A dramatic three-week standoff on the island of Borneo claimed its first lives Friday, as Malaysian security forces exchanged gunfire—and possibly mortars—with the so-called Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu. Early reportsindicate that 10 to 12 sultanate forces, two Malaysian police commandos, and the owner of a house taken by the sultan’s followers were killed in the battle, with further injuries on both sides. Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said that 10 of the sultan’s followers were in Malaysian custodybut had no word on casualties. Both sides blamed the other for firing first—as the Filipinos of the sultanate sought food to replenish their dwindling stores, Malaysian security forces tightened their security cordon—or both.
It is unclear whether the standoff has ended. Reports do not account for another 100 or more followers, believed to comprise the group holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah Province, but the Philippines government received word that some of the Sultan’s men may have escaped toward the sea. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered his commanders to “take necessary action” to force the sultan’s followers out of the northeast corner of Borneo.
The Philippine Coast Guard is running a slideshow chronicling the dismantling of the USS Guardian (MCM 5) on their website, the sad end to an American warship. If it doesn’t hurt too much to watch a vessel cut to pieces, it’s worth a view.
The Polish Navy is expected to receive 6 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and 6 Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters starting in 2014-2015 as part of a much bigger yet-to-be-awarded deal, totaling 70 helicopters and more than $2.5 billion. The new fleet will replace 10 aging Mi-17 and 4 Kaman SH-2 helos used for ASW and SAR. Poland’s Ministry of Defense announced its intention to purchase the helicopters as a result of National Security Review, which calls for higher mobility in the armed forces. Another 10 of the 70 helos will go to the Air Force in SAR configuration, but most of the fleet, 48 in the troop transport version, will be troop transport versions for the Army. The Polish military speaks (in Polish) about “common-base airframe,” but it is not clear if that refers to all versions, as requirements between services differs significantly. It is also expected that the helicopters will at least in part be produced in Poland.
Potential contenders for the contract are Sikorsky, Eurocopter, Agusta Westland, and AW’s Polish subsidiary, PZL Swidnik, bidding separately. A brief look at the actual range of aircraft makes it interesting to see what the sales strategies of the companies will be. Sikorsky and AW already have production lines in Poland. Sikorsky and Eurocopter (specifically NH Industries) could offer common-base airframes. The closest replacement to the Mi-17 in terms of size is the Super Cougar from Eurocopter, but the short lead time makes it difficult to integrate ASW gear into a new airframe.
New ASW helicopters, in contrast with the Mi-17, are more likely to operate from the decks of Coastal Defense Ships (CDS), for which specifications are being drafted and should be ready this year. Their rather enigmatic name, according to Commander in Chief means ships that differ from classic corvettes in mission priorities and equipment. The ship should also be able to operate as part of allied task groups beyond the Baltic. Such a definition will certainly will hangers with the necessary facilities to support air operations .
The first new assets in the modernization of the Polish Navy will not be ships, but helicopters. Additionally, the ill-fated Gawron corvette program seems to have come to a reasonable end as the MoD approved the final configuration for the unfinished Meko A-100 corvette as a patrol ship. Under the name Slazak she will join the fleet in first quarter 2016.
Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitisis 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
It has been over a month since Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called for the U.K. to give up the Falkland Islands to Argentina. While this could have been nothing more than an attempted distraction by President Kirchner from a multitude of domestic issues, the dispute over the islands is constant background noise for both countries. In the meantime a referendum on the future sovereignty of the islands is scheduled for March. What this latest uptick allows is an opportunity to look at the logistics of fighting on the other side of the world and the role of aircraft carriers in modern conflict.
During the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982, the UK deployed two aircraft carriers and a sizable fleet to the South Atlantic. Since then, the end of the Cold War and shifting priorities have changed the composition of military forces for both Argentina and the UK. There is ample research comparing the naval forces of 1982 with those of today, but the lack of a British aircraft carrier remains of particular concern. This disadvantage was evident during the intervention in Libya. The absence of a mobile platform to launch aircraft contributed to a more expensive conflict as RAF sorties were flown out of airfields in Southern Europe. The result was longer flight times, fewer missions, and higher rates of fatigue.
With the exception of the facilities maintained in the Falklands themselves, the region is as far away as the U.K. can get from its bases, and it won’t have the benefit of friendly airfields and support sites nearby. While the U.K. has significantly increased the units deployed in defense of the islands, its airfields are known targets.
During the gap between carriers (The first of the two new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers isn’t expected to undergo sea trials for at least a year), questions remain about the functionality of the future ships. The carriers in development lack capabilities that existed during the first Falklands conflict, such as aerial refueling, that are essential for lengthy engagements.
What turns aircraft carriers into a truly formidable force are the carrier strike groups and support craft. By themselves, carriers are offensive weapons and have limited operations. Strike groups combine a carrier with a mix of frigates, destroyers, supply ships, and other vessels. These ships ensure non-stop air operations while protecting the carriers from land-, air-, and sea-based threats. Under its current makeup the Royal Navy, while smaller than it used to be, still maintains a modern and efficient force with all the pieces of a carrier strike group in place, minus the carrier.
The next round of predictions on the Falklands Islands won’t start until after the referendum in March. Until then, the UK needs to identify how it plans to projects its power and defends its interests abroad – both while short a carrier, and in view of the carriers’ limitations.
A 2006 graduate of Illinois State University, Ben Brockschmidt moved to Washington, D.C., on a whim in 2007. Concurrent internships in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, Ben worked for Congressman Tim Johnson of Illinois (retired) who was a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I). He is a 2012 CDE graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and today is the Executive Director of the Infrastructure Council and Director of Federal Affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.