“Last Call” (1965) with HMS Bulwark and the Far East Fleet on Exercise Dark Night

Feature length documentary (61 minutes) demonstrating a Royal Navy and Royal Marines exercise in the Far East. Filmed during 1964/65 and based on Exercise ‘Dark Night.’

With 40 Commando, 42 Commando, and 845 NAS aboard the commando carrier HMS Bulwark (R08). The “Rusty B” was deployed East of Suez with the Royal Navy’s Far East Fleet throughout the 1960s and served during the Konfrontasi with Indonesia.

Also features strike carriers HMS Victorious (R38), HMS Eagle (R05), and the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21). Aircraft include the De Havilland Sea Vixen and the Blackburn Buccaneer.

Also the (new for 1964/5) County-class guided missile destroyers HMS Kent (D12) and HMS London (D16). Additional escorts include Battle-class destroyers HMS Barrosa (D68) and HMS Corruna (D97), C-class destroyer HMS Caesar (D07), Type 61 aircraft direction frigate HMS Lincoln (F99), Australian destroyer escort HMAS Derwent (DE49), New Zealand frigate HMNZS Otago (F111), and Type 15 frigate HMS Zest (F102).

Ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary include the replenishment oilers RFA Tidepool (A76), RFA Tidesurge (A98), and RFA Bayleaf (A79).

“On this day in history” Royal Navy ships assemble for Fleet Rview, 1953

On this day in history, 9 June 1953, Royal Navy ships assemble for the Coronation Fleet Review of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

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“A part of the great assembly of warships taking form at Spithead in preparation for the Coronation Fleet Review.” (IWM A 32574)

USS New Orleans (LPH-11) SINKEX 2010

The Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS New Orleans (LPH-11) was decomissioned in 1997 and mothballed at Suisun Bay until 2006. She was moved to Pearl Harbor in 2006 to prep for disposal via SINKEX, and was finally sunk during RIMPAC 2010.

Decommissioned USS New Orleans (LPH 11) taking fire during SINKEX, July 10, 2010.

New Orleans begins to roll during SINKEX, RIMPAC 2010.

New Orleans takes fire from a line of surface combat ships, July 10, 2010.

New Orleans begins to sink after being engaged by the Australian navy frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152) with her 5-inch gun.

New Orleans rolls on its side and begins to sink after being impacted by rounds fired from several ships.

Decommissoned US Navy amphibious assault ship USS New Orleans (LPH 11) slips below the surface at the conclusion of SINKEX, July 10, 2010.

New Orleans sunk on July 10, 2010 approx. 70-miles NW of Kauai, Hawaii.

New Jersey battle group, WESTPAC, 1986

Aerial view of the first Battleship Battle Group (BBBG) to deploy to the Western Pacific since the Korean War, taken 1 July 1986. [click photo to enlarge]

New Jersey Battleship Battle Group (BBBG), 1 July 1986. Photo credit: USN.

Ships clockwise from bottom of picture:

 

Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Echo continues search for MH370

Echo was launched at Appledore Shipbuilders, Bideford on 4 March 2002 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 13 March 2003. Lead vessel in her class (HMS Enterprise is Echo’s sister ship), she was designed to carry out a wide range of survey work, including support to submarine and amphibious operations, through the collection of oceanographic and bathymetric (analysis of the ocean, its salinity and sound profile) data.

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

On 20 March, 2014, Echo was operating in the Persian Gulf, midway through an 18-month hydrographic surveying deployment, when she was tasked to assist the Royal Australian Navy search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in a sector of the Indian Ocean 2,400 km (1,295 nmi) southwest of Perth, Australia.

Echo’s Commanding Officer Commander Phillip Newell said his 60 men and women were giving the search their all. “My ship’s company are working 24/7 to find MH370. They are young, bright and enthusiastic and will step up to every challenge in the search for the missing aircraft. I am immensely proud of them.”

The Australian govt is overseeing search operations from its newly created Joint Agency Coordination Centre. Eight countries are involved in the search.

Royal Navy survey ship HMS Echo (H87) and Royal Australian Air Force P-3C Orion aircraft in search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Photo: Crown copyright, 2014.

HMS Echo (H87) Royal Navy hydrographic survey ship. Photo: Crown copyright, 2013.

On the bridge of HMS Echo (H87), Royal Navy hydrographic survey ship. Photo: Moshi Anahory, 2012.

HMS Echo (H87), 2012. Photo: SAC Dave Vine , Crown copyright.

HMS Vendetta 1917-1933, HMAS Vendetta 1933-1946

HMS/HMAS Vendetta was an Admiralty V-class destroyer that saw service during the First World War and the Second World War. Vendetta served in the Royal Navy from 1917 to 1933 and then transferred to the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Vendetta in 1933. She was sold for scrap in 1946 and scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1948.

HMS Vendetta, June 1919 (IWM Q73903).

First World War

HMS Vendetta was commissioned in 1917 and assigned to the Thirteenth Destroyer Flotilla which was attached to the Grand Fleet. In October 1917, the flotilla consisted of the light cruiser HMS Champion as flagship, the depot ship HMS Woolwich, two flotilla leaders, twenty-one M-class destroyers, seven R-class destroyers, and six V-class destroyers (including Vendetta). Her first action was against German minesweepers operating in the Kattegat.

On the night of 17th November 1917, Vendetta formed part of the destroyer screen for the First Light Cruiser Squadron at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight.

In March 1918, the flotilla was transferred to the Battle Cruiser Force (Rear Admiral William Pakenham).

HMS Vendetta, June 1919 (IWM Q73907).

Interwar

Following the First World War, Vendetta was assigned to the Baltic in support of White forces during the Russian Civil War. On 12th December 1918, she rescued 430 crew from HMS Cassandra when the cruiser struck a mine and sank. Vendetta also took part in the capture of the Bolshevik Orfey-class destroyer ‘Spartak’ and the Izyaslav-class destroyer ‘Lennuk’ which were transferred to the Estonian Navy.

Between 1924 and 1933, Vendetta served with First Destroyer Flotilla and the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet.

In 1933, Vendetta was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. Together with the destroyer leader Stuart and the destroyers Vampire, Voyager, and Waterhen, she departed Chatham on 17th October and arrived in Sydney on 21st December. The 5 ships formed the Australian Destroyer Flotilla, later to become the infamous “Scrap Iron Flotilla.”

HMAS Vendetta ship’s company 1937 (RAN photo).

Second World War

HMAS Vendetta served in the Royal Australian Navy throughout the Second World War. In November 1939, the RAN approved an Admiralty request to transfer Australian destroyers to the Mediterranean Fleets. HMAS Venedtta took passage with Stuart, Voyager, and Waterhen via the Red Sea and Suez, arriving at Malta on 14th December.

During her time in the Mediterranean, Vendetta earned battle honours for the Libya campaign (1940-41), the Battle of Cape Matapan (1941), the Battle of Greece (1941), and Crete (1941). She also served as a convoy escort between Gibraltar, Malta, and Alexandria, and as a member of the famous ‘Tobruk Ferry Service’ ferrying supplies into the besieged city and evacuating wounded. After 2-years continuous service in the Mediterranean, Vendetta was nominated for refit and, after transit of Suez and Bombay, arrived at Sembawang Dockyard, Singapore on 12th November 1941.

HMAS Vendetta, Tobruk Ferry Service, 1941 (RAN photo).

When war with Japan broke out, Vendetta was still under refit at Sembawang. When the Japanese bombed Singapore on 8th December 1941, a stick of bombs fell within 200-yards of the destroyer. There was a further air raid on 31st December, during which time Vendetta‘s anti aircraft armament went into action. During an air raid on 21st January 1942, Vendetta shot down a Japanese bomber with a direct hit on its bomb bay. With Japanese forces approaching Singapore from landward, the stripped-down Vendetta was towed from the dockyard on 2nd February, reaching Batavia on 10th February, Fremantle on 4th March, and Melbourne on 15th April. Her refit recommenced at Williamstown and was finally complete in September 1942.

HMAS Vendetta (RAN photo).

Vendetta‘s refit involved a reduction in main armament and an increase in anti aircraft armament. She would now serve as a well-armed dedicated escort vessel instead of a “workhorse” destroyer. During her service in the Far East, Vendetta earned the battle honours Pacific (1941-43) and New Guinea (1943-44). In September 1945, Vendetta transported Australian representatives to Rabaul to accept the surrender of Japanese forces.

HMAS Vendetta paid off on 17th November 1945 and was placed on the disposal list. The ship was sold for scrapping in 1946 and her hulk was scuttled off Sydney Heads on 2nd July 1948.

HMS Vendetta / HMAS Vendetta Details
Admiralty V and W-class destroyer.
Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Govan.
Laid down November 1916.
Launched 3rd September 1917.
Completed 17th October 1917.
Sold for scrap, scuttled off Sydney 1948.

HMS Vendetta / HMAS Vendetta Specifications
Displacement: 1,090t
Length: 312ft o/a
Beam: 29ft 6in
Draught: 14ft 8in
Machinery: 3 Yarrow boilers, 2 Brown-Curtis turbines, 29,417 SHP, 2 shafts
Speed: 35kn
Complement: 6 officers and 133 ratings
Armament:
as built: 4 QF 4-inch Mk V guns, 1 QF 2-pounder Mk II, 2 triple 21-inch torpedo tubes
added later: 2 depth charge rails, 4 depth charge throwers
post-1942 refit: 2 4-inch guns, 2 pom-poms, 4 Oerlikon guns, 7 .303-inch guns, depth charges

HMS Vendetta, January 1919 (IWM ART1657).

Links

VIDEO: Sea Cat (1963)

A short newsreel from British Pathé.

Marry this with an archived 1963 edition of Flight International highlighting the new missile system.

HMAS Melbourne apprehends pirates, destroys skiffs

HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) is an Adelaide-class frigate commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1992. She is currently deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations as part of Operation Slipper, Australia’s contribution to maritime security operations in the region.

HMAS Melbourne apprehends alleged pirates

HMAS Melbourne’s boarding party intercepts a suspected pirate boat.

Royal Australian Navy ship, HMAS Melbourne, has intercepted suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia as part of maritime security patrols in Middle Eastern waters for Operation SLIPPER.

The suspected pirates were intercepted on 15 October 2013 after the Combined Maritime Forces received two reports of attempted acts of piracy against two separate merchant vessels during the previous four days.

Under the direction of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151), HMAS Melbourne was appointed as on-scene commander for a multi-national search operation, involving ships and aircraft from the Combined Maritime Forces and European Union Naval Forces to locate and intercept the suspected pirates.

With the assistance of other CTF 151 assets, HMAS Melbourne successfully located the suspected pirate vessels.

HMAS Melbourne closes on a suspected pirate vessel in the Arabian Sea.

HMAS Melbourne‘s highly trained boarding team made the final approach to board and search the skiffs successfully apprehending the nine pirates.

Commander Brian Schlegel, Commanding Officer HMAS Melbourne said that the Ship’s Company knew what to do and was well trained to ensure a positive outcome.

“Melbourne’s success in disrupting piracy activity in the region re-affirms the importance of Australia’s ongoing commitment to Combined Maritime Forces,” Commander Schlegel said.

“Melbourne’s Ship’s Company have worked tirelessly to contribute to a successful outcome for both Combined Maritime Forces and for the wider Maritime Community.”

HMAS Melbourne’s boarding party provided information about various items located onboard the two vessels that could be used in piracy attacks.

In accordance with the Combined Maritime Forces direction, the pirates were embarked in HMAS Melbourne and the skiffs and associated pirate equipment was destroyed.

HMAS Melbourne is currently returning the suspected pirates to Somalia.

The quick, co-ordinated and decisive response to threats in the maritime environment highlights the importance of the continued presence of multi-national forces in the Middle East region.

HMAS Melbourne is the 56th rotation to the Middle East Area of Operations since the 1991 Gulf War and the 32nd rotation since 2001.

She is employed by the Combined Maritime Forces under the Tactical Control of CTF151 who is responsible for counter piracy operations within the Middle East Area of Operations.

http://news.navy.gov.au/en/Oct2013/Operations/543#.UmG_bBCWObg

The sneaky-beaky Cold War adventures of Australia’s Oberon-class submarines

Love, love, love those Oberon-class boats. First submarine I ever set foot on was HMS Opossum as a small awestruck lad. Loved them ever since. This troy about the RAN’s O boats is an absolute corker.

Cold War exploits of Australia’s secret submarines

The Oberon-class submarine HMAS Onslow at the Singapore Naval Base 1974. Picture: The Australian National Maritime Museum Source: Supplied

ON February 20, 1986, six senior naval officers came to the cabinet room in Canberra to brief prime minister Bob Hawke on Australia’s secret Cold War submarine operations in Asia.

Defence minister Kim Beazley had invited them to explain to Hawke what the navy’s ageing Oberon-class submarines were capable of, and what they’d achieved on dangerous, clandestine missions to Vietnam and China. Beazley wanted to lock in Hawke’s support for the costly and contentious plan to build six Collins-class subs in Australia.

The large and genial defence minister understood the strategic value of submarines as offensive and defensive weapons. When Hawke arrived, he looked like thunder and his crabbed body language signalled he wanted to be anywhere but hearing a presentation from the navy.

That was soon to change. Commander Kim Pitt began explaining he had been on patrol in HMAS Orion in the South China Sea from September 17 until November 9 the previous year; the focus of that patrol was Cam Ranh Bay on the east coast of Vietnam, then the largest Soviet naval base outside the USSR.

Pitt began a video that grabbed Hawke’s attention and immediately transformed his mood. The PM appeared transfixed as he watched dramatic and brilliantly clear footage taken by HMAS Orion as it slipped in behind and beneath a surfaced Soviet Charlie-class nuclear submarine heading into the Vietnamese port.

The video began with distant pictures of the Soviet submarine motoring towards the harbour, well outside the 12-nautical mile (22.2km) Vietnamese territorial limit. The video was shot through a camera in Orion’s periscope as the submarine loitered, barely submerged in the choppy sea.

Then Pitt took the Orion deep, ran in close behind the Soviet boat, and came up to periscope depth again. Now the video showed the Soviet submarine’s wake boiling and bubbling on the surface. Hawke watched, startled, as a clear image of the turning propeller appeared on the screen just above and ahead of Orion.

Pitt ran beneath the Soviet submarine, filming sonar and other fittings mounted along its hull. The remarkably clear pictures exposed the underwater secrets of Charlie-class technology. The only other way to get them would be for a western spy to penetrate dry-docks in the Soviet Union.

Pitt positioned Orion ahead of and beneath the Soviet submarine, slowed almost to a stop, and then allowed the Soviet boat to pass him while he filmed the other side of its hull.

Hawke grasped intuitively that this video intelligence would add immensely to Australia’s prestige in the US. It could be used to Australia’s advantage in negotiations with Washington and gave Australia a seat at the top table in the global Cold War intelligence collection game. For 45 minutes, Hawke asked questions about how the patrols were organised; their duration, their frequency, their success. He was told how the submarines recorded radio transmissions to deliver vital intelligence to the Western effort to track and identify the Soviet fleet.

The officers put up a photograph of a Soviet Kirov-class nuclear-powered cruiser, much admired by Western navies. US spy satellites had picked up the cruiser leaving its base in Murmansk and tracked it around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean.

The RAN sent the guided missile frigate HMAS Canberra to intercept the cruiser off Sri Lanka and follow it through the Strait of Malacca and up towards Cam Ranh Bay. The frigate took vital photographs and monitored the cruiser’s communications until it approached Vietnam.

Pitt, in HMAS Orion, was waiting, submerged outside Cam Ranh Bay with the submarine’s communications masts deployed to record the cruiser’s arrival. He recorded its procedures and protocols, which deepened Western understanding of Soviet naval communications and command and control systems, meaning the West might be able to jam them in the event of hostilities.

The cautious admiral Mike Hudson, chief of the naval staff, dismayed the submariners by telling Hawke that while the operation was professional and produced good intelligence, it was very hazardous. A submarine might be detected and possibly captured, with serious international consequences. “As we do more and more patrols, the likelihood of this happening will increase,” Hudson said.

Hawke rounded on him. “No, you are wrong,” he replied. “I’ve got a degree in statistics and I can tell you that the probability of detection does not increase as the number of patrols increase. They are discrete, one-off events and the probability of detection is constant.”

Beazley was delighted with the meeting. Hawke’s support for new submarines was locked in. The submarine officers were also triumphant. They had put together a show that had convinced Hawke, converting him from curmudgeon to champion.

They did not tell Hawke that Pitt had also video-taped a submerged conventional Soviet submarine going into Cam Ranh Bay. It was brilliant submarine seamanship, but some of his colleagues regarded it as dangerous and unnecessary and Pitt as “a bit of a pirate”. He later became director of submarine warfare.

The mystery boat operations were shrouded in secrecy as the submarines collected intelligence on the Soviet nuclear submarine and surface fleets and reinforced the US-Australia alliance. They also won Australian submariners their spurs in the Cold War’s global espionage game, as they showed uncommon bravery, dash and initiative on about 20 patrols between 1977 and 1992.

Their success ensured the Collins-class submarines were built and secured the future of Australia’s submarine service.

But the last patrol in the series proved a dangerous failure, with HMAS Orion at grave risk of detection and capture.

On October 22, 1992, she left Sydney Harbour and headed for Shanghai to gather intelligence on the Chinese navy, especially its new submarines. Orion’s CO was commander Rick Shalders, who later commanded Australia’s Collins-class submarine fleet.

The Americans wanted better intelligence on the Chinese navy, but US nuclear submarines were too big to be sent into the shallow waters of the East China Sea. Australia’s smaller O-boats were ideal for the task.

Shanghai was China’s biggest mainland harbour at the wide mouth of the Yangtse river; the water was shallow and murky, and busy with non-military shipping, including the local fishing fleet and ferries. The shoreline was heavily urbanised.

It would not be easy to stay unseen and undetected while barely submerged and trying to collect intelligence, and the consequences of detection could be grave for the submarine’s crew and for Australia-China relations.

Shalders’s trip to the area of operations was uneventful and the submariners were looking forward to getting their work done and getting back to the relatively safety of the open sea. Orion was equipped with the best photographic and electronic intelligence collection equipment; civilian language specialists were on board to translate Chinese navy transmissions.

But the patrol proved a nightmare, with the harbour crowded with fishing boats, many trailing long fishing lines and nets.

Shalders had to raise his periscope periodically to check the intelligence-collection aerials.

The fishermen constantly watched for signs of fish and could not miss minor disturbances made by Orion’s equipment and by the presence of the submarine not far below the surface.

They followed Orion around the harbour. Shalders could not surface and could not risk moving quickly away from the danger.

Things started to get desperate when Orion fouled the fishing lines and nets. One fishing boat started to sink by its bow as its net became entangled with the submarine. The fisherman saved himself by cutting away the net from the boat with an axe.

By now Shalders knew he was facing possible disaster. It was only a matter of time before the Peoples’ Liberation Navy became aware something was seriously amiss and investigated what was going on in the shallow water. Shalders and his crew faced the real prospect of detection, surrender, capture, imprisonment, trial and possible execution as spies. Relations between Australia and China would be in tatters. Shalders decided he had no choice but to abandon the operation.

Summoning all his skills, he took the submarine out of the harbour and into the relative safety of the East China Sea. The Australians returned home with nothing to show for their hair-raising experience.

The then chief of the naval staff, admiral Ian McDougall, a former submarine commander, told defence minister Robert Ray the O-boats were reaching the limits of their service lives and the patrols should be stopped because of the growing danger.

The submarine service was incandescent. It saw the patrols as invaluable for its reputation at home and abroad, and for continuing access to funding. The submariners wanted to preserve the skills they had developed.

The Defence Intelligence Organisation argued that despite the Soviet collapse there was an acute need to collect intelligence on the military activities of other countries, especially China, India and Indonesia, and that submarines were the most effective means. But Ray accepted McDougall’s advice and ordered an end to the patrols.

A senior submariner, commander John Dikkenberg, met Hawke’s successor as PM, Paul Keating, to argue for reinstatement of the patrols. Keating listened carefully, but would not over-rule his defence minister.

Four years later, when Ian McLachlan was appointed John Howard’s first defence minister, he asked to be briefed on the cancelled patrols. The navy urged their resumption and was given the OK for a carefully controlled and limited mission off Indonesia to re-establish intelligence-collecting skills.

Bronwyn Bishop, then minister for defence science and technology, also accepted that skills were being lost and gave her blessing to resumed patrols. Six more patrols were undertaken, mainly monitoring Indonesian military communications around Indonesia and East Timor. The Howard government wanted more information on Indonesian military activities in Timor, where Fretilin guerillas were still fighting for independence.

The new Abbott government is considering whether to acquire a fleet of 12 new submarines, which would represent Australia’s largest defence project. If it does, the proud Cold War history of the O-boats will have helped persuade decision-makers that submarines, despite their daunting cost, can be very good value indeed for taxpayers’ dollars.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/cold-war-exploits-of-australias-secret-submarines/story-e6frg6z6-1226742599268

“Canada could benefit from expanding its military presence in the Asia-Pacific”

A look at Canada’s capabilities. In essence, the same as every navy smaller than the USN… augmenting the American force with the key focus on interoperability.

The Royal Canadian Navy in the Pacific – a look at capabilities

By David McDonough

HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283)

Canada could benefit from expanding its military presence in the Asia-Pacific. As I described in a previous Strategist post, the government faces certain budgetary constraints likely to limit the size of its future naval presence and capacity for maritime diplomacy. Yet such a challenge isn’t insurmountable. To ensure sufficient fleet funding, Canada has the option of placing greater priority on the capital portion of the defence budget—even if it comes at the expense of personnel and operations/maintenance spending.

Such a move would offer Ottawa some leverage to join the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. More importantly, Canada would have a means to help augment America’s naval power in the region, which is expected to be under increasing strain as a result of defence cutbacks—at a time when China is expanding its own naval fleet and showing greater assertiveness in its maritime disputes with its neighbours.

Other like-minded countries have already begun to focus on their own maritime forces. For example, Japan has strengthened its naval fleet with advanced (e.g. air-independent propulsion) submarines, helicopter destroyers, and plans for helicopter carriers, with a keen eye for possible amphibious operations to protect its vulnerable south-western approaches. Australia has also been eager to deploy a more formidable naval presence with its planned acquisition of Aegis destroyers and replacements for its Collins-class submarines. Both platforms are expected to have the high-end command, control, communications, and weapon systems necessary to ensure operational interoperability with the US Pacific Fleet.

Like the Australian navy, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also has a strong tradition of interoperability with its American counterparts, to the point where Canadian warships can also be seamlessly integrated into US naval task forces (PDF). It would serve the RCN well to ensure that its future naval platforms can continue to be integrated with the US and other regional navies. Much depends on the capabilities offered by these naval platforms, which should be designed to complement America’s efforts at maintaining operational access to the Western Pacific.

The RCN needs to maintain some of its high end maritime war fighting capabilities. Of particular relevance is area air defence (AAD), a capability that should be retained and upgraded on its destroyer replacements—much as Australia has done with upgrades to its Anzac frigates and the Aegis equipped destroyers. Indeed, the United States, Japan, and other allies have become increasingly wary of China’s advanced anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, from shore-based aircraft and missiles to an undersea and surface fleet heavily armed with anti-ship cruise missiles—a concern reportedly also shared by the RCN, at least according to drafts of its unreleased Horizon 2050 naval strategy.

For the RCN to maintain interoperability with its key regional partners, Canada should also ensure that some of its next-generation Canadian Surface Combatants incorporate the Aegis combat system—joining other regional powers including Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the US Navy. Importantly, Aegis can also be upgraded to provide a mid-course and terminal ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability. Both the United States and Japan have proven eager to expand their BMD fleet, due to China’s development of a much feared anti-ship ballistic missile. Other countries may soon follow suit.

An anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability would also be highly valued in a region where many countries are expanding their submarine inventories. Much of the concern is on China’s undersea fleet, as a possible ‘assassin’s mace‘ capable of challenging American and allied sea control in this maritime theatre. For this reason, the US Navy has already been increasing its ASW assets in the region, with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) operating a formidable fleet that specializes in undersea and surface ASW.

The RCN already has a long history of ASW operations. Indeed, with its fleet of Victoria-class submarines, the RCN would be better placed for these missions than in the past, when it largely relied on surface ASW and escort duties. It also provides the natural locus for cooperation with regional navies, like the JMSDF. Of course, ASW isn’t necessarily cheap. Canada would eventually need to replace its fleet of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and Victoria submarines. But, given the growing demand for ASW, we shouldn’t underplay the benefits that could be accrued by returning to this specialisation.

With such capabilities, the RCN would be well placed to support American and allied efforts to ensure sea control in the Western Pacific. If required, Canada would also be able to join in defensive missions envisioned in the US Air-Sea Battle concept, while avoiding its more offensive plans to disrupt and destroy A2/AD systems at their source.

Yet it would all be for naught if Canada lacks the logistics for sustained operations in the Pacific, therefore raising the issue of operational sustainment. Sadly, little attention has been paid to the future of the RCN’s auxiliary oiler replenishment fleet. Indeed, it’ll now have to settle for the acquisition of only two Joint Supply Ships, thereby increasing the chances that Canadian warships will be unable to be deployed for sustained operations abroad—unless an ally provides at-sea replenishment, which can no longer be guaranteed given the growing demand for such logistics ships.

In such a situation, the RCN might find its emphasis on Pacific operations curtailed, even if it otherwise enjoys high-end capabilities well-suited to that region. But, more importantly, it could also find its historic role as a blue-water fleet possibly endangered. Such an outcome would be doubly unfortunate, and is an important reminder not to ignore the logistical tail.

David S. McDonough is a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of British Colombia and a research fellow in the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Image courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Pacific Command.

http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-royal-canadian-navy-in-the-pacific-a-look-at-capabilities/