Tag Archives: NATO

Modernizing the Polish Navy

 

The Polish frigate Gen. T. Kościuszko

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.

I know I left my sub somewhere….” A former Kobben-class, now a museum.

 

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.

Traditions

Defeating the dasterdly Swedes

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 CDRSalamander in 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.

Budgeting

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.

Industrial Base

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 Plan in Detail (From Maritime Business Poland):

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

 

The Tenacious Dutch: HNMLS Rotterdam v Pirates

                          Pirate Ship Down

The Dutch have done it again.  HNMLS Rotterdam, flagship of NATO’s OCEAN SHIELD counter-piracy operation yesterday decisively won an engagement with a suspected pirate dhow just off the coast of Somalia.  NATO’s Allied Operations site has the story:

A boarding team from Rotterdam was making an approach on a suspect dhow near the coast when they came under fire from ashore and from the dhow itself. Rotterdam returned fire in accordance with Rules of Engagement, during which the dhow was seen to ignite and crew members were observed leaping into the water. One crew member of the dhow was killed in this action and 25 people were subsequently rescued from the water by Rotterdam. Commodore Ben Bekkering, the commander of the NATO Task Force, said that the Rotterdam and her boats remained under sustained fire from the shore throughout, even while attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken dhow and one of Rotterdam’s rigid inflatable boats was damaged.
H/t Lucien. Check out the above site for more details.
Dutch vs Dhow: Small boat from HNMLS Rotterdam exchanges fire with suspected pirate dhow.

Who Defeated the Somali Pirates?

Ships from CTF-150, one of the mult-national naval force conducting maritime security operations off the Horn of Africa

The New York Times published a piece last week describing the “sharp” decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia  It cited data provided by the US Navy demonstrating that attacks had significantly fallen off in 2012 compared to 2011 and 2010.  The decline was attributed to industry having implemented better security measures, the large-scale participation by forces from many world navies in counter-piracy operations in the region, and raids conducted to rescue hostages.

Conspicuously absent, however, is any mention of how events ashore may have impacted piracy.  The only mention in the piece as to how actions on land are related to piracy was that “renewed political turmoil” or “further economic collapse” could cause more Somalis to pursue piracy as a livelihood.

In June Matt Hipple made his case in this blog that international naval operations had little or nothing to do with the current decline in piracy.  He argued that the Kenyan invasion of Somalia and continued operations by the multi-national forces of AMISOM, as well as armed private security forces onboard commercial vessels were the decisive factors behind the recent drop in pirate attacks.  Another June piece by the website Somalia Report attributed the decline to internal Somali factors, primarily declining financial support by Somali investors in the pirate gangs, and increased operations of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF).

A basic principle within the social sciences and statistics is that “correlation is not causation.”  Just because the U.S. and other world navies applied military force at sea to combat Somali pirates does not mean that maritime operations caused the piracy decline, particularly when there are so many other independent variables have contributed to piracy, especially those ashore driven by Somalis themselves.  Until this year the only group with real success at stopping piracy over the last decade was the Islamic Courts Union (forerunner to al-Shabab), who stopped it when they controlled southern Somalia for most of 2006.  Piracy came back when the Ethiopians invaded and forced the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu and the pirate strongholds at the end of that year.

It is possible that a debate over who defeated the Somali pirates could mirror the similar debate over the effectiveness of “the Surge” in Iraq.  U.S. Army Colonel Gian Gentile has been one of the most outspoken advocates of questioning the conventional wisdom assuming that the 2007 U.S. troop increase in Iraq and the adoption of the Counter-Insurgency doctrine were what caused violence to fall.  He instead argues that Iraqi-driven variables such as Sunni insurgent groups accepting U.S. money to switch sides and Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s decision to stop attacks were what made the difference.

Both the deployment of ships and other assets by the world’s navies, as well as changed behavior by the maritime industry, have played some role in the drop in pirate attacks.  To assume that those were the decisive factor, however, with no consideration given to what has actually happened in Somalia over the past few years, is shortsighted and ignores the larger reasons for why the phenomenon of Somali piracy started in the first place.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence Officer and currently serves on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence and onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

The Sublime Porte Takes the Lead

Goose isn’t available, Syria. Meet Turkey.

In a surprise move, Turkey has aggressively taken the lead in what seemed a stalemate over Syria. While Bashir Al-Assad has announced his country is at war, his observation might be more accurate than he is comfortable with. Following Syria’s encore performance of shooting at Turkish F-4’s, Ankara has decided to remind the world that the “sick man of Europe” has been in the gym for a long LONG time.

With unconfirmed reports of Turkish units moving to the Syrian border, Turkey is poised to take the lead on a NATO mission no one has wanted to touch. Turkey taking the reins shows optimism for future potential on NATO’s heart monitor. NATO is not merely a support structure for US operations abroad, but as indicated by Turkey’s actions, an institution by which any member state can take the lead on security issues no matter how feckless the majority.

Turkey has been sitting on the periphery for a long time. The nation many dismissed as a NATO ornament and an EU impossibility has proven itself an economic powerhouse, a political leader, and now a military spearhead. “Everybody should know that Turkey’s wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable,” said President Erdogan. With the speed and rigor of the Turkish response both politically and militarily, perhaps the long-ago sick man of Europe will become its backbone.