The French Navy soon will have a uniform baker's dozen fleet of mine countermeasures ships. The former Belgian Navy Tripartite-class mine hunter Iris is seen here being rolled out of a repair hall in her new colors on 21 March, prior to transfer to the French Navy as the Verseau. Faced with a shortage of mine countermeasures assets with the decommissioning of its five Circe-class mine hunters (four this year, one in 1998), the French Navy purchased three surplus Belgian ships for delivery in March, June, and September of 1997. In addition to the Iris, France has bought the Fuchsia (renamed Cephee) and Dianthus (renamed Capricorne). The 605-ton Belgian trio, completed only a decade ago and laid up in 1993, make a near-perfect match to the ten Tripartites already in French service. Belgium retains seven Tripartites (one adapted as a munitions transport), and the Netherlands has 15 soon-to-bemodernized sisters. Two others were built for Indonesia, and under a 1992 contract, Pakistan purchased one French Navy example and ordered two new units, one of which employs a French-built hull fitted out at Karachi.
China's largest naval unit, and one of its newest, the 16.4-knot underway replenishment oiler Nancang visited San Diego in March 1997 in support of the Luhu-class destroyer Harbin and the Luda-II Zhuhai. The 37,000-ton Nancang was laid down at Kherson Shipyard in January 1989 for the then-Soviet Navy as the Vladimir Peregudov, a heavily modified variant of the commercial, 27,400 deadweight ton Komandarm Fedko tanker design. When the new Russian Navy no longer could afford to take delivery of the ship (which would have been its first new underway replenishment vessel in more than a decade), she was sold nearly complete to China for a reported $10 million bargain price, sailing to Dalian for final fitting out in the spring of 1993. Commissioned on 2 June 1996 but still without some of her alongside replenishment gear, the Nancang was only able to provide astern fueling services for the two destroyers during this spring's Chinese Navy North and South American voyage. The much more recently begun Indian Navy oiler Jyoti is a near-sister to the Nancang but has a double hull and less elaborate helicopter and replenishment facilities.
Taking advantage of reductions in naval forces elsewhere, the Chilean Navy has been on a buying spree. Shown here at Portsmouth, England, in March is the 2,660-ton former mine layer Merino, completed in 1971 as the Swedish Navy's Alvsborg. Inactivated in 1993, the ship had been used for some years as a submarine tender, a role she will continue in Chilean service. Other foreign warships reported purchased by Chile include six German Type 148 and two Israeli Sa'ar-series guided missile craft, with the latter to be renamed Angamos and Papudo, and negotiations for two new European-designed diesel submarines (to be assembled at Talcahuano) are being finalized. Since 1995, Chile's Navy also has bought surplus P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Newport (LST-1179)-class tank landing ship from the United States (the San Bernardino [LST-1189], renamed the Valdivia) and an icebreaker from Canada (the 6,506-ton Norman McLeod Rogers, renamed the Contre-Almirante Oscar Viel Toro), while also continuing to construct patrol ships in its own yards. The new acquisitions in part are replacements for older units, but Chile also is concerned with political instability to its north and is beefing up naval capabilities in the vicinity of its border with Peru.