Under operational control of Commander Submarine Group 7 (Guam), the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) was previously forward deployed to Diego Garcia in support of Fifth Fleet operations. The move to Subic Bay and Seventh Fleet’s area of operations represents a refocus of US naval strength in the anticipated post-Afghanistan era.
The US Navy’s return to Subic Bay seems fully supported by the Philippines government. In addition to providing a home to visiting US Navy vessels, Subic Bay could prove to be an idea location for basing forward deployed the new littoral combat ships that are now entering the fleet.
Naval Station Rota (NAVSTA Rota) is a Spanish naval base opened in 1955, commanded by a Spanish Admiral, called Base Naval de Rota in Spanish, and yet fully-funded by the United States of America. Often described by the US Navy as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean,” Rota is headquarters for Commander US Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTSPAIN). Under the mutual defense agreement signed by the US and Spain during the Franco regime (Convenio de Defensa y Ayuda Económica Mutua), the US is responsible for maintaining the station’s infrastructure, including a 670-acre (2.7 km2) airfield, three active piers, 426 facilities and 806 family housing units.
Rota is home to the Spanish Navy’s Grupo de Acción Naval 2, comprising the aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias (R-11), the LPDs Galicia (L-51) and Castilla (L-52), and the LST Pizarro (L-42). On its transfer to a state of “restrictive standby” (or what the rest of the world calls “decommissioning”), the Príncipe de Asturias will be replaced by the LHD Juan Carlos I (L61).
Rota is also home to the 41ª Escuadrilla de Escoltas, comprising the Santa Maria-class frigates Santa Maria (F-81), Victoria (F-82), Numancia (F-83), Reina Sofía (F-84), Navarra (F-85) and Canarias (F-86). The Spanish vessels are based on the US Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.
US tenant units based at Rota include Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company Europe (FAST Co. Europe), US Naval Hospital Rota, Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 and 725th Air Mobility Squadron.
The strategic location of the base allows it to provide excellent support to US Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean and to US Air Force Air Mobility Command units. It is the only base in the Mediterranean which supports amphibious readiness group (ARG) post-deployment wash-downs. The naval station also offers pier-side maintenance and backload facilities. The base complements the ARG unit transfers, and accommodates the sailors and marines of visiting ships.
During the Cold War, Rota was home port to Submarine Squadron 16 (SUBRON 16) and the depot ship USS Proteus (AS-19), later USS Holland (AS-32). Submarines assigned to the squadron included the USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) and USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657).
gCaptain has new details on a the recent sinking of a ferry in the Philippines that may have taken the lives of almost 300.
This brings to mind what is regarded by many as the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the Philippine ferryMV Doña Paz in 1987. The actual number of persons on board is unknown but it is estimated that 4,375 died. There were only 24 survivors from the ship.
There is an eight part dramatization of the disaster on YouTube totaling about 47 minutes. The first and last segments are probably the most interesting. The first seven parts are here and the eighth is here.
8 Maestrale-class frigates were built by Fincantieri for the Marina Militare and commissioned between 1982 and 1985. They are being replaced in Italian service by new FREMM multipurpose frigates, the first of which was commissioned in May 2013.
Philippines to buy 2 frigates from Italy
MANILA – The Philippines is set to buy two Maestrale-class frigates from Italy, a defense official said Wednesday, as the Asian nation races to upgrade its military amid mounting territorial disputes with China.
The frigates, along with 12 FA-50 fighter aircraft, are the most significant items on the government’s 75-billion-peso ($1.7-billion) military modernization budget over the next five years, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said.
“We are modernizing not because we want to go to war with China,” he told a news conference.
He said the government had a sworn obligation to defend the “West Philippine Sea,” using the government’s preferred term for Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.
“We are not saying that this is part of our preparations to assert our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. What we are saying is that we cannot just give them up.”
The frigates would add to two refurbished Hamilton-class cutters formerly used by the US Coast Guard that the Philippines acquired from its US ally to upgrade its ageing navy fleet, which includes some vessels that first saw action in World War II.
Manalo said the navy had already decided to acquire two new Maestrale-class frigates instead of buying used ones from the Italian navy, and had budgeted 18 billion pesos for them.
The Philippines could be ready to tender by the end of the year, he added.
Meanwhile, the government had alloted 18.9 billion pesos to acquire the fighter aircraft, which are built by South Korea, he added.
The modernization budget also provides for building or improving facilities to berth and provide maintenance to the vessels on the military’s shopping list, Manalo said.
President Benigno Aquino vowed Monday to rebuild the air force by 2016.
The Philippines, which has one of the weakest military forces in the region, retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.
Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) is a series of annual bilateral military exercises conducted by United States Pacific Fleet (USPACFLT) with several member nations of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Southeast Asia. CARAT 2013 ran from 1/20/2013 to 6/23/2013 and included the navies of the United States, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Timor Leste.
CARAT Philippines Ends on Board USS Fitzgerald
The 19th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines ended with a closing ceremony on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), July 2.
During the six-day exercise, U.S. Sailors and Marines trained with their counterparts in the Philippine navy, coast guard and marine corps in a series of shore-based and at sea events.
CARAT is a bilateral naval exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia. Beginning in 1995, CARAT Philippines reflects the longstanding and enduring relationship between the U.S. and Philippine navies.
Shore-based training events covered several naval competencies, including jungle warfare and marksmanship, tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), riverine small boat operations, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), and diving and salvage.
At sea, Fitzgerald conducted maneuvering, communications and gunnery exercises with the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF 15) and the Philippine coast guard salvage and rescue vessel BRP Edsa (SARV 02). Both navies established a combined afloat staff on Fitzgerald to share best practices and coordinate exercise events.
“It was a pleasure to work side-by-side with our longstanding allies in the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard,” said Capt. Paul Schlise, Commander, Task Group (CTG) 73.1. “The ships of the combined Task Group performed very well during close maneuvering, gunnery and communications drills at sea; and the professional interactions between subject matter experts from both the US and Philippines substantially advanced the capability and level of inter-operability of our forces.”
More than 600 U.S. Sailors and Marines participated in CARAT Philippines 2013.
Participating ships included the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) with embarked Commander, Task Group 73.1/ Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 staff, and the diving and salvage ships, USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) and USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52). A company of Marines from with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment participated in shore-based events.
Medical, civil affairs and visit, board, search and seizure evaluators from Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command, divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, P-3C Orion aircraft, and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, Orient Express also participated in CARAT Philippines.
The the Bush (41) and Clinton-era draw down of overseas bases seriously underestimated the rise of China as a global superpower and failed to anticipate the 21st century dependence of US trade on the Pacific Rim.
Rule #1 of any plan is redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. Putting all of your eggs into one basket is never a sensible idea. Deciding to rely upon Japan as a the sole homeport for US naval assets in WESTPAC has proved to be a strategic policy failure. Japanese public opinion (and the body politic) want USPACFLT out of Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa. The US Navy and the Marine Corps are scrambling to establish facilities in Guam. Now a return to Subic Bay seems to be in multi-billion dollar necessity.
Manila plans air, naval bases at Subic with access for U.S., officials say
(Reuters) – The Philippine military has revived plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base that American forces could use to counter China’s creeping presence in the disputed South China Sea, senior navy officials said.
The proposed bases in the Philippines, a close U.S. ally, coincides with a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel in the region as Washington turns its attention to a newly assertive China and shifts its foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia.
The bases would allow the Philippines to station warships and fighter jets just 124 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal, a contentious area of the South China Sea now controlled by China after a tense standoff last year.
The Philippine navy, whose resources and battle capabilities are no match for China’s growing naval might, has yet to formally present its 10-billion-peso ($230 million) base development plan to President Benigno Aquino.
But senior officials say they believe it has a strong chance of winning approval as Aquino seeks to upgrade the country’s decrepit forces.
The Philippine Congress last year approved $1.8 billion for military modernization, with the bulk going to acquisition of ships, aircraft and equipment such as radar. The military had raised the plan in the past, but is now pushing it with more urgency following a series of naval stand-offs with China.
“The chances of this plan taking off under President Aquino are high because his administration has been very supportive in terms of equipment upgrade,” said a senior military officer who asked not to be identified.
“The people around him understood our needs and more importantly, what our country is facing at this time.”
Subic, a deep-water port sheltered by jungle-clad mountains 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, has been a special economic zone since U.S. forces were evicted in 1992, ending 94 years of American military presence in the Philippines and shutting the largest U.S. military installation in Southeast Asia.
Since then, American warships and planes have been allowed to visit the Philippines for maintenance and refueling.
U.S. military “rotations” through the Philippines have become more frequent as Beijing grows more assertive in the South China Sea, a vast expanse of mineral-rich waters and vital sea lanes claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines – one of Asia’s biggest security flashpoints.
A 30-hectare (74-acre) area has been identified for the bases, which would station fighter jets and the Philippines’ biggest warships that patrol the disputed sea, including two Hamilton-class cutter ships it acquired for free from the United States.
The plan has taken on added urgency since a tense two-month standoff last year between Chinese and Philippine ships at the Scarborough Shoal, which is only about 124 nautical miles off the Philippine coast. Chinese ships now control the shoal, often chasing away Filipino fishermen.
U.S. and Philippine navy ships begin war games near the shoal on Thursday.
The South China Sea dispute will again loom large over regional diplomacy next week when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joins his counterparts from Southeast Asian nations and China among other countries for an annual meeting in Brunei.
The Philippines plans to raise the issue of Chinese ships’ “encroachment” near another disputed coral reef where Manila recently beefed up its small military presence, diplomatic sources told Reuters. China in turn has accused the Philippines of “illegal occupation” of the reef, which is a strategic gateway to an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.