Category Archives: modern military conflict

Coast Guard Keeps tabs on China in Aleutians, Maldives, and West Pac

The Coast Guard, flush with capable new vessels, has been steadily stretching its legs as of late, taking up the Navy’s slack a bit, and waving the flag increasingly in overseas locations. This new trend makes sense as, besides the formal People’s Liberation Army Navy, the growing (200 white hulled cutters) China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (4,600 blue hulled trawlers) are everywhere.

Case in point, this week the USCG’s 17th District, which covers Alaska, announced the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756), while on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea, encountered the 13,000-ton Chinese Type 055 “destroyer” (NATO/OSD Renhai-class cruiser) Renhai (CG 101), sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island. A state-of-the-art vessel comparable to a Ticonderoga-class cruiser but larger, Renhai has a 112-cell VLS system as well as two helicopters and a 130mm naval gun. Compare this to Kimball’s single 57mm MK110 and CIWS, and you see the disparity.

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. (USCG Photo)

Kimball also noted other ships as well.

Via 17th District:

The Kimball crew later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Federation Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with the Renhai as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As a result, the Kimball crew is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters. The U.S Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

This is not the first time Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese naval vessels inside the U.S. EEZ/MARDEZ. Last August, Kimball and her sister Berthoff kept tabs on a surface action group– a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel– transiting within 46 miles of the Aleutians.

Meanwhile, in the Maldives

Kimball’s sister, the Hawaii-based USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) and crew, on a Westpac patrol under the tactical control of 7th Fleet, arrived in the Maldives last week, the first Coast Guard ship to visit the 1,200-island Indian Ocean country since USCGC Boutwell in 2009.

The class of large (418-foot/4,500-ton) frigate-sized cutters have done numerous Westpac cruises in the past few years. Since 2019, the cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 752), Waesche (WMSL 751), and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Micronesia and the Solomans

Capping off a six-week extended patrol across Oceania, the 154-foot Webber/Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived back at homeport in Guam on 19 September.

The 20-member crew, augmented by two Guam-based shoreside Coasties (a YN2 and an MK2) two Navy rates (an HS2 and HM3), and a Marine Korean linguist, conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail.

How about that blended blue and green crew? “The crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) takes a moment for a photo in Cairns, Australia, Sept. 5, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

They covered more than 8,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia. They also operated with HMS Spey, the first Royal Navy warship to be forward deployed to the Pacific since Hong Kong went back to China.

The two ships were also– and this is key– refused a port visit in the Solomans which is now under a treaty with China that allows PLAN ships to refuel in Honiara. The local government there later clarified that not all foreign military ships were off limits to their ports, as Australia and New Zealand will be exempt (both countries have significant economic ties with the island nation) but it is still a bad look. Of irony, Spey and Oliver Henry were conducting an Operation Island Chief mission in the region, policing illegal fishing of the kind China is noted for.

The Coast Guard currently has three new FRCs in Guam including Henry, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), and Frederick Hatch (1143), giving them options in the Westpac.

150 Years of Cruisers sent to Mothballs

Over the weekend, the Pascagoula-built Ticonderoga-class sisters USS Hué City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68) were decommissioned, ending the lengthy careers of the two cruisers. Ordered on the same day in 1987 as part of a money-saving bulk buy, they were the first and second U.S. Navy warships named after their respective Vietnam and WWII-era battles.

Commissioned just nine months apart (14 September 1991 and 2 May 1992) they served 61 years combined.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 4, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) transits the Atlantic Ocean alongside aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), not pictured. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin R. Pacheco/Released) 160704-N-NU281-142

U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Sept. 27, 2012) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released) 120927-N-FI736-273

They were preceded by the younger USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), decommissioned last month on 4 August just shy of 29 years of service, and the slightly older USS Monterey (CG-61), decommissioned on 19 September after 32.

A fifth Tico, USS Port Royal (CG-73), is set to decommission on Thursday, bringing a close to her 28th year with the fleet. Port Royal is the youngest of her class and will likely be the last cruiser ever built for the U.S. Navy.

NEW YORK CITY (May 20, 2009) The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) transits the Hudson River during the Parade of Ships as part of Fleet Week New York City 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Danals/Released)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 6, 2020) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61), front, the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), center, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) sail in formation with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), not pictured. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aimee Ford) 201006-N-VG565-0001

PEARL HARBOR (June 24, 2011) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) passes by the Waianae Mountains as the ship departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled deployment in the western Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released) 110624-N-RI884-060

These five decommissionings strip the Navy of 610 strike-length VLS cells, 10 5-inch MK45 guns, 60 ASW torpedo tubes, 80 Harpoons, five helicopter hangars, and assorted Aegis systems with companion air defense commander suites.

It could be argued that six Flight III Burkes could more than replace the capabilities lost with the five paid-off cruisers and the Navy plans on buying two destroyers per year from FY 2023 through FY 2027 but that seems like a long way away, especially considering the 17 remaining Ticos are all set to be retired by then.

Meanwhile, the DDG(X) program, which is supposed to fill the gap left by the cruiser slaughter, isn’t set to even start fabrication until FY2028. 

Bears growling

The Coast Guard’s 1,780-ton, 270-foot medium endurance cutters, the “Famous” or Bear-class are getting around in the news this week as two of them have just wrapped up lengthy patrols.

Built in the 1980s and akin to a patrol frigate/destroyer escort of old, these 13 cutters are downright elderly by modern surface warfare escort comparisons. While they are of the same vintage as the remaining Ticonderoga class cruisers (which the Navy is shedding as quickly as Congress will allow), their contemporaries in terms of “little boys” in naval service, the FFG-7 class, have long ago faded away.

In fact, the Bears have been living on lots of parts cannibalized from old frigates that were stripped away before being expended in SINKEXs– the class is the last American user of the MK75 OTO Melara 76mm gun system and its associated “boiled egg” MK92 GFCS components.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Northland conducts a live firing of the MK 75 76mm weapons system while underway, September 20, 2020, in the Atlantic Ocean. The cutter returned to its homeport of Portsmouth, Virginia, Wednesday after a 47-day patrol conducting counter-drug and migrant interdiction operations in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

One of their Cold War selling points was that they could be cheap ASW vessels in time of war, fitted with Light Airborne Multipurpose System III (LAMPS III) integration and the ability to carry a TACTAS towed passive sonar array and a set of Mk32 sub-busting torpedo tubes. It was also planned to fit them with CIWS and Harpoon somehow. Coupled with the cutter’s refueling-at-sea rig, SLQ-32 electronic support measures (the first such fit on a cutter), SRBOC countermeasures, and main battery, they promised a lot of interoperability with the Fleet if Red Storm Rising ever kicked off and were leaps and bounds ahead of the cutters they replaced– the old circa 1930s 327-foot Treasury class of WWII fame and converted fleet tugs.

Bear-class Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WMEC-907) leads the formation of International Maritime Forces at UNITAS LVIII in Callao, Peru, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Well, the Bears never did get their ASW teeth, or Harpoon, or CIWS, but they do still have a Slick 32 and its 75mm gun and the ability to carry a lightly-armed (machine gun and .50 cal anti-material rifle) Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter– and do still practice Convoy Escort missions on occasion!

Class leader USCGC Bear (WMEC 901) returned to her homeport in Portsmouth Tuesday, after a 74-day patrol in the northern regions of the Atlantic Ocean.

During the deployment, Bear “sailed more than 10,000 nautical miles while simultaneously working in tandem with allied and partner nations as a part of the naval convoy in Operation Nanook, a signature military exercise coordinated by the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Included in the image is HMCS Margaret Brooke, Bear, French support ship  Rhone, Her Danish Majesty’s Ship (HDMS) frigate Triton, HMCS Goose Bay, and Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Leonard J. Cowley. Bear is in the top right corner. 

Operation Nanook 22 USCGC Bear (WMEC 901) with RCN French and Danish forces (RCN photo)

For approximately two weeks, American, Canadian, Danish and French forces navigated the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean performing multiple training evolutions that included search-and-rescue, close-quarters maneuvering, fleet steaming and gunnery exercises. Additionally, personnel from Maritime Security Response Team East, a specialized Coast Guard law enforcement unit, embedded with Bear to exercise their capabilities and assist with enhancing the training curriculums for other nations.

Bear also completed a living marine resource enforcement patrol for commercial fishing vessels as part of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, ensuring compliance with federal regulations while safeguarding natural resources.

Meanwhile, her sister, USCGC Legare (WMEC 912), just returned to her homeport Wednesday, after an 11-week counter-narcotics deployment that included key partner nation engagements and search and rescue operations throughout the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Legare patrolled more than 15,000 nautical miles in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Seventh and Eleventh Coast Guard Districts, working in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and federal agents from throughout the U.S., the Royal Netherlands Navy, and partner nation coast guards in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

During the patrol, Legare successfully interdicted four smuggling vessels, including one specially designed low-profile craft, and seized more than 7,000 pounds of illicit narcotics, valued at approximately $67 million. The crew also offloaded approximately 24,700 pounds of cocaine and 3,892 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $475 million, at Base Miami Beach Sept. 15, 2022.

Crew members assigned to USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) interdict a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in July 2022. Legare’s crew returned to Portsmouth Wednesday, following an 11-week deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea in support of the Coast Guard’s Eleventh and Seventh Districts and Joint Interagency Task Force South. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Andrew Bogdan)

The Cost vs the Cost

Western-supplied Ukraine Stinger MANPADS, M141 BDM (SMAW-D), the NLAW, and the Javelin ATGM, are seen with transit cases.

As seen in this Wednesday’s DOD contract announcements:

Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin JV, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded a $311,171,700 modification (P00074) to contract W31P4Q-19-C-0076 for full-rate production of Javelins. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2026. Fiscal 2022 Foreign Military Sales (Jordan and Lithuania) funds and Army procurement appropriations funds in the amount of $311,171,700 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Red Stone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

Now, $311 million sounds like a lot, right? Well, according to the Pentagon, that only buys around 1,800 Javelins, putting the cost per missile in the $172K range.

The release on Thursday from the Pentagon on what they are billing as the “Javelin Replacement Contract” stressed this would be for replenishing U.S. stocks (some 8,100 have already been withdrawn to fight to Russians, a four-year stockpile at current annual production rates, and about one-sixth of the total ever made), as well as new missiles for Kyiv/Kiev and “international partner missiles”:

The Army awarded a production contract for $311 million on Sep. 13 to the Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) between Raytheon Missiles and Defense and Lockheed Martin for delivery of more than 1,800 Javelins that will serve as replenishment for those rounds from DoD stocks sent to Ukraine in support of their military and security forces.

“This award is a great example of our continued commitment to strengthening our domestic industrial base while supporting our allies and partners,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William A. LaPlante said. “As we use various authorities to replenish our own stocks, industry can expect a strong, persistent demand signal.”

This procurement is part of the Ukraine Supplemental appropriation. The contract includes Army Ukraine replenishment, Army FY22 procurement, and international partner missiles.

“This award demonstrates the Army’s ability to use the new authorities given to us by Congress to acquire critical capabilities for our Soldiers, allies, and partners rapidly and responsibly,” said Douglas R. Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology.

To date, the Javelin Joint Venture has produced more than 50,000 Javelin missiles and more than 12,000 reusable Command Launch Units. Javelin is expected to remain in the U.S. weapon arsenal until 2050 and is subject to continual upgrades to support evolving operational needs.

Current open source data leads to the realization that the Russians have lost some 1,122 tanks in Ukraine since February, with about 670 of those being destroyed. Most of these are T-72 variants. As the Ukrainians have few tanks of their own, these likely kills came from advanced anti-tank weapons such as Javelin mixed in with drone attacks, heavy mines, and lucky hits from 105/122/155mm artillery.

Of course, the cost of a Russian T-72, which first entered service in 1973, is a moving price that has varied widely over the years.

Back in 2016, you could buy a 1980s-vintage export model surplus from the Czech Army for just $50K USD

The T-72 has been around for a minute, as detailed by this mid-1980s DOD Graphic (DAST8512646 via the National Archives) however, it isn’t a cheap tank as fielded these days due to 21st-century upgrades.

On the other end of the spectrum, as recently as 2016, Moscow was paying about $1.1 million a pop just to upgrade older models in reserve to the new T-72B3 (Ob’yekt 184-M3) standard including a better powerpack and reactive armor while the Indians embarked on a similarly-priced program to bring their 30-year old T-72s into the 21st Century with new engines and night vision equipment.

When speaking of the near-newest T-90M (Ob’yekt 188) main battle tank, manufactured by Russia’s Uralvagonzavod plant with the new Shtora-1 countermeasures suite, third generation Kontakt-5 ERA, Kalina FCS and 125mm gun, you are in the $4 million range per hull range, at least in 2021 figures. The Russians have reportedly lost at least 23 T-90s in their Ukrainian summer vacation.

The bottom line is, when it comes to dollar-per-ruble, which side is spending more in the tank vs Javelin race, and is the attrition sustainable?

One thing not taken into account, however, is the life of Russian tankers, a thing that Moscow, at least, seems unconcerned with at the moment.

Bring back the Garcias!

One big result from the end of the Cold War in 1989ish and the subsequent onset of the “peace dividend” in the early 1990s was that the near-600 ship U.S. Navy was drastically drawn down. While the carriers, dropping from 15 to 10, and the mothballing then disposal of the four Iowa class battleships got the most attention, it should also be remembered that via the “Great Cruiser Slaughter” and the untimely demise of the Sprucans saw 57 cruisers and destroyers vanish from the Navy List followed by the 23 Adams-class (all decommissioned in just a 33-month period) and 4 Kidd-class DDGs, and the 40 Knox-class fast frigates which killed off the tin cans.

But one interesting class I am here to bemoan is the loss of the Garcias, the 10-pack of fast frigates that preceded the Knoxes.

Garcia class frigate USS Voge (FF-1047) underway as part of Task Group 24.2 with the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) battle group, 12 Aug 1988 just a year before she was retired. Note the two 5-inch mounts, the ASROC launcher, and a good bit of open deck space. DOD 330-CFD-DN-ST-89-01279, National Archives Identifier:6442941

Built in the 1960s as some of the last of the destroyer escorts, they were kind of easy to forget. Just 414 feet overall with a 2,600-ton displacement, they used a simple steam plant of two boilers feeding a single steam turbine and a centerline screw, giving them a top speed of 27 knots but the ability to cruise at 20 for 4,000nm– making them perfect for wartime cross-Atlantic convoy escort.

USS Garcia (DE-1040, later FF-1040) underway, in August 1972. NHHC K-95195

The significant size of the sonar dome can be seen from this image of Voge in dry-dock.

They had a decent ASW fit including a bow-mounted sonar, a platform for an SH-2 Seaprite, both Mk32 (side-launched) and Mk25 (stern launched) torpedo tubes, and an 8-cell ASROC “Matchbox” launcher with eight reloads. For surface action, they had a pair of WWII/Korean War throwback 5″/38s in Mk 30 mounts as well as the possibility to use Harpoons in the ASROC launcher.

While they were dead meat against an incoming airstrike, at least one ship, USS Bradley (DE-1041), had a RIM-7 Sea Sparrow BPDMS installed while keeping the rest of the armament fit. All this with a 250-man crew. Indeed, the first six FFGs (originally DEGs), the Brooke class, were essentially just Garcias that had been equipped with an Mk-22 “one-armed bandit” launcher amidships with a 16-slot magazine. 

Garcia class frigate by Christian Capurro

USS Brooke, seen here in Florida waters, was the first of a half-dozen Brooke class-guided missile frigates (FFG 1-6). They were designated as they were fitted with the Mk 22 missile launcher for the Standard anti-aircraft missile, located on top of the superstructure amidships. in place of the 5″/38 Mk30 mount and magazine

Garcia 2022

Imagine for a moment that an updated Garcia were to be fielded today.

The same-sized hull is already made in America, the Legend/Berthoff-class national security cutter (NSC).

Built at Pascagoula, the 4,500-ton Stratton is the USCG’s the third Legend-class National Security Cutter

The centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s fleet (which runs 418 feet oal and weighs in at 4,500 tons) the NSC has a CODAG engineering suite of MTU 20V 1163 diesels and a single LM2500 gas turbine that is capable of “over 28 knots” with a 12,000nm cruising range while needing fewer sailors to keep it running than a Garcia of old. Add a modern MK45 5″/62 up front, shoehorn a second 5-incher amidships– the mounts weigh almost the same as the old Mk 30s on the Garcias while having a much more capable gun. Insert an 8-cell of strike length VLS for VLA-ASROC, another 8-cell short VLS for quad-packed Enhanced Sea Sparrows for air defense, and swap out the NSC’s current CIWS for a 21-cell RAM launcher. The NSC already has a sonar fit, which could be expanded, as well as a huge (for its size) hangar and stern pad. Instead of the stern-launched 31-foot cutter boat, install a towed sonar array and an eight-pack of Naval Strike Missiles similar to the stern Harpoon cans seen on the Ticonderogas.

They would be a great “low” part of a “high/low” frigate mix when balanced against the building Constellation-class FFGs.

While the Constellations are direly needed, there is still a huge gap left in the FF arena that was created when the Knoxes and Garcias left. Further, once the 21 remaining Ticos are retired, that is a further 42 5-inch guns that will disappear from the fleet without any real replacement (the Constellation has a 57mm gun while the Burkes aren’t realistically going to get close enough to shore for NGFS any more than the Ticos would have.)

While great for busting smugglers and policing duties, the NSCs are armed akin to an LCS…

NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $950 million per ship as it is, and you could imagine a 20 percent increase with the redesign and new weapon fit, putting such a program in the range of about $1.3B per hull, which is about the same as the larger Constellations. However, you get two 5-inch guns and a focus on killing subs whereas the multi-mission nature of the Constellations means they will be much like the old Perry-class FFGs they replaced and lean towards a more anti-air frigate concept– and will take several years to get in the water and the bugs worked out.

Contrast this with the fact that the NSCs have been under construction for 15 years and Ingalls has kind of gotten it figured out, plus, they have used the hull for a series of proposed LCS and Patrol Frigate designs they have pitched around the world, so they likely already have a lot of the backend design work brainstormed for an up-armed NSC already.

Ingalls Shipbuilding Sea Control Frigate based on National security cutter

Ingalls Shipbuilding Sea Control Frigate based on National security cutter

A 20-30 ship class of “Garcia’d” NSCs in haze gray, matching the Constellations hull-for-hull, would go a long way towards making the Navy whole, and would be an easy export option for allies seeking a similar ASW/AShW optimized fast frigate. 

Just saying.

Ukraine Goes 1973 Yom Kippur

Some of the videos and photos coming back from around Kharkiv/Kharkov, where Ukraine has mounted what seems by all accounts to be a very successful counteroffensive, are stunning. Russian forces have without question abandoned significant amounts of equipment and materiel around the city, with indications pointing to a disorganized rout.

“Russian equipment abandoned. Russian soldiers switching into civilian attire and trying to blend into the population and escape the front. This is not a ‘red badge of courage’ moment for Putin’s army,” noted ADM James Stavridis.

Even the Russians are confirming they have pulled back their lines, which is a rare admission from Moscow in a war that for the past 200 days has been akin to Baghdad Bob.

By some accounts, the military feint to the south around Kherson and detailed intel provided to Kyiv/Kiev by Western sources, set up the Russians for an easy fall.

It is all very reminiscent of the Israeli counter-push in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Takeaways as noted from the ISW:

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to make impactful gains in Kherson Oblast and are steadily degrading the morale and combat capabilities of Russian forces in this area.
  • The Russian military command may be suspending the deployment of newly formed units to Ukraine due to recent Russian losses and overall degraded morale.
  • Russian forces are failing to reinforce the new frontline following Ukrainian gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast and are actively fleeing the area or redeploying to other axes.
  • Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian military assets and positions in Kherson Oblast, likely steadily degrading them.
  • The Ukrainian recapture of Izyum has likely degraded Russian forces’ ability to conduct artillery strikes along the Izyum-Slovyansk highway.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the restoration of the second reserve power transmission line to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
  • Ukraine’s sweeping counteroffensive is damaging Russian administrative capabilities and driving Russian departures from occupied parts of Ukraine far behind the line of contact.

Of course, the Russians are regrouping and plastering the region to the Northwest of Kharkiv/Kharkov with lots of rockets and air-delivered weapons (often with VDS flying missions that stop at the Russian border then lofting weapons to target down range) and if the Ukrainians outrun their supply lines the tide could turn. However, the first snowfall in the region normally hits in mid-October so the “fighting season” is likely to close in just a few weeks.

One key statistic that I would like to reference is that Oryx, which has been keeping a public running tab of equipment lost by both sides– using photographic reference as confirmation — since the war started on 24 February, has surpassed the 1,000th tank documented lost by the Russians. In comparison, Russia lost only three tanks during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

The Oryx Russian tank tally as of 13 September stands at 1,087, of which destroyed: 654, damaged: 44, abandoned: 51, and captured: 338. Most are T-72 variants (638) but a lot are newer T-80s (210) and even some T-90s (22) while only a few are ancient models such as the 43 T-64s logged.

As a note on propaganda and “body counts,” the Ukrainian MOD says they have zapped twice as many Russian tanks, which is obviously inflated.

The Ukrainians claim 2,175 Russian tanks have been accounted for, roughly a 100 percent inflation from what has been confirmed with open-sourced imagery.

By comparison, Oryx has Ukraine losing 259 tanks, mostly modified T-64BV models. This points to the massive amount of modern anti-tank weapons sent to the country in recent months.

Just take a look at the latest (8 September) fact sheet from the Pentagon on the $15 billion worth of goodies the U.S. alone has provided– it contains 8,500 Javelins (which will take at least four years to replace, just saying), 1,500 older TOW missiles, and 32,000 “other” mostly one-shot anti-armor systems such as M136/AT-4s, M72s, M151 BDM/Mk 153 SMAWs, etc.

Another interesting development is using cheap drones– even commercial Chinese quad-copters– by Ukrainian “poacher” units to drop grenades and mortar bombs down the hatches of resting Russian tanks behind the lines.

In short, Ukraine is the scariest environment imaginable for a Russian tanker to operate.

Romanian Minesweeper Survives Detonation

According to a release from the Romanian Navy, the minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) sortied from Constanţa, last Thursday, 8 September, to respond to a flash from the diving support platform GSP Falcon of a floating mine some 25 miles NE from the port.

Minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) of the Romanian Navy. She is 200-feet oal with a displacement of 790 tons and has been in service since 1987, dating back to the Cold War. She is a variant of the old Soviet Project 266M Akvamarin “Natya” type design. Note the ubiquitous AK-230 30mm mounts. (Romanian Navy photo)

However, high winds and sea state (Beaufort 7, near gale) interfered with the recovery as it kept the MCM from launching her EOD team boat. One thing apparently led to another and the mine impacted against the hull overnight and produced a small hole. The Romanians report that Nicolescu is stable and suffered no casualties and the support tug Grozavul went to the minesweeper’s assistance to shepherd her back to port.

Since most of the 28 mines recovered/destroyed in the Western Black Sea since the start of the Russo-Ukraine war have been small riverbed/coastal types, this slight damage tracks.

Most of the devices encountered so far have been Soviet M1943 MyaM-type shallow water (inshore/river) contact mines of the type licensed to both Iran (SADAF-01 type) and Iraq (Al Mara type) back in the 1980s, typically seen with very fresh Ukrainian naval markings and contact horns covered. (Romanian Navy photo)

And the guns rang out

Traditional gun salutes honoring the late Queen Elizabeth rang out across the United Kingdom on Friday “and at saluting stations at home and abroad as the world watched on and mourned her loss.”

The 96-gun salutes, one for each of her years, typically took an average of 16 minutes to ring out in slow fire, one round every 10 seconds.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired the Death Gun Salute in Hyde Park from Great War-era 13-pounder Field Guns.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire the Death Gun Salute in Hyde Park

And at the same time, it was also fired at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) in ceremonial attire. The latter salute is fired from four 25- pounder guns located on Tower Wharf facing the River Thames.

The Death Gun Salute was fired at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company.

Meanwhile in Scotland 96 rounds also rang out from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle as 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, an Army Reserve regiment that recruits across Scotland and in Northern Ireland, fired the salute with Major Brian Robson RA in charge. They use the current 105mm light howitzer the L118 (the U.S. Army uses a modified version, the M119 for airborne and light infantry units.)

Soldiers of 105 Regiment Royal Artillery fired three L118 Light Guns at Edinburgh Castle

In Wales, salutes rang out as 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, the only Army Reserve Artillery regiment in Wales, fired their salutes amid the sunshine and showers at Cardiff Castle.

In Colchester and East Essex Cricket Club, the salutes were fired by members of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery from Colchester Garrison.

The Airborne gunners of F (Sphinx) Parachute Battery 7 Royal Horse Artillery fired 96 rounds from their L118s

In York, where the salutes took place at the York Museum Gardens, Lt Col Matt Brockleby, Commanding Officer, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “This is an honor for the Regiment.”

L118s of 4 Regiment Royal Artillery fire their Gun Salute at York Museum Gardens on Friday 9 September 2022

And over in Northern Ireland, Captain Joshua McKee, of 206 Battery 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, gave the order to fire the salutes as people laid flowers outside the walls of Hillsborough Castle.

A 96 Gun salute, conducted by 206 (Ulster) Battery, Royal Artillery at Royal Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland.

The ship’s company of HMS Queen Elizabeth mustered on the flight deck mid-Atlantic for their own 96-gun salute and to mark the passing of “the boss.”

After 60 years you’re still the most beautiful ship in the world

As we covered in a past Warship Wednesday on the Italian Navy’s historic nave scuola (training ship) Amerigo Vespucci (A5312), according to legend, while sailing in the Med in the 1960s, the 80,000-ton Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Independence, on a deployment with the Sixth Fleet duty in support of President John F. Kennedy’s firm stand on the newly-established Berlin Wall, came across a strange tall ship at sea.

The carrier flashed the vessel, Vespucci, with the light signal asking, “Who are you?” The answer, “Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy,” came back. Independence was said to have replied, “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.”

AMERIGO VESPUCCI Italian Training Ship, Sails past USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) in the Mediterranean, 12 July 1962. The Navy later used this image on recruiting posters and advertising in the 1960s and 70s. USN 1061621

Well, in a salute to that exchange, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) transited the Adriatic Sea alongside Vespucci on 1 September to commemorate the (just passed) 60th anniversary of the 1962 meeting between Indy and Italy’s senior national vessel.

As related by the Marina Militare, the signal from the big American flat top remained very similar: “Amerigo Vespucci, after 60 years you’re still the most beautiful ship in the world”

The Navy also marked the Bush’s 25 August passage through the Strait of Gibraltar with a nice time-lapse video. 

Of note, the GHWBCSG is comprised of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron 26, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

“The GHWBCSG is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests.” 

Speaking of carrier news…

In case you missed it, the Indian Navy’s third aircraft carrier– after the Kiev-class INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov) and Centaur-class INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes)– and first to be indigenously built, the brand new INS Vikrant (R11), was commissioned last week on 2 September after a 23-year planning and construction period.

The new $3 billion (which is a bargain compared to a $13 billion Ford-class CVN) carrier runs 860 feet overall and hits the scales with a 45,000-ton displacement, making her roughly the size of an old Essex-class fleet carrier of WWII or a current LHA/LHD but sans landing equipment. Using a COGAG suite of four LM2500 gas turbines– the same as an Arleigh Burke— she can make 30 knots. 

She actually compares well to the new $7.4 billion 65,000-ton British Queen Elizabeth class carriers, although it should be pointed out that the QEs operate F-35s (if they ever get enough of them). 

The Indian carrier’s armament is Italian/Israeli/Russian, electronics are from all over Europe, and her air group (for now) will be 30-ish STOBAR ski-jumped MiG-29Ks and a few Kamov Ka-31 ASW helicopters. However, this is set to change as the Indians are receiving MH-60Rs from the U.S. and it is between Dassault Rafale-M and the F-18E/F (with odds going towards the cheaper French option). 
Boeing recently completed ski jump tests with a Super Hornet loaded with two 500lb laser-guided bombs, AIM9Xs, and AIM-120s.

Welcome back, HMS Anson

Yesterday’s Warship Wednesday profiled the final KGV-class battleship to join the Royal Navy, the sixth HMS Howe (32), and her WWII career which included a stint as the flagship of ADM Bruce Fraser’s British Pacific Fleet in 1944-45. We also touched on her sister, the seventh HMS Anson (79) which joined the fleet the same summer of 1942 as Howe.

HMS Anson dressed in Sydney Harbor for the Australia Day sailing regatta, 1946. The KGV-class fast battleship was commissioned in April 1942 but didn’t become operational until September, joining Convoy QP 14 on the Murmansk run. In all, she would watch over nine such convoys, support the Husky landings against Sicily, tag along on the Tungsten operation to sink Tirpitz and host RADM Cecil Harcourt’s liberation of Hong Kong in August 1945.

Like her four sisters that survived WWII, the battlewagon Anson would remain in mothballs until 1957 and was unceremoniously disposed of shortly after.

Well, the name Anson returned to the Admiralty’s list as the fifth of seven Astute-class hunter-killer submarines, commissioned yesterday into the Royal Navy at a ceremony at BAE Systems’ Barrow-In-Furness site. She had been christened in 2020 via a bottle of cider smashed against the hull– the drink favored by her namesake, 18th-Century Admiral George Anson, as a cure for scurvy.

Of interest, while both battleships Anson and Howe visited Australia in 1945 during the war, Royal Australian Navy submariners, as part of the AUKUS initiative to send SSNs down under, will join British crews to train on newly commissioned HMS Anson as announced yesterday by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. In reflecting this, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and a delegation of RAN officers attended Anson’s commissioning this week.

HMS Anson will join four other Astute class submarines in service with the Royal Navy –HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, HMS Artful, and HMS Audacious– all proud names carried by former vessels. Two further boats that echo historic battleship names – Agamemnon and Agincourt – are in various stages of construction at Barrow.

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