Category Archives: Current Operations

On-going Naval Ops or Maritime Current Events

Russia and Iran in the Caspian

 

The Caspian Sea

This new piece from Foreign Policy discusses the current efforts of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to enhance their naval capabilities in the Caspian Sea.  Global economic crisis aside, there seems to be a promising market in selling ships/boats and aircraft to states asserting their economic interests in resource-rich maritime regions.

James Bridger at CSIS

The Puntland Marine Police Force: munificent benefactors apply within.

I had the pleasure of last week meeting one of our newest members, James Bridger, who spear-headed our partnership with the Atlantic Council of Canada. He was in town for a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) panel discussion on piracy, and the video is now available. If you’re interested in shore-based approaches to the problem and the influence of international politics and organizations on the reports, funding, and arms flow into the region, then it makes for an intriguing view. James is wearing his patented CIMSEC skinny tie:

Shore-based Counter-Piracy in Peril

Who will keep the lights on?

Just as independent analysts and pirates themselves attest to the impact the Puntland Marine Police Force is having on piracy in northern Somalia, pushing bosses from their bases and offering a shore-based solution nearly everyone says is needed, Robert Young Pelton of Somalia Report details the program’s backers, the UAE, has suddenly halted funding (h/t James Bridger):

Around one hundred mostly African and South African expats and their approximately 800 Somali Marines of the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) were left stranded with no cash for food, fuel or salaries.

Back at the PMPF base, just west of Bosaso airport, there now sits millions of dollars in heavy construction equipment, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, ocean-going ships, RHIBs, heavy transport trucks and 4X4 vehicles that suddenly became idle.

This calls into question the plateau in pirate attacks in the first half of the year from the north of the country, as gains on the ground might be reversed with a let up in pressure. According to Somalia Report‘s article, the decision may have come as a result of pressure from the UN which has been critical of the program. Read the full article for speculation on the program’s future.

 

The announcement also comes on the heels of a report on the human cost of piracy by Oceans Beyond Piracy with a telling rundown of numbers. The following analysis is from gCaptain:

The report found that a total of 3,863 seafarers were fired upon by Somali pirates, down 8% from 2010.  Of those, 968 came in close contact with armed pirates who were able to board their vessels and a total of 413 of them were rescued from citadels by naval forces.

 

A standout number in the report was that the number of seafarers taken hostage in 2011 dropped by 50% with a total of 555, most likely driven by increased security measures taken by crews including the use of  armed.  In 2010 a total of 1,090 had been taken hostage.

 

The report adds that a total of at least 1,206 hostages were held captive by Somali pirates in 2011, including the 555 seafarers who fell victim during 2011, 645 who were captured in 2010 and remained captive in 2011, and 6 tourists and aid workers kidnapped on land.  The report estimates that the average length of captivity was over 8 months, up 50% over 2010.

 

Tragically, 35 hostages died during 2011 including; 8 who were killed by pirates during an initial attack or after being taken captive; 8 died from disease or malnutrition while being held; and 19 died in crossfire while being used as human shields and during hostage rescue attempts.  Another 3 hostages died after release as a result of abuse they had suffered while in captivity.

 

In contrast, it is estimated that 111 pirates were killed in 2011 with 78 killed as a result of encounters with naval forces, 30 killed by fellow pirates, and 3 by Puntland police.

 

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy 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. 

 

Syria downs Turkish F-4 in the Med (UPDATED 26 June)

A Turkish RF-4E

UPDATE 26 JUNE 1400 EST:

Turkey convened a meeting of the North Atlantic Council earlier today where Turkish officials presented their version of events. As expected, the outcome was one of condemnation but no immediate military response. Following the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed solidarity with Turkey and condemned the shoot-down “in the strongest terms.” NATO also released a statement with unanimous endorsement calling the incident, “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.”

 

The past two weeks might mark a new low for relations between Turkey and Syria, but it does not mark a turning point in the Syrian conflict itself, which drags on and on.

 

Syria allegedly engaged a second Turkish aircraft. According to a TV statement on Monday by Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, a Turkish CASA searching for the wreckage of the F-4 came under fire by, who ceased when warned by the Turkish military. As the wreckage of the craft was reportedly found Sunday, it is unclear when the plane came under fire or what shot at it. Also unknown is if the rescue craft was in fact hit, but it was not brought down.

UPDATE 24 JUNE 1245 EST:

Turkey officially responded Sunday to Friday’s downing of a jet by Syria stating that the jet had been over international airspace at the time. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu disagreed with earlier Syrian assertions that the plane was not identified as Turkish, and said it had strayed into Syrian airspace but quickly left after it was warned. He also claimed the jet had been on a training mission.

Al-Jazeera quotes Turkish news channels that search and rescue crews have located the aircrafts’ wreckage in Syrian waters. Still no word on the fate of the crew or whether a second Turkish plane had been involved and received damage. Turkey has requested consultation with its NATO allies and will meet in Brussels on Tuesday with the North Atlantic Council to present its findings and formulate a response. As we reported earlier, Turkey is unlikely to invoke Article 5 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty.

Original post here:

Syria has shot down a Turkish F-4E, according to a statement from the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. Al-Jazeera reports Syria has confirmed downing the craft. A statement by the military said, “Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane.”

It is unclear which variant of F-4E from Turkey’s inventory has been brought down, but given the nature of its likely mission – reconnaissance – it was probably an RF-4E.  However, the base the patrol flew from, Erhac, is home to the 7th Main Jet Base Group Command and F-4E 2020 Terminator and F-4E Phantom II variants. This does not however preclude forward basing of RF-4Es from their normal home at Eskisehir, far to the northwest, in order to cut down flying time to the Syrian border. As of 2010, Turkey had 161 F/RF-4Es. The RF-4Es were first delivered in 1978, but began a modernization project in 2009. 

According to the BBC, PM Erdogan’s statement said a search for the two crew members of the plane was underway and involved Turkish and Syrian coast guard vessels. PM Erdogan told reporters “Regarding our pilots, we do not have any information, but at the moment four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.”

Courtesy BBC

The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 at 1158 (0858 GMT) on Friday while it was flying over Hatay, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.

 

The private news channel, NTV, later cited unnamed military sources as saying that the plane had crashed off Hatay’s Mediterranean coast, in Syrian territorial waters, but that there had been no border violation.

 

Witnesses in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia meanwhile told BBC Arabic that Syrian air defences had shot down an unidentified aircraft near the town of Ras al-Basit.

A second Turkish plane may also have been damaged. A TV station in Lebanon reported Syrian security sources stating their forces shot down one plane and hit another in Syrian airspace. The truth of the latter claim will perhaps be hard to verify, as the station is controlled by Hezbollah, an ally of the Assad regime, but it is very likely the downed F-4E was flying its mission with another.

How Turkey responds remains to be seen. PM Erdogan’s statement, released after a 2-hour emergency meeting, said Turkey would respond decisively once all the circumstances were established. Turkey, a NATO member, might attempt to invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, commonly known as the collective self-defense article, but the terms of the treaty state such an attack must occur in Europe or North America, e.g. not above Syria, giving other NATO members a convenient out. In any case, based on initial public Turkish reaction to the incident, PM Erdogan’s government will likely not have to take such a drastic step. According to “InAnatalya,” a Daily Kos Turkish contributor, “Reaction has been quiet. It seems to be understood by the people in Turkey that the F4 was in Syrian airspace.”

There have also been conflicting reports over whether Syria had earlier apologized for the incident.