No new surface ships have been laid down since 1991 and, apparently, no new starts are anticipated before 2005. A public charitable subscription effort was at least partially successful in helping to complete stalled construction in time for the 300th anniversary. The eleventh Oscar-II-class nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine, the Tomsk, was accepted on 22 January 1997 for commissioning at the end of February; the fourth Kirov-class guided missile nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser Petr Velikiy departed the Baltic late in November for further trials with the Northern Fleet after a steam-line accident that killed four sailors. The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko remains incomplete and yard bound.
Other new-construction programs are languishing. Little has been said of the 18th and 19th Sovremennyy-class missile destroyers at Northern Shipyard, St. Petersburg, and, indeed, it may be this pair that was reported to have been ordered early in January for delivery to China. Of the second and third Neustrashimyy-class frigates, Yaroslav Mudry is scheduled to be completed in 1998 and the other in 1999, if funds materialize; their builder, Yantar Shipyard at Kaliningrad, is building cars to survive.
The Russian submarine force, however, received happier news with the 2 November keel laying of the first Project Borey ("Arctic Wind") SSBN—Yuriy Dolgorukiy; whether funds are available to complete the submarine on schedule around 2004, however, is doubtful. Completion of one unit of the class a year from that point on will be necessary to prevent the near withering-away of the Russian SSBN fleet by the end of the next decade. Creative funding has been applied to the construction, to begin in 1997, of the first 2,000-ton, air-independent-propulsion version of the Amur-series diesel attack submarine design: a Russian bank is financing the boat, which is to be presented to the Russian Navy to operate as a demonstrator to stimulate foreign sales. While the Tomsk was the only submarine launched in Russia in 1996, the event represented a major improvement over 1995, in which the only submarine launched in Russia was a Project 877 Kilo for China.
POLAND : The other former Soviet-- orbit navies fared worse. Poland's fleet remained static and has no prospects for new construction for the foreseeable future.
BULGARIA-ROMANIA : Bulgaria, impoverished navy was reduced to auctioning off still-viable ships to raise operations and maintenance funds. The Romanian Navy did commission its second 1,600-ton Modified Tetal-class corvette, Contre-Amiral Horia Macellariu, on 29 September.
UKRAINE : Ukraine scored a public relations triumph in September when its Krivak-III-class frigate, Hetman Sahaydachniy, and Ropucha-class landing ship, Konstantvn Olshanskyy visited the United States; the growing fleet suffered a blow, however, when Russia canceled the transfer of three Black Sea Fleet submarines, three Krivak-series frigates, and numerous other Sevastopol-based ships and craft on 1 April after having transferred vessels based elsewhere on Ukrainian territory. The dispute over continued basing of Russian warships at Sevastopol remained unresolved into January 1997, and further ship transfers remained frozen even as the material condition of the Black Sea Fleet continued to decline. Georgia belatedly requested its "share" of the Black Sea Fleet's assets, but Russia and Ukraine appeared to be paying little attention.
KAZAKHSTAN : On 18 August, the nation on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea celebrated the inauguration of its new navy—a diverse mix of former 1950s-vintage German patrol boats, U.S.-supplied launches, and locally built, Russian-designed craft; promised Russian delivery of several Zhuk-class patrol boats and Yevgenya-class minesweepers, however, failed to occur.
ESTONIA-LATVIA-LITHUANIA : The Baltic nations continued to gain confidence in operating their largely European-donated fleets and made initial plans for a joint Baltic Squadron ("Baltron") of six ships—to be donated from abroad.
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA : In the troubled Adriatic, the Federal Yugoslav Navy launched its first post-breakup warship, the 80-ton modified Nestin-class riverine minesweeper Novi Sad, on 8 June. Prior to that, however, the Federal Navy turned over a dozen of its ships and craft to Montenegro for commercial use, in payment for housing Yugoslav sailors in the Tivat area, and the navy's inventory of submarines is said to have been reduced to three from lack of maintenance support. Croatia, on the other hand, launched the rebuilt 99-ton midget submarine Velebit (the former Yugoslav Zeta, now equipped with a diesel generator to extend her endurance). Croatia also is building a second 385-ton Kralj Petar Kresimir IV-class guided-missile craft at Kraljevica; has converted the old Osa-class missile boat Dubrovnik into a fast minelayer; has completed its second Silba-class 880-ton minelayer/landing ship and is building a third; plans to acquire a new class of patrol boats; and has begun construction of a new 173-ton coastal minehunter prototype. Neighboring Slovenia on 1 August took delivery of the new Israeli-built Super Dvora-class patrol boat, Ankaran, doubling the size of its fleet.
ALBANIA : The nation saw the first increase in its naval fortunes in two decades with the delivery of three retired U.S. Navy Mk III and two new 15-ton SeaArk "Dauntless"-class patrol boats; Albania's last Whiskey-class submarine, the Qemel, was retired in 1995.
Western Europe and NATO
In Western Europe, naval developments were on the whole more positive, but nothing indicates that overall fleet strengths will cease their inexorable decline in the face of rising costs, economic uncertainties, and the lack of a convincing and imminent threat. The push several years ago to assemble maritime intervention forces seems to have run its course without significant numbers of orders placed with increasingly desperate naval shipbuilders, who face a marked decline in export orders as domestic and export programs begun in the wake of Operation Desert Storm come to fruition.
FRANCE : In July, the French Minister of Defense announced major naval force reductions over the remainder of the decade, including the early retirement of one of two aircraft carriers, the entire diesel submarine fleet, two destroyers, four corvettes, five minehunters, and several relatively new major auxiliaries. New construction programs are being curtailed or stretched out, with orders for the fourth Le Triomphant-class SSBN delayed until at least 2002. The sixth La Fayette-class frigate, the Ronarc'h, was canceled, and plans to replace the 17-unit A 69-class corvettes are no longer mentioned. Remaining new-construction programs and the downsizing of government-owned naval shipbuilding industry is dependent on a very optimistic goal of cornering fully one-third of the worldwide naval export market. The 40,600-ton, 26-knot nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will not get her first Rafale-M squadron until 2002, and plans to retain the elderly carrier Foch in reserve after the Charles de Gaulle commissions at the end of 1999 are based on an unrealistic intention to recommission the ship in 2004 and again in 2010 while the new carrier is in refit. When the Clemenceau retires in September 1997, France will have a one-carrier navy.
On the positive side for the French Navy after an initial launch failure, a new-generation M45 ballistic missile has been successfully lofted by Le Triomphant, which will permit the submarine to begin her first operational deployment early in 1997; the last of the four Rubis-class nuclear-powered attack submarines has been updated to Amethyste-class configuration; modernization of the Georges Leygues-class small destroyers continues; the second La Fayette-class frigate, the Surcouf, was commissioned, and the third continued trials; and a 400ton trawler was purchased for patrol from the St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands territory south of Newfoundland. In addition, three nearly-new Tripartite-class minehunters were purchased from Belgium for delivery during 1997, and plans were announced to lay down the third and fourth 12,000-ton Foudre-class dock landing ships in 2001 and 2003, with the third unit to act as replacement for the cadet training ship Jeanne d'Arc, as well as a floating display for French arms.
UNITED KINGDOM : Britain's Royal Navy also is experiencing economics-driven reductions, along with stretch-outs in procurement. Overall, a higher level of effort is being maintained than in France, and a 20-ship task force led by the carrier Illustrious began a lengthy Far East deployment on 13 January 1997 that is to be highlighted by the fleet's presence off Hong Kong when the colony is turned over to China at midnight on 30 June.
The third of four Vanguard-class SSBNs, HMS Vigilant, was commissioned on 2 November, while the last of the four Resolution-class SSBNs, Renown and Repulse, were decommissioned on 24 February and 15 August, respectively, leaving the navy with only two deployable strategic platforms until the Vigilant commences patrol early in 1998. A final order for the first three of an eventual five Trafalgar Batch II SSNs has been delayed into the spring of 1997, although the builder was selected in mid1994. The decommissioned quartet of Upholder-class diesel submarines has yet to find a buyer, although Canada appears likely to acquire the nearly new units late this year.
Instead of following the flexible structure of the Dutch-German-Spanish joint new-construction program—which already has resulted in firm commitments to build at least 11 ships with similar equipment but indigenously designed platforms—Great Britain, France, and Italy have tied themselves to the rigidly configured, bureaucratically constricted, and endlessly delayed 6,400-ton "Horizon Frigate." Once planned to produce 12 replacements for Royal Navy destroyers plus four ships each for Italy and France, Project Horizon now is likely to produce 12 ships at best. Keel-laying for the first British ship has been delayed at least until 2001 while the partners continue to wrangle, and several Type 42 destroyers have had their service lives arbitrarily extended to meet shortfalls. Britain's entirely indigenous Type 23 "Duke"-class frigate program continues on course. HMS Somerset, the I th ship, was commissioned in September; HMS Grafton was accepted on 8 November for commissioning this summer; and work continues on the final three at GEC-Yarrow Shipbuilders. Completion of the final ship, HMS Portland, is being stretched to 2001 to keep the workforce in place until the Horizon Frigate program gets under way. Meanwhile, two more Type 22 Batch 1 Broadsword-class frigates were transferred to Brazil, and the last of the quartet paid off on 15 December, reducing the Royal Navy's frigate force to 21 vessels, all commissioned since 1984.
Work continues on seven additional Sandown-class coastal minehunters to be commissioned from 1998 to 2001, and the 20,500-ton assault helicopter carrier Ocean is fitting out. The much-awaited 16,500-ton replacements for the antiquated dock landing ships Fearless and Intrepid were belatedly ordered from GEC Marine-VSEL for completion in 2000 and 2002. This amphibious good news was tempered by reported problems with the upgrade of the landing ship Sir Bedivere that may cancel further modernization of the class. The 13,300-ton ocean survey ship Scott was launched on 13 October; the first of two new chartered commercial 25,500-ton vehicle transports, Sea Crusader arrived from her builders in Japan on 25 November; and a contract for two new 30,000-ton oilers was to have been placed with a British yard by the end of the year.
BELGIUM : The Belgian and Netherlands navies amalgamated their operational staffs at Den Helder in January 1996, but fleet acquisition and maintenance programs remain nationally administered. Belgium held an international naval review in July in honor of the 50th anniversary of its post-World War II navy. The contract for the long-approved program to construct four 644-ton mine countermeasures ships finally was signed in January 1997.
THE NETHERLANDS : The Royal Netherlands Navy is having more success in fleet modernization, although its submarine force was reduced to four boats in August 1995 and has little chance of future replacement. The two Tromp-class destroyers will be replaced by four LCF/NLF-series, 6,044-ton guided-missile frigates; two, equipped for flag command duties, were ordered in June 1995, and authorization to construct two more with simplified communications suites was granted in October 1996. The new frigates will share electronics and armament features with the new German Sachsen- and Spanish F-100-class frigates but will differ greatly in appearance when they are completed between 2001 and 2004. Modernization plans for the two Jacob Van Heemskerck-class guided-missile frigates have meanwhile been scaled back, and the once-numerous Kortenaer class is down to four frigates with the sale of Piet Heyn and Abraham Crijnssen to the United Arab Emirates.
Planning continues to convert the current IS-strong Tripartiteclass minehunter force to one that will include three mine countermeasures drone-control ships, four upgraded minehunters, seven refitted but otherwise unmodified units, and one converted to hydrographic survey duties. The last two U.S.-funded Dokkum-class minesweepers, the Naarden and the Sittard, were decommissioned on 31 December. The 12,750-ton dock landing ship Rotterdam was to have been launched in January 1997 for completion at the end of this year, and four to five 200-ton utility landing craft for use with the Rotterdam were ordered in July—from a Dutch contractor who will use a Romanian hull-construction facility.
GERMANY : The German Navy, which changed its name from the Bundesmarine to the more politically correct Deutsche Marine this January, is modernizing while rapidly retiring older vessels. The first of four Klasse 212, 1,840-ton submarines on order is to be laid down in September 1998 in a program now being jointly conducted with Italy. The Klasse 212s are to be commissioned between March 2003 and October 2006, while the current dozen Klasse 206A submarine force will be reduced to four by 2005. Of the six unmodernized Klasse 206 submarines, two were decommissioned in 1996 for scrapping, and two (U-13 and U-14) will transfer to Indonesia this year; the other pair probably will follow next year.
The Deutsche Marine gained approval to order three of the planned four 5,000ton Klasse 124 frigates to replace the current trio of U.S.-built guided-missile destroyers; the new Sachsen, Hamburg, and Hessen are to be completed in 2002 through 2004, while the fourth ship, to be named Thuringen, would be finished by 2006. The last two of the similar, 4,490-ton Klasse 123, Brandenburg-class frigates, the Bayern and the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, were commissioned on 15 June and 6 December, respectively.
Construction of up to 15 Klasse 30 corvettes to replace the current missilecraft fleet may be unaffordable. The first eight of the 1,400 to 1,800-ton ships, to be named for German cities, are scheduled to enter service between 2007 and 2009. The once 20-strong Klasse 148 fleet of missile craft has been reduced to 16 by transfers to Greece; six more are to be transferred to Chile in 1997-98 and the remainder retired about 2001.
Two additional Klasse 332s, Frankenthal-class steel-hulled minehunters ordered in 1995, are to be delivered next year, bringing the class total to 12. Five of the similar, ten-strong Klasse 343 minesweepers are to be converted to minehunters and the other five to mine countermeasures drone controllers. The remaining wooden-hulled Klasse 331B minehunters and Klasse 351 drone controllers are to be retired by the end of 2000.
Hopes to build an affordable ship on which to deploy peacekeeping forces were dashed by economic and political constraints. What was to have been a four-ship, 18,700-ton fleet replenishment ship class has been reduced to a single new ship, the Sachsenwald, to be completed in 2001; a second ship may be approved later. Of the six recently completed Klasse 404 Elbe fleet-support ships, the Main is to serve as systems trials ship for the new Sachsen-class frigates; another is to be stretched by 20 meters to accommodate more cargo containers; and a third is to be altered to serve as a submarine tender.
NORWAY : Most immediately, Norway is concentrating on two important new surface ship programs: the six-ship Osloclass frigate-replacement program, a 3,700-ton design of which the first is planned to complete in 2005; and the five- to seven-ship, 260-ton, 52-knot Skjold-class surface-effect, guided-missile patrol craft class, the prototype of which is to be delivered in July 1998 for extensive trials. Surface-effect technology has been perfected in Norway in the four-ship Oksoy-class minehunters and five-ship Alta-class minesweepers, which share a common 375-ton glass-reinforced plastic hull; the last of the Alta class is to be completed this year. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden remain nominally embarked on a joint submarine design program, but the partners have significantly differing operational requirements, and it seems probable that the program will evolve into a family of designs sharing features and systems.
SWEDEN : Sweden's Kockums Shipyard launched the last two of the trio of Gotland-class air independent propulsionequipped submarines—the Uppland on 9 February and the Halland on 27 September. The yard was administratively merged with that of Sweden's other submarine builder, Karlskronavarvet, in 1996, but there are scant prospects for further orders for the next seven years or more, projected foreign sales notwithstanding. The Sjoormen-class submarine Sjobjornen, sold to Singapore as a training boat, remained in the Baltic through 1996; the two remaining Swedish Navy boats of the class, along with one unit of the Nacken class, are to be retired by 1999, leaving a submarine force of nine boats.
On 17 December, the first Visby-class, Project YS 2000, 620ton multi-role combatant was laid down at Karlskronavarvet, and the order for the third and fourth units of the class was placed. The Visby, to be launched in June 1999, employs sophisticated signature-reduction technologies developed for the trials craft Smyge; she will have a conventionally formed mono-hull built of glass and carbon fiber-impregnated plastic. The first four ships are to be delivered configured primarily for mine countermeasures duties but may be backfitted with a new Bofors antiship missile system around 2005; the next four are to be completed with eight antiship missiles apiece. The goal is a total of 14.
Late in 1996, Sweden sold the deactivated minelayer Alvsborg to Chile for use as a submarine tender. The first of four 200-ton Styrso-class, Project YSB inshore minehunter/minesweepers was commissioned in September and the second, the Sparo, was launched on 30 August; the craft employ fiber-impregnated plastic hulls and have signature-reduction features. The 2,554-ton Estonian research ship Livonia (ex-Soviet Ar'nold Veymer), bought for use as a small combatant depot ship, was renamed Trosso.
FINLAND : The navy plans further construction of guided-missile patrol craft to replace its antiquated Soviet-built Osa-IIs. The refit of the minelayer/training ship Pohjanmaa was interrupted by a shipyard bankruptcy, and plans to construct a large icebreaker at a Finnish yard with European Union funds went awry when the Union insisted that foreign yards be permitted to bid.
PORTUGAL : Although the Portuguese Navy continues to study alternative proposals for replacements for its three aging Daphne-class diesel submarines, the British Upholder class evidently proved too complex and expensive to operate; German Type 209 and Swedish A-19 Gotland-class design derivatives reportedly remain in the running, and some $540 million was sought for the 1997 naval budget to pay for new submarines. An extensive modernization of the four Comandante Riviere-class frigates is to be completed this year. No decision has been reached on whether to acquire the Portuguese Navy's first oceangoing amphibious warfare ship; the U.S. Navy's Newport (LST-1179) has been rejected, but Australia's much newer and somewhat smaller Tobruk remains in the running. The former U.S. Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship Audacious (T-AGOS-11) is to be delivered this month as the Dom Carlos I and employed as a survey vessel.
SPAIN : The Iberian nation's most significant naval program for the next several years will be the construction of three or more 5,761-ton F-100-class Aegis guided-missile frigates, Spain's variant of the joint Dutch-German-Spanish frigate program. The first three were to have been ordered late last year for delivery in 2001 through 2005. Spain partially broke ranks with Germany and the Netherlands in June 1996 when it announced that the F-100s would be equipped with the U.S. AN/SPY-ID Aegis weapon system rather than the APAR radar chosen by its partners. The F-100s are to have a total of 48 Mk 41 vertical launch cells to accommodate 32 Standard Missile (SM)-2 Block IIIA and 64 RIM-7PTC Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles, plus eight Harpoon missiles, a 76mm gun, torpedoes, and a helicopter.
The Segura, the first of four modified United Kingdom Sandown-class minehunters on order from E.N. Bazan, Cartegena, is scheduled to launch this June and enter service in May 1998, followed by the Sella, Tambre, and Turia by September of 2000. Spain's sister to the Dutch dock landing ship Rotterdam, the 12,500-ton Galicia, was to have been laid down late in 1996.
ITALY : The Italian Navy's guided-missile destroyer Luigi Durand de la Penne and the fleet patrol ship Bersagliere began a round-the-world cruise on 12 July, travelling westward in a voyage to end early next month after port calls in 22 countries, including visits to Vladivostok, Inchon, Shanghai, and Ho Chi Minh City in late November/early December. The Bersagliere, ordered for Iraq in 1981 as one of a class of four modified Lupo-class frigates, was formally commissioned only last July after a conversion that saw the removal of her antisubmarine systems and the addition of modern electronics arrays.
The construction of a second small V/STOL aircraft carrier for the Italian Navy is being given serious consideration; the NUM (Nuova Unita Maggiore—New Major Unit) would be a 22,000-ton enlarged version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi with added amphibious warfare features and may be completed around 2004 as a belated replacement for the guided missile cruiser Vittorio Veneto. In late 1995, Italy joined the German Type 212 submarine program and is committed to building two units of the class, with the first to complete in 2003 and the second in 2005, and an option to construct two more; the negative side of the arrangement is that Italy inevitably will lose its century-old submarine design capabilities.
No major surface combatants are now on order for the Italian Navy, which is a partner in the Horizon Frigate program and hopes to complete its two planned units after the middle of the next decade. Plans to construct a class of smaller frigates to replace the aging Lupo and Maestrale classes are no longer being discussed. Four 164-ton patrol craft to replace aged U.S.-built former minesweepers used on the U.N.-sponsored Red Sea patrol have yet to materialize. The former frigate Alpino began conversion in April 1996 for completion this January as a mine forces flagship and combat swimmer support ship, and the last of eight Gaeta-class minehunters, the Rimini, was completed on 19 October 1996. The only large auxiliary under construction, the 13,400-ton replenishment oiler Etna, was laid down on 15 March 1996 for launch this coming May.
GREECE : Greece and Turkey continue to be at odds and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future as the Russians have joined the swelling ranks of nations selling military hardware to both disputants. In November, Greece announced an ambitious arms purchase escalation that is to include increasing its fleet of eight submarines by two or three additional boats and acquiring four or five additional frigates. The last of four Type 209/1200 submarine modernizations was completed by the end of 1996, while the first of three domestically built MEKO 200 Mk 3 frigates, the Spetsai, was commissioned on 24 October. The 396-ton Combattante-IIN guided-missile patrol craft Antipliarchos Kostakos was sunk in collision with a Greek commercial ferry on 4 November, with the loss of four sailors. The second of the much-delayed Jason-class tank landing ships, the Samos, was to have been commissioned by year's end.
TURKEY : The nation was frustrated by the U.S. Congress in July when the transfer of the U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class guided missile frigates Antrim (FFG-20), Flatley (FFG-25), and Clifton Sprague (FFG-16) was embargoed; the Turkish Navy had already invested considerable sums in the ships, which it had planned to rename Gaziantep, Giresun, and Gemlik, and it had assigned and trained their crews. Turkey also has plans to order six to eight new frigates in the near future for delivery over the next 15 years, and U.S. yards will be frozen out of the lucrative contract if Congress does not relent on the transfers.
Turkey had far more success in 1996 with its European-assisted indigenous naval construction programs. The second Turkish-built Type 209/1400 submarine, the Sakarya, was commissioned in April, while the third and fourth, 18 Mart and Anafartalar, laid down together on 28 July 1994, continue to progress. The first Turkish-built MEKO 200TN Track-IIclass frigate, the Orucreis, was commissioned in March, and her German-built sister Sahilreis was to be launched this month. The second of five improved FPB 57-class, Yildiz-series guided-missile craft, the Karayel, was reportedly launched late in the year, and the former German Navy tug Koos was acquired in October. Only five World War II-vintage ex-U.S. Navy destroyers remain in service, and the last second-hand German Koln-class frigate was retired at the end of 1995.
The numerous countries in Africa unwise enough to have become Soviet clients have felt severely the loss of logistic support for their moldering fleets, and few navies south of the Sahara (and several north of it) now have more than a few operational ships and craft. The remnants of Ethiopia's once-proud navy were auctioned off at Djibouti in September-most vessels are destined for scrap.
EGYPT : The Egyptian Navy, with its more diversified sources of ships and craft and massive military aid funding from the United States, has fared far better than any of the other North African navies. The last of four Chinese-built Romeo-class submarines completed extensive modernization in January, and all four are now equipped to launch U.S.-supplied Sub-Harpoon missiles and NT-37F wire-guided homing torpedoes. No decision has been made yet, however, on whether or where to order two long-desired, new, diesel attack submarines; Russian-built Kilo-class boats equipped with U.S.-made systems are vying with U.S.-built German Type 209/1400 submarines for a contract that may never be let. In September, Egypt commissioned the former U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates Copeland (FFG-25) and Gallery (FFG26) as the Sharm el-Sheikh and El Arish, respectively; their mothballed sister Duncan (FFG-10) is to be transferred this November and recommissioned in 1998 as the Taba—a fourth ship may be transferred later. Egypt is experiencing some difficulties in maintaining its otherwise aging fleet, but the navy completed several successful exercises with foreign fleets during 1996.
SOUTH AFRICA : Thus far, the navy has been unable to finance badly needed offshore patrol ship replacements for its worn "Minister"-class missile craft.
MOROCCO : Elsewhere in Africa, Morocco took delivery of its second and third new French-built OPV 64-class, 650-ton patrol combatants, Rais Britel and Rais Charkaoui, in 1996, and will receive the fourth this June.
ALGERIA : The second Algerian Kilo-class submarine to undergo refit in Russia, the El Hadj Slimane, returned to home waters early in the year.
The Middle East
Most of the warships hurriedly ordered in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait have now been launched, and many have been delivered. The Gulf Coast Coalition navies, should they decide to learn to operate in concert, would be far more than a match for the aging Iranian surface fleet, and the Iraqi Navy, decimated by Desert Storm, has deteriorated into a small collection of open speedboats. Iran's much-ballyhooed acquisition of a trio of Kilo-class submarines, curiously, has not inspired any of the neighboring countries to upgrade significantly their antisubmarine capabilities; perhaps they assume that if the outside world wants oil, it will find a way to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.
IRAN : Facing what it chooses to perceive as implacable opposition as well as growing economic difficulties and internal conflict, Iran actually has procured far fewer naval resources than have some of its neighbors in recent years. The nation is depending primarily on land-based defensive systems, and it is handicapped at sea by the cultural rivalry between the aging regular navy and the more politically favored fleet of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. While the navy's surface fleet is composed almost entirely of ships ordered by the Shah and has only five ships of more than 1,000tons displacement, the submarine force, should it ever achieve its operational potential, would be a more formidable deterrent. The third Project 877 Kilo-class submarine departed St. Petersburg on 25 November 1996—about a year late—and arrived at Bandar Abbas on 17 January 1997; reports indicate that the first two submarines have experienced significant operational problems.
The Iranian Navy proper received no other significant ships during 1996, although the leadership announced in October that Iran would build its own 1,000ton, 30-knot "destroyer" equipped with missiles and a helicopter; such a ship, even with outside assistance, would require many years to construct, and her weapons, sensors, and engineering systems would have to be imported. The regular navy has converted at least three of its aging Combattante-IIB guided-missile patrol craft, including the Shamsher, to carry four Chinese-supplied C.802 antiship cruise missiles, while the more favored Revolutionary Guard Corps fleet received its second batch of five new Chinese-built Houdong-class, C.802 missile-equipped patrol craft in March 1996.
KUWAIT : After belatedly ordering eight 227-ton Combattante-I missile craft from France in March 1995, Kuwait has not followed through with earlier plans to acquire three to five 1,200-ton corvettes, and the contract may not be placed before the end of the decade. Some of the smaller craft ordered earlier from Europe for the navy have proved less than satisfactory.
BAHRAIN : The former USS Jack Williams (FFG-24) was commissioned as the Sabha on 15 September 1996; the personnel requirements for the ship will provide a challenge for the small, 900-man navy.
QATAR : The last of Qatar's four 530ton Vosper-Thornycroft guided-missile combatants, the Al Debeel, was launched on 31 August, and all four craft will have arrived in home waters by the end of this year. Qatar ordered two 46-meter gunboats from Vosper Thornycroft on 16 November.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES : After turning down a U.S. offer of two Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the U.A.E. purchased two less-capable Kortenaer-class frigates from the Netherlands on 2 April for delivery this year and next; the Dutch now believe they have the inside track for the long-awaited U.A.E. order for two-to-six new-construction frigates. In October, the U.A.E. requested data on submarine designs from a number of builders, indicating preliminary planning to acquire a fleet of two to four diesel boats. Earlier in the year, a grandiose plan to purchase, in addition to the new frigates, six SO- to 65-meter missile combatants, six mine countermeasures ships, and up to 100 15- to 20-meter patrol boats had been promulgated—all for a navy with about 200 officers and 2,000 enlisted personnel.
OMAN : This nation's more practical and measured naval renovation program saw the delivery of the two 1,450-ton Vosper Thornycroft Vigilance-class corvettes ordered in April 1992: the Qahir al Amwaj departed for Oman in June and Al Mua'zzar late in the year after lengthy and thorough training periods. While the pair carry eight MM 40 Exocet antiship missiles and a CrotaleNG surface-to-air missile system, they have no antisubmarine systems. The third, and evidently final, French-built Vigilante 400-class, 477-ton patrol craft, Al Najah, arrived in Oman in June.
SAUDI ARABIA : The navy has yet to sign the final contracts to construct two modified French La Fayette-class frigates in France, but 1996 saw the beginnings of a comprehensive refit program for the four existing 2,250-ton, French-built Al Madinah-class frigates and the two 10,500-ton Boraida-class replenishment ships; the Al Madinah was to complete a one-year refit at Toulon at the end of December, and the last frigate refit is to complete in March 1999, while the Al Boraida arrived at Toulon in March 1996. The British-built Sandown-class minehunter Al Jawf, completed in December 1991, finally reached her Saudi base early in 1996, and the second unit of the trio ordered in 1988, Shaqra, left Portsmouth on 1 December; there are no signs of a long-expected order for three more.
YEMEN : Involved at the beginning of the year in a squabble with Eritrea over ownership of the strategically situated Hanish Islands in the Red Sea, the navy hurriedly ordered a large number of small craft; most of its Soviet-supplied fleet had become inoperable. The orders were hurriedly built outboard-powered craft acquired from Arab neighbors, but six 15.5-meter, 60-knot CMN fast patrol launches, ordered in France in March and delivered in the fall after the dispute had been moderated through French diplomatic efforts, are more formidable.
SYRIA : The navy acquired nothing new and struggled to maintain what forces remain; the nation still provides a harbor for a Russian Navy Amur-class depot ship at Latakia.
ISRAEL : For Israel, the first of a trio of 1,720-ton Type 800 submarines from Germany (which is paying five-sixths of their cost), the Dolphin, was launched at Kiel on 15 April and began running trials in the Baltic late in the year. Work continued on outfitting the trio of Sa'ar-V-class, U.S.-built corvettes with Israeli combat systems, and additional units of the earlier Sa'ar-IV series of missile craft were being outfitted with Barak surface-to-air missiles. Two used Sa'ar-IVs were reported sold to Chile late in the year, for delivery in 1997.
The Indo-Pakistani rivalry continues to dominate Indian Ocean maritime affairs, but Bangladesh plans to order a Saudi-financed frigate to replace a decommissioned British-built unit and ordered patrol craft from South Korea for its newly established coast guard. Myanmar, which took delivery of its first antiship missile-equipped naval units, four 430-ton Houxin-class ships from China, also had significant naval force developments in 1996.
PAKISTAN : The navy took belated delivery of three previously embargoed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in December 1996-January 1997, giving rise to Indian press alarums about impending Harpoon missile attacks on Indian warships. Also acquired (to far less fanfare) in 1996 were three retired French Navy Atlantic Mk I patrol aircraft, while Pakistan's four existing Atlantiques completed modernization with the latest French radars and other electronic gear. The start of construction of the first Pakistani-built Agosta 90B diesel submarine was marked by an official ceremony on 3 January 1997, but is likely to be nearly a decade before the unit is at sea; work on the first French-built unit of the class for Pakistan is presumably well under way in order to meet the 1999 delivery date. Severe defense budget cuts have delayed the planned order for four Project 053, Jianghu-class small frigates from China, although work reportedly continues on updating the six Amazon-class frigates bought earlier from Great Britain. The first of a planned trio of Pakistanidesigned guided-missile craft based on the design of the 1993-vintage gunboat Larkana was launched at Karachi on 17 November, and the first Pakistani-assembled Tripartite-class minehunter, the Muhafiz, was completed on IS May, using a hull molded in France.
INDIA : The chief of naval staff announced early in January 1997 that tentative orders had been placed in Russia for two new Kilo-class submarines (presumably of the improved Project 636 version) and with Germany for the construction of two more Type 209/1500 diesel submarines at Mumbai (formerly Bombay); both orders, however, still must be approved by the Ministry of Defense and funded by the parliament, although confirmation was expected this month. Any Indian nuclear-powered submarine program probably is still several years away.
Despite much discussion in the Indian and Russian press about the purchase of the Kiev-class cruisercarrier Admiral Gorshkov, mention of the ship has been conspicuously absent in the aftermath of recent Indo-Russian arms purchase agreements, and it appears that the 1989-vintage ship, which has been deteriorating while inactive at a Kola Inlet base since fire damage in 1991, would be far too expensive to purchase—and even more expensive to restore. Indian Navy shipboard aviation is in a quandary, for the World War IIvintage carrier Vikrant was due for decommissioning on 31 January 1997 and the scarcely younger Viraat is to start a lengthy refit this year to keep her 50-year old hull in service until 2005. While the Viraat is in the yard until near the end of this decade, and after 2005, there will be no seagoing platform for the 20 remaining Sea Harrier fighters and the Navy's Sea King antisubmarine and troop-carrying helicopters. Continually delayed plans to construct two indigenous carriers to replace the British-built units have been scaled back to a single 15,000-ton "fleet escort" that, if funded, would not be completed in an Indian yard before Viraat's planned demise. While work is continuing on a naval version of the Indian Light Fighter Aircraft, there does not seem to be any place planned for it to operate at sea.
All three 6,800-ton Delhi-class (Project 15) destroyers have been launched, but their fitting out has been slowed by lack of funds and delays in receipt of equipment ordered from Russia—and by delays in the development of Indian systems destined for their use, such as the Trishul surface-to-air missile system. The Bramaputra, the first of the trio of Project 16A frigates, closely based on the design of the previous Godavari class, is scheduled to be commissioned late this year, but the other two have not yet been launched. No further Khukri-class corvettes have been completed after the initial quartet; the two launched in 1992 and 1995 remain fitting out. The Tarantul-I guided-missile patrol craft program has slowed, although the 11th unit, the Prahar, was commissioned in February 1996. India signed a contract with an Israeli builder on 24 September 1996 for two Super Dvora-class patrol boats, with a view toward constructing further units at Goa.
Something of a surprise was the commissioning on 19 July at St. Petersburg, Russia, of the 35,900-ton fleet oiler Jyoti, the Indian Navy's largest ship. An Indianbuilt, 22,000-ton oiler named Aditya had been launched in November 1993 but remains incomplete, and a replacement for the oiler Deepak, stricken in 1996, had evidently been urgently required.
The Indian naval leadership continues to decry the aging of the fleet and issues dire warnings about the imminent need to replace older units. Nonetheless, the political leadership seems generally unimpressed and continues to dispense its scarce defense funds on more urgent programs like the 40 Sukhoi fighters due for delivery beginning this year to the Indian Air Force.
SRI LANKA : Still enduring the depredations of the Tamil Tiger revolutionary forces, the navy continues to experience embarrassing losses: by the end of 1996, some 24 Sri Lankan Navy ships and craft had been lost to insurgent attacks. To offset losses, a number of units have been ordered from abroad to supplement local small craft construction. The 440-ton, Chinese-built patrol craft Parakramabahu was commissioned on 22 May to become the fleet's largest combatant, while three 52-ton, 50-knot XFPB-class fast patrol boats were delivered from the United States at the end of the year and three sisters are to follow this year. Also acquired in 1996 was the 56-ton prototype Israeli Shaldag-class patrol boat originally completed in 1990, along with a newly built sister, while two more Super Dvora-class patrol boats arrived to replace earlier losses.
The naval strategic climate of East Asia is governed not so much by what the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) could do today as by what it might be able to accomplish at sea 15 or 20 years from now. Thus, while China staged an amphibious invasion demonstration in the spring of 1996 for the benefit of Taiwan that incorporated scarcely sufficient forces to secure a remote Pacific atoll, or when a few landbased ballistic missiles were lobbed at random into the seas off Taiwan, the effort was not so much a revelation of the PLAN's modest current capabilities as an announcement that things would be more impressive in the future. The PLAN has taken the place of the crumbling Russian Pacific Fleet as the principal threat in the area, although other currents still persist, such as those between North and South Korea, South Korea and Japan, and Indonesia and Australia. Further, China persists in selling lethal naval hardware, such as C.801 and C.802 antiship missiles, to any and all customers.
CHINA : There are no firm signs yet that China has begun construction of its first Project 093 strategic missile submarine, a follow-on to the single, unsuccessful Project 092 Xia-class SSBN. But tests of the missile for the new class are expected to commence in a year or so. There are no indications of follow-on SSN construction to follow the five Project 091 Han-class units delivered from 1974 to 1991. Diesel submarine production has slowed greatly, and what is probably the last Ming-class (Project 035) boat has been launched. No additional Project 039, Song-class follow-on diesel submarines have appeared since the launch of the prototype in May of 1994. China received its second Project 877 Kilo-class submarine from Russia late in 1995, but the expected delivery in 1996 of the first of two Project 636 Kilo variants did not take place. Meanwhile, the overall submarine force continues to shrink as elderly Project 033 Romeo-class boats are retired.
Much has been made of China's avowed plans to acquire a carrier aviation capability, but such a force is more of a plan for the second decade of the next century than an immediate prospect, and the modest-sized ships envisioned (around 45,000 tons) would make the two carriers useful primarily as seagoing bases for fighters to defend Chinese territory rather than as focal points for power-projection task forces, except in local waters. Nevertheless, research and development work toward developing the carriers is said to be ongoing.
In January 1997 came reports that China had ordered two Russian Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers. In themselves, the two ships would but little alter the naval balance of power in East Asia, but their acquisition would give the PLAN experience in operating a variety of systems that are several decades in advance of anything in the Chinese fleet today. China's first Luhu-class gas-turbine and diesel-powered destroyer, the 5,700-ton Harbin, made a port visit to Russia in 1996; the second ship of the class, said to be named Qingdao, was launched in 1993 and completed in 1996. No new frigates were completed during 1996, and only small numbers of missile craft based on designs dating to the 1960s are being built. Mine countermeasures units continue to be a glaring deficiency in the makeup of the PLAN. Overall, the Chinese Navy is facing a block obsolescence problem as large numbers of unsophisticated destroyers, frigates, and small combatants built in the 1960s and 1970s reach the end of their useful lives.
TAIWAN : On 4 March 1996, Taiwan, which has the most to fear from China's short-legged sea power, commissioned its fourth PFG-2-class guided-missile frigate, the Chi Kuang, and the fifth example of seven on order, the Tzu I, was commissioned on 9 January 1997. Two La Fayette-class frigates, the Kang Ting, and the Hsi Ning, were hurriedly fitted with armament after their deliveries from France and commissioned on 18 May and 12 October, respectively, while the third of the six hulls on order was en route to Taiwan at the beginning of this year. Three additional ex-U.S. Navy Knox (FF-1052)-class frigates are to arrive from the United States in 1997, bringing Taiwan's total to nine. The seven U.S.-built Gearing (DD-710)-class destroyers already rearmed with Standard SM-I surface-to-air missiles have been given a quadruple launcher for the Taiwanese-developed Hsiung FengII antiship missile, ensuring their utility into the sixth decade of their careers.
All was not as well, however, with the contract for 11 additional Jing Chiangclass 510-ton missile combatants, canceled in July when financial improprieties were uncovered. Taiwanese interest has since turned to a plan to construct a dozen or more 1,000 to 1,500-ton corvettes. In 1997, two Newport-class landing ships will arrive from the United States to replace two World War II dock landing ships. Up to 50 150-ton low-signature missile craft may be ordered to replace the existing 50 small Hai Ou-class units. Altogether, Taiwan has one of the most dynamic and comprehensive naval programs in a region that is currently experiencing a major renewal of its naval forces.
JAPAN : East Asia's other naval giant, Japan, continues the methodical rejuvenation of its fleet, although destroyer, frigate, and submarine force levels are being reduced in reaction to the greatly reduced threat from Russia (and the increasing cost of naval systems). The first of a new class of diesel submarines, the Oyashio, was launched on IS October, but for the first time in several decades no new submarine was commissioned; with retirements and transfers to auxiliary duties, the combatant submarine force has been reduced to 15 units, all completed since 1981.
Japan's third Aegis destroyer, the 9,485-ton Myoko, was commissioned on 14 March, and the fourth, the Chokai, was launched on 27 August; no more Aegis ships are now planned, but the first of a class of eight 4,900-ton (standard displacement) general-purpose destroyers is to be requested in the 1998 budget. Meanwhile, progress continues on the eight-ship Murasame class, with the name-ship commissioned on 12 March 1996 and the second, the Harusame, to commission this month; the last of the series is to be completed in 2001.
No new frigates or small combatants are programmed for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the existing frigate force is being pared through the gradual retirement of the 1970s-vintage Chikugo class. The first of two new 8,400-ton mine countermeasures support ships, the Uraga, was launched on 22 May 1996 for commissioning late this month, while the first two of a new class of 620-ton minehunters were laid down in May and the last two of nine Uwajimaclass minehunter/minesweepers were commissioned in December. Japan retains by far the largest and best-equipped mine countermeasures capability of any Asian navy.
Japan's controversial 10,900-ton dock landing ship, the Oosumi, which bears an unfortunate resemblance to a politically incorrect aircraft carrier, was launched on 18 November, and at least three more ships of the same design are planned to replace the current LST force. Japan also continues to fund a robust auxiliary ship replacement program, with a new survey ship, a large target service vessel, a submarine rescue ship, and even a fleet yacht-cum-disaster-relief ship in the offing.
SOUTH KOREA : The nation played host in September to an unarmed North Korean Sang-o-class special forces transport submarine, highlighting the continuing need for the republic to update its naval forces: North Korea, despite its near-starved populace and financial ruin, is said to be cranking out at least three torpedo-armed versions of the Sang-o each year. Two license-built, German-designed Type 209/1200 submarines, the fourth and fifth, were commissioned in 1996 for the Republic of Korea Navy: the Park in January and the Yi ChongMu on 30 August, while the sixth, the Chong Un-Ho, was launched on 5 May. The destroyer building program has been revamped, with the 3,855ton KDX-1 class now to have only three units; the first, the Kwanggaeto was launched on 28 October. Following the KDX-1 class will be half a dozen 5,000-ton KDX-2s, and the even larger KDX-3 will appear in the next decade with some variant of the Aegis technology incorporated. New mine countermeasures ships are on order, and the ROKN bought the decommissioned U.S. Navy salvage tugs Beaufort (ATS-2) and Brunswick (ATS-3) for delivery last month.
VIETNAM : The nation is beginning to expend resources in updating its aging fleet of Soviet and Chinese-supplied warships to protect its claims on the Spratly Islands. The only new-construction surface combatants delivered abroad by Russia since its 1991 revolution were two Tarantul-I missile combatant delivered to Vietnam in 1994, and two more are said to be on order.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES : In response to Chinese incursions in the South China Sea, the navy in June 1995 announced a major new armament acquisition program; the required $5.4 billion has yet to materialize. In 1996, foreign yards were asked to bid on a reduced naval program to include three offshore patrol vessels, six corvettes, two large patrol craft, six smaller patrol boats, and two mine countermeasures ships. The existing 50-year-old fleet continues to deteriorate.
THAILAND : This August, Thailand is to take proud possession of the 11,484ton mini-carrier Chakkrinareubet, which was launched in Spain on 20 January 1996. The 27-knot ship's combat air group is to consist of six ex-Spanish Navy AV-8S Matador (Harrier) fighters and four new S-70B-7 Seahawk helicopters. The Thai Navy's hopes of re-establishing a submarine fleet were again dashed when the Minister of Defense denied funding. Thailand agreed to lease its second Knox-class frigate, the ex-USS Ouellet (FF-1077), on 27 November, and the ship will be reactivated and commissioned as the Phutthaloetla Naphalai late this year. Three 30-meter patrol boats were ordered from the Australian Submarine Company in September, and there are plans to establish a facility to build 15 more of the craft in Thailand. Two Italian Gaeta-class minehunters were ordered the same month for delivery in 1999 and 2000, and, again in September, China delivered the 23,000-ton fleet replenishment ship Similan.
MALAYSIA : Systems integration problems prevented the contracted delivery of Malaysia's GEC-Yarrow-built, 2,270-ton frigates Lekiu and Jebat in 1996; they are now to arrive this August. The long-awaited contract to construct up to 27 1,200-ton offshore patrol ships again went unplaced, although there the winner may be announced this spring. Malaysia did find funds to buy from Italy two more 685-ton missile combatants originally built for Iraq; the first pair, purchased in October 1995, are scheduled for delivery late this year.
SINGAPORE : The affluent nation continues to replace its older naval units with an across-the-board construction and modernization program. The six 600-ton Victory-class missile combatants are getting 16 vertical launch cells for Israeli Barak surface-to-air missiles. By the end of 1996, all six of the antisubmarine variants of the 500-ton Fearless class had been launched, and the first of a half dozen antiship variants, the Resilience, was launched on 23 November. Older patrol craft are being transferred to the Police Coast Guard, and work is under way on a class of five large landing ships to replace the World War II-era U.S. LSTs used for logistic support duties.
INDONESIA : Delivery of Indonesia's 39-unit ex-Volksmarine fleet was completed in July with the arrival of the final pair of 908-ton Parchim-class patrol combatants from Germany. In November, an agreement to buy two unmodernized German Navy Type 206 coastal submarines was announced, and the former U-13 and U-14 are to be handed over this year; sisters U-19 and U-21 may be acquired when Germany retires them in 1998.
AUSTRALIA : The ambitious naval construction and fleet modernization program is proceeding with remarkably few hitches, considering the magnitude of the effort and the complexity of the systems involved. The new 3,353-ton (submerged) submarine Collins was commissioned on 27 July, and the Farncomb was to commission this month. Construction of two more units past the original contract for six is still under discussion.
The Anzac (MEKO 200ANZ) frigate program had a banner year, with the keel-laying for the second unit for New Zealand, the Te Mana, on 18 May, the commissioning of the Anzac herself on 28 May, and the launching of the Arunta on 28 June. Ambitious programs to update the Anzacs are already being developed, and the update plans for the six Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates are being finalized. Construction of a dozen 1,300-ton offshore patrol ships to replace the too-small Fremantle class is dependent on whether Malaysia selects the Australian offering for its new offshore patrol ship program; if not, the Fremantles will be given a life-extension refit. Hull lay up work on the third 720-ton Huon-class glass-reinforce plastic-hulled minehunter, the Norman, began on 16 September. The ex-U.S. Navy Newport-class landing ships Kinimbla and Manoora began reconstructions in 1996 that will equip them to carry several hundred troops and four Australian Army Blackhawk helicopters when the amphibious warfare ships are returned to service in September 1997 and August 1998.
NEW ZEALAND : The Navy's first Anzac frigate, the Te Kaha, began contractor's sea trials on 10 December and is to be commissioned this May, but political resistance over the cost of the first two ships is mounting as the decision point approaches on whether or not to order two additional units to maintain the Royal New Zealand Navy's frigate force at four ships into the next decade. The U.S. Military Sealift Command's ocean surveillance ship Tenacious (T-AGOS17) was purchased on 27 September to replace the retiring Tui (ex-USS Charles H. Davis [AGOR-5]) as fleet research ship and has been renamed Resolution.
The Western Hemisphere
ARGENTINA : Political realities struck home in the Argentine Navy late in December 1996 when the new head of the navy announced a number of cuts to the fleet and to land establishments. Chief among the cuts was the cancellation of any plans to re-engine the laid-up aircraft carrier Veinticinco de Mayo, which has been out of service for a decade. Also canceled was the refit of the Type 209/1200 submarine San Luis which is now to be sold for scrap, and the navy's only amphibious warfare ship, the LST Cabo San Antonio, laid up with engineering problems, is also to be discarded. The cuts leave the Argentine Navy with only three submarines, the two newest of which, the TR 1700-class submarines Santa Cruz and San Juan, also are in need of major overhauls. Earlier in the year came reports that the two incomplete MEKO 140-class corvettes were to be sold to Malaysia. That sale never came to fruition, but it is plainly evident that the pair will not be completed for the Argentine Navy.
BRAZIL : The carrier aviation program faces the opposite problem from that of Argentina: it has a recently overhauled, fully operation carrier, the Minas Gerais, but the Brazilian Air Force, which operates the current fixed-wing carrier assets, grounded the remaining handful of superannuated reciprocating-engined Tracker antisubmarine aircraft late in 1996. Thus, the Minas Gerais took her newly restored steam catapult to Argentina in November and operated with Argentine Navy Super Etendard jet fighters and Argentine Turbo-Trackers. The Brazilian Navy has secured Air Force concurrence with a plan to operate its own fixed-wing assets from the small carrier in the future (and the ship is expected to operate until 2010, despite having been launched in 1944) and has requested retired A-4M Skyhawk fighter-bombers from the United States.
Brazil's navy had, overall, a very good year in 1996. The Minas Gerais sailed to Pensacola, Florida, in May to collect six surplus SH-3H Sea King helicopters, and the first of nine new Super Lynx shipboard helicopters was delivered from Great Britain the following month. Although the nuclear-powered submarine development program has had most of its funding pulled since revelation of financial scandals in 1994, the diesel submarine program is alive and well: the second Brazilian-built Type 209/1400 unit, the Timbira, was launched at the Arsenal de Marinha at Rio de Janeiro on 5 January; the third, Tapajo, is to be launched this year; and the fourth, the enlarged Tikuna, is to be laid down at the end of 1998. The Oberon-class diesel submarine Humaita, however, was stricken on 4 April, leaving only two Oberons in the inventory.
Two additional units from the quartet of British Type 22 Batch I frigates were transferred on Brazil on 30 August: the Battleaxe has been renamed the Dodsworth and the Brilliant has become the Bosisio; contrary to press reports, the ships are not being equipped with 57-mm guns but are being given two 40-mm weapons each, removed from Niteroiclass frigates entering modernization refits. The fourth and final unit, the Brazen, is to be transferred this spring under the new name Rademaker.
The Niteroi-class modernization program, which commenced in December, has allocated nearly $300 million to date toward updating the six 20 year-old ships with modern weapons and sensors; the last ship is to be completed by 2001. One new frigate is under construction at Rio de Janeiro, the 2,350-ton Barroso, but plans to request funds for three more have been deferred in favor of a new 3,500-ton design now in development. Eight Grauna-class, 263-ton patrol craft are now in service with the completion of the Gurupi at Peenewerft in Eastern Germany in April, and two more were laid down in Brazil the same month. A second Newport-class landing ship is expected to be requested from the United States in 1997.
CANADA : The nation's unified military service was under a cloud of public disapproval after bad publicity in 1996, and social welfare issues made it politically inexpedient for the Labour government to accept Great Britain's offer of four "virtually free" and almost new Upholder-class diesel submarines as replacements for Canada's 30 year-old trio of Oberons. The Upholders were then offered to Portugal, Chile, and even South Africa without success, and there seems a good possibility that a Canadian purchase may be at last arranged late this year.
Canadian Maritime Forces surface ship programs are in better shape, with the last of a dozen City-class frigates, the Ottawa, commissioned on 28 September. Completion of the City program, however, leaves Canada's only remaining warship builder, St. John Shipbuilding, with nearly empty order books and no prospects of future naval orders. St John's subsidiary, Halifax Shipyard, is constructing a dozen 979-ton naval reserve training "Maritime Coastal Defense Vessels" and delivered the second through fourth units of the class—the Glace Bay, Nanaimo, and Edmonton—in 1996. But the program is scheduled to end in 1999. The class prototype, the Kingston, delivered in December 1995, displayed stability problems during trials, and before her commissioning on 21 September 1996 required an additional nine tons of permanent ballast; much equipment was relocated lower in the ship.
Plans to procure two 26,600-ton "Multi-role Support Vessels" to transport Canadian Forces military equipment overseas as well as to act as underway replenishment ships have come afoul of rising costs and growing public distaste for foreign peacekeeping. The aging oiler Provider has been kept in commission past her planned 1994 retirement to ensure that there will be one operational replenishment ship on each coast at all times. Canada's large Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans fleets, placed under one administration in 1995, have failed to yield expected economies; ships and craft are being laid up and search-and-rescue and fisheries protection are beginning to suffer.
CHILE : At the end of the year, Chile was widely reported to have made significant purchases of used warships from Europe and Israel, although relations with Argentina, long difficult, have been excellent of late. The 2,660-ton Swedish minelayer Alvsborg was bought to become the submarine tender Almirante Merino, while two Sa'ar-IV class, 450ton missile craft from Israel are reportedly to be renamed the Angamos and Papudo and join two sisters acquired in 1979 and 1981. No less than six German Navy Klasse 148 missile craft are to be acquired, the Wolf and the Elster in 1997 and four more in 1998; the 264-ton, MM 38 Exocet missile-equipped craft are to be based near the Peruvian border. Chile has opted not to accept the offer of Upholder-class submarines from Great Britain to replace its two Oberon-class diesel boats but is said to have narrowed its choice for a pair of new-construction boats to additional Type 209s from Germany or to two of the Franco-Spanish Scorpene class, a design as yet unproven.
COLOMBIA : The navy may purchase the retired German Navy replenishment ship Luneburg for transfer this year.
CUBA : The Cuban Navy suffered the humiliation of having one of its Soviet-supplied Koni-class frigates sold out from under its control to the Cayman Islands in August; the ship was renamed the Captain Keith Tibbetts and scuttled as an attraction for scuba divers. Once a fairly potent force, the Cuban Navy has degenerated to a handful of operational patrol boats.
MEXICO : Mexico's large but elderly fleet is still coming to grips with enlarged responsibilities in counter-drug patrolling. Reorganized in 1995, the 8,500strong Mexican Marine Corps has been distributed to coastal outposts. The U.S. Congress approved the transfer of the Knox-class frigates Stein (FFT-1065) and Marvin Shields (FF-1066) to Mexico in 1996, and the ships are to be reactivated for transfer this year.
PERU : The navies of Peru and Ecuador sat out the recent border war between the two nations, in no small measure because neither fleet is in adequate condition to conduct a lengthy naval campaign. Four of Peru's eight remaining submarines, including two of the Type 209s, are said to be in reserve. Dutch 1950svintage Dokkum-class minesweepers Naaldwijk and Drachten were reported purchased by Peru in 1996 for delivery in 1997 after refits; their sister Abcoude was purchased in 1994 for hydographic survey duties, but the new pair are likely to be used in mine countermeasures roles to give Peru at least a modicum of defense against sea mines.
VENEZUELA : The nation's severe economic and social problems have adversely affected naval readiness, and plans to modernize the six Lupo-class frigates are no longer feasible.
Mr. Baker , a recently retired career intelligence professional and distinguished naval correspondent, is a long-time Proceedings author.