In February Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands christened and launched the first of a new class of offshore patrol vessels for the Royal Dutch Navy. Dubbed the Holland, this new patrol ship is the first of four vessels ordered in late 2007. At least three additional Holland-class units, to be named Zeeland, Friesland, and Groningen, are planned to enter service by 2013. Each ship is built in sections, with work being shared between Damen Schelde's shipyards in Vlissingen, Netherlands; and Galati, Romania. Displacing some 3,750 tons, the ships are quite large by patrol standards and are heavier than either the Dutch Karel Doorman - class frigates or U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. The Holland class will have a range of 5,000 nautical miles when cruising at 15 knots, with a top speed of around 22 knots. Though the vessels will carry an advanced active phased-array radar system, the planned armament fit excludes antiship or surface-to-air missiles, instead relying entirely on guns, including a single 76-mm and several smaller-caliber weapons. Two rigid-hull inflatable boats and a single NH-90 helicopter will also be carried.
Russia's Northern Fleet flagship, the Petr Velikiy, set sail on 30 March to form the vanguard of an around-the-world fleet exercise that likely will last at least six months. Additional Russian warships are expected to join the Kirov-class nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser as she travels through the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. Armed with the SA-N-6 surface-to-air missile system and 20 SS-N-19 antiship missiles, each with a range of more than 500 kilometers, the nuclear-powered Petr Velikiy displaces roughly 25,000 tons. Commissioned into service in April 1998, the ship is considered by many to be the most powerful surface combatant currently in service. The Petr Velikiy's voyage can be expected to include many foreign-port calls, visits with navies, and training with an assortment of ships. A number of Russian warships undertook a similar cruise in 2008.
On 1 February Taiwan retired its oldest amphibious landing craft from service. The Chung Hai originally had entered U.S. Navy service in 1944 as LST-755. She served the United States for two years, earning two battle stars for her World War II efforts at the Lingayen Gulf and the Mindanao landings in 1945. Transferred to China in 1946, the vessel later formed an important element of Taiwan's amphibious-assault fleet, and remained in service for more than 60 years. Along with numerous Taiwanese sisters, the Chung Hai was upgraded and modernized several times during the course of her career. While operational she displaced some 4,000 tons fully loaded and was armed with a wide variety of guns ranging in size from 12.7-mm to 40-mm.
Mr. Wertheim, a defense consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, is the author of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15th Edition, currently available from the Naval Institute Press at www.usni.org.