: · Permanent financing at a level of PLN 900 million per year · Abandoning modernization of current old equipment in favour of obtaining modern ships ·A three-phase modernization of the Polish Navy, implemented until 2022, 2026 and 2030 respectively · By 2030, in line with the modernization plans, the Ministry of National Defence plans to acquire, among other things: – 3 new submarines – 3 coastal defence ships with a displacement in excess of 1,000 tonnes – 3 patrol ships with minesweeping abilities – 3 modern minesweepers – 2 rescue ships – 2 electronic reconnaissance ships – 7 support ships, including an operational support ship and logistic support ship – 6 SAR helicopters and 6 anti-submarine helicopters – unmanned aerial systems: 6 reconnaissance planes (3 ship-based, vertical take-off and landing type, and 3 land-based) and 10 mine identification and destruction systems – Rearmament of the Coastal Missile Unit – Purchase of two short-range anti-aircraft systems for the defence of main naval bases
Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country