The high cost of building and maintaining today's modern warships continues to merge with an understanding that friendly fleets often work best cooperatively. This realization is reflected both in the types of warships now being built and in an ever-growing trend toward interoperability. Through initiatives such as the "1,000-Ship Navy," a global maritime network proposed to help prevent terrorism and to provide humanitarian natural disaster relief, navies are becoming more relevant than ever. A new collaborative spirit has been generating optimism in a domain where single ships often cost billions of dollars, yet even the smallest of navies have vital contributions to offer.
This review of the world's navies is arranged by region, with maritime nations discussed alphabetically under each subheading.
Australia and Asia
With a number of new high-profile programs in development, Australia aims to remain an important player in Asian maritime affairs, and if current plans come to pass, its navy appears to be in good shape for dealing with the ongoing changes in the region. Though not without its setbacks, Australia is working across the board to ensure its fleet stays relevant.
With plans and expectations high for the Australian Air Warfare Destroyer program, the navy expects a government green-light decision on the project in early 2007. If given final approval, the first vessel, Hobart, will enter service in 2013 and will be followed by Brisbane in 2014 with sister Sydney in 2016. The destroyers will join eight Anzac (MEKO-200 ANZ) -class frigates, the last of which, Perth, was fully operational by early 2007. The submarine community also has something to look forward to as upgrade plans to the Collins-class submarine were announced in October 2006. Improvements to the class are expected to include electronic warfare, communications, and periscope modernizations.
On a smaller scale, additional Armidale-class patrol boats continue to be delivered, with 13 units expected to be operational by 2007; two additional boats are on order. In the air, Australia plans to retire its Sea King helicopter fleet early, as efforts to purchase and replace them with NH-90 helicopters have been accelerated. More immediately, however, SH-2G Super SeaSprite helicopters are now ready for service following five years of delays.
Facing the requirement for new sealift capacity, discussion and planning are under way, with a simple monohull design appearing to be the preferred solution. The new sealift program and its associated vessels are planned to enter service between 2016 and 2018, though as with all dates so far in the future, some slippage can be expected. The Australian navy's Appleleaf-class underway replenishment oiler, HMAS Westralia, returned from her last overseas deployment in April 2006 and was decommissioned in September. Westralia's replacement, Sirius, entered service soon thereafter. Next on the slate for Australian maritime capabilities is a new amphibious assault ship program. Australia distributed a request for tenders in the spring of 2006, and the Thales and Tenix shipyards both submitted bids for the contract.
In Bangladesh, the government assumed operational control over one of the nation's largest private shipyards because of its financial difficulties, while in Brunei, analysts are awaiting the results of a drawn-out International Court of Justice arbitration decision to determine who is to blame for Brunei's rejection of British-built frigates that were completed and ready for delivery in 2005.
The capabilities and confidence of China's navy continue to grow at rates unparalleled in the rest of the world during the previous ten-year period. Experts are divided, however, as to whether this rate of expansion and growth will continue or if it has in fact reached a plateau. From a big-picture perspective, work on China's project 094 nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine-sometimes referred to as the Jin-class-continues, and many analysts estimate that the class will be ready for service in 2008. Until that time, the older Xia-class nuclear-powered submarine sails on, albeit locally and close to Chinese home waters. The first two of up to eight Type 093 Chin-class nuclear-powered attack submarines have begun to enter service, and though it may be some time before the new boats are fully operational, they will undoubtedly have a big impact on the fleet in years to come. Two new diesel-powered attack submarines of the Yuan-class (Type 041) are also apparently now in service, and these join 14 Song-class submarines, the last of which entered service by 2006.
During 2006, China's first Project 051C and third Project 052C destroyers were delivered, and the third and fourth Russian-built Sovremennyy-class destroyers entered service. Although China was the single largest recipient of Russian arms in 2006, the number and variety of Russian arms exports to China are expected to drop as the domestic Chinese arms and naval industries are catching up to their global counterparts. As an example of this, China recently offered its older Ming- and Song-class submarines for sale on the export market along with new C-602 naval cruise missiles. It remains difficult to gauge the amount of money spent on the naval and defense budget, though multiplying China's publicly released defense figures by a factor of three or four is often suggested.
As the capabilities of its surface fleet continue to expand, China is also looking to expand its amphibious warfare capability and in late 2006 announced plans to purchase six 540-ton Zubr amphibious landing hovercraft, similar in principle though larger than U.S. landing craft air cushion (LCAC) vessels. Perhaps most illustrative of the dramatic increase in Chinese naval activities was an incident in the autumn of 2006, when a Chinese Song-class diesel-powered submarine surfaced undetected within five miles of the USS Kitty Hawk carrier strike group operating in international waters. Though this incident may well have been an accident reflecting the loss of U.S. Navy antisubmarine warfare expertise and capabilities, the incident is worrisome and would likely not have occurred a decade ago.
In India, meanwhile, construction continues on the 40,000-ton Vikrant-class air defense ship aircraft carrier, with plans to launch the vessel in 2009 or 2010. A Russian shipyard is also refurbishing the carrier ex-Admiral Gorshkov, since renamed Vikramaditya. Plans call for the Vikramaditya to replace India's long-serving carrier Viraat by 2008. With these new ships, India hopes to enhance its capabilities and power projection through naval aviation. India is also looking to purchase new long-range maritime-patrol aircraft, most likely from the United States or Russia. India has expressed interest in retired Sea King antisubmarine helicopters from the United States. In October it rejected an offer to buy Sea Harrier fighters from the United Kingdom because of price and technology transfer issues.
As India moves to modernize and increase its blue-water presence, a number of older vessels are being decommissioned while new warships continue to enter service. Though a severe spare-parts shortage exists (20 percent of India's ships and 35 percent of its submarines are reportedly inoperable), funding appears to be in good shape as a 44 percent increase in the naval budget is projected under India's five-year defense plan.
In addition to increasing logistics and repair capabilities, the fleet hopes to acquire a number of new warships, including three Bangalore (Project 15A)-class destroyers in 2008 and three additional Russian-built Talwar-class frigates that were ordered in the summer of 2006. The new Talwar frigates will be armed with the Brahmos antiship missile and, when delivered by 2011, are to join three older sisters already in service. Also under construction are two new Shivalik (Project 17)-class frigates, due to commission by 2008.
While work starts in Mumbai on India's six Scorpène-class submarines set to enter service between 2012 and 2018, India is also considering a modified variant of the Russian Amur-class submarine that could be fitted with an air-independent propulsion system. Progress on the mysterious and long-planned Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) nuclear-powered submarine program apparently continues as well, with scientists reported to have completed development of the ATV's nuclear propulsion plant during the summer of 2006.
Efforts to boost Indian amphibious and expeditionary capabilities are part of a renewed emphasis on littoral warfare and power projection stemming from a new naval doctrine adopted in 2004. In line with this new doctrine is the recent acquisition of the retired amphibious ship ex-Trenton, acquired from the U.S. Navy and transferred to India in January 2007. Work on a new class of tank landing ships is also continuing, and the first of the class, the Shardul, entered service in 2006, with the Kesari to follow in 2007 and sister Airavat due for delivery in 2008. India's small combatant forces continue to expand their capabilities as well, and 2006 saw the eighth Israeli Super Dvora Mk II patrol boat enter service. A class of eight new construction coastal minehunters, to be built at Goa shipyard, is also in the works for service entry around 2010.
In Indonesia the military is in the process of reorganizing its forces. Current plans call for consolidation of fleet commands from three down to two. Two new Diponegoro-class corvettes are to be commissioned in 2007, and two more are expected to follow in 2008-09. New amphibious transport docks are also under construction, with two Tanjung Dalpele-class LPDs planned to be delivered by late 2007 and another of the class to enter service in 2008.
In Japan, although the defense budget has been falling for more than four years, hopes remain high for several new classes of warship. Three improved Oyashio-class attack submarines are under varying degrees of construction and due to enter service between 2009 and 2011. The new submarines will join ten of the original Oyashio-class boats, the newest of which will join the fleet in 2008.
A new type of 13,500-ton helicopter-carrying destroyer is in the works, and up to four of the ships are planned to replace the Shirane and Haruna classes. The Japanese Kongo-class guided-missile destroyers delivered in the 1990s have proved popular, and two improved units were laid down in 2005 and 2006 for delivery in 2007 and 2008. Missile defense and naval aviation were also high on the list of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force priorities, with orders for SM-3 block 1A missiles approved for transfer from the United States in June 2006 and deliveries of the first EH101 helicopters arriving for fleet use.
In Malaysia, the first two of six MEKO-100 RMN-class patrol ships, Kadah and Pahang, have now been delivered. Four additional units may prove unaffordable, calling into question the stated goals of a 27-unit class by around 2020. Aside from the desire for 27 MEKO-100s, the biggest investment for the Malaysian fleet remains the two Scorpène-class submarines on order for delivery by 2009. In an attempt to prepare for the arrival of the new boats, Malaysian naval leaders have been looking overseas for assistance with submarine training and safety in hopes of avoiding costly or dangerous errors common to new submarine programs.
In February 2006, Dutch shipbuilder Merwede launched New Zealand's new multi-role vessel (MRV) amphibious warship, the largest part of New Zealand's Project Protector naval modernization program. Displacing 9,000 tons, the MRV is based on a civilian-use roll-on/roll-off ferry. The MRV is expected to enter service with New Zealand in April 2007 and can transport up to 250 troops along with one SH-2G Super SeaSprite and four NH-90 helicopters. The Project Protector program also includes two offshore patrol vessels (OPV) being built in Melbourne, Australia, the first of which was launched in November of 2006, and four smaller inshore patrol vessels (IPV) built at Whangarei, New Zealand. In total, the project calls for seven ships and will markedly improve New Zealand's maritime capabilities and ability to contribute to international exercises and operations.
As Pakistan expands its naval force, it aims for wide-ranging improvements. Four modern F-22P frigates are on order from China, and in April 2006 the option for a fifth unit of the class was exercised, with deliveries of the first four expected between 2008 and 2013 and the fifth unit several years later. Work is also under way to upgrade the submarine force with a third French-designed Augusta-90B-class submarine, the Hamza, being built at Karachi Naval Shipyard for delivery around 2008.
The final Jalalat-class guided-missile patrol craft entered full operational service in 2006, and two Kaan (MRTP33) fast-attack craft were ordered from Turkey in August for delivery in 2008. As Pakistan's warships modernize, so too does its naval aviation fleet. The Naval Air Arm now consists of ten P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, with eight purchased during 2006-07. In order to keep an appropriate force mix and balance, the Pakistani Marine Corps will also be expanding.
In the Philippines, the army has announced plans to acquire between 18 and 30 new short-range fast transport craft that are capable of traveling at 25 knots and can carry 150 troops for operations between islands.
In Singapore, efforts are under way to merge two naval squadrons into a single unit that would operate amphibious ships and fast attack craft. Two ex-Swedish Vastergotland-class submarines ordered from Sweden in 2005 remain on schedule to join Singapore's fleet in 2010. The Formidable-class frigate Steadfast, third of six sisters, began sea trials in 2006, while the first of the class completed similar trials in July. Three additional units, the Tenacious, Stalwart, and Supreme, are planned for delivery in 2007, 2008, and 2009 respectively.
South Korea's first of three Type 214 submarines was launched in the spring of 2006. Four of a total six KDX-II-class destroyers had been delivered by early 2007, with two additional units planned for commissioning by 2008. The new KDX-III destroyers are also progressing smoothly, and the first of the class is scheduled for delivery late in 2008. Plans are also in the works to develop a new frigate intended to replace the current nine-ship Ulsan class by 2015.
Taiwan received the second set of modernized ex-U.S. Navy Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers by late 2006. These are the most advanced warships in Taiwan's fleet and are arguably more powerful than any vessels now in service with the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy across the Taiwan Strait. The Kidd-class warships were extensively refitted during their three-year reactivation overhauls performed at Detyens Shipyard in South Carolina.
Taiwan, however, appears no closer than it was five years ago to acquiring the new diesel-powered submarines promised it by the Bush administration in 2001. Although some reports have indicated that the class could be built using Japanese submarine technology and designs, this is most likely just another shot in the dark for a program that appears to be moving at the speed of seeping lava.
Thailand's normally close ties with the West were jeopardized in September 2006 when its military chief overthrew the prime minister in a surprise coup. Though the lasting impact on Thailand's maritime forces and the country as a whole have yet to be determined, there appears to be a concerted effort on the part of western nations to press for a return to democracy while working to maintain some degree of normality. As such, plans continue in preparation for 2007's annual multinational Cobra Gold exercises in which Thailand remains the key player. Little in the way of growth, however, is planned for the Thai navy, other than an occasional addition to the patrol fleet, which most recently gained two small 1,500-ton Chinese patrol ships built in Shanghai and delivered in 2005 and 2006.
On the European continent, Belgium continues to make the most of cuts in the Netherlands and announced the purchase of two retired Royal Dutch Navy Karel Doorman-class frigates, which are due to enter service in 2007-08. The retired Dutch frigates will serve as replacements for the two remaining Welingen-class ships, which are, despite upgrades, nearing the end of their useful service lives and will likely be transferred abroad.
In Denmark, the Thales-Netherlands Smart-L radar was recently chosen to equip the three new 5,000-ton "patrol ship" frigates intended to replace the Niels Juel-class corvettes that have been in service since the early 1980s. The new ships will supplement two multipurpose flexible support ships that entered service in 2004 and 2005. Also under construction for Denmark are a number of different patrol craft, including 100-ton Mk I class and 180-ton Mk II designs being built domestically.
In Estonia, naval forces continue to grow in capabilities if not in numbers, particularly involving noncombatants, auxiliaries, and mine-countermeasures vessels. In September of 2006, Estonia announced the purchase of three ex-Royal Navy Sandown-class minehunters, concluding negotiations that had been ongoing since January 2006.
Finland is also working to expand its mine-countermeasures force, and in late 2006 it announced an order for three mine-warfare craft based on an Italian design. The new Finnish mine-warfare vessels are due to enter service between 2010 and 2012 and will, ironically, join a capable fleet of minelaying craft now in service. In June 2006 the fourth and final Hamina (Rauma 2000)-class guided-missile patrol boat was delivered to the Finnish navy. Built by Aker Shipyard in Rauma, the Pori joined sisters Hamina, Tornio, and Hanko, which entered service between 1998 and 2005. All four boats can now carry the South African Denel-Kentron Umkhonto infrared point defense vertical launched surface-to-air missile system. Other ongoing modernizations in the Finnish fleet include upgrades to the two Hämeenmaa-class minelayers, Hämeenmaa and Uusimaa, to be completed by Aker in 2007.
In France, some major decisions have yet to be made concerning a second aircraft carrier dubbed the PA2. A large degree of commonality exists between the design for the PA2 and the new British Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, particularly regarding vessel superstructure. Though the French parliament authorized the carrier in 2003, most recent news has been negative. As the addition of weight, complexity, and cost have increased, so has the likelihood of program cancellation. Experts now predict the PA2 has only a 50 percent chance of surviving upcoming budget reviews. Optimistic carrier supporters, however, hope to have the PA2 operational before the beginning of the carrier Charles de Gaulle's refueling and comprehensive overhaul, scheduled to begin in 2015.
Work continues on the new FREMM (Frègates Europèennes Multi-mission) class, with 17 French frigates currently planned. Eight of the warships are being built to an antisubmarine warfare configuration, and nine are planned as land-attack cruise-missile variants. In 2006 a version of the General Electric LM 2500 gas turbine was selected as the class's power source, with two turbines supplying the propulsion for each warship. The first of the class is expected to enter service by 2011, with the 17th planned for the end of 2014. Because of budget cuts in 2006, the decision was made to cancel a third and fourth unit of the more expensive Project Horizon Forbin-class guided-missile destroyer. The lead ship of the class was launched in 2005 and is expected to be fully operational by early 2008. In July 2006 the second of the class, Chevalier Paul, was launched at DCN's Lorient shipyard.
The Mistral, first of a new class of helicopter-carrying landing ships, became fully operational in 2006, with sister Tonnerre completing the final phases of fitting out in preparation for operational service with the French Navy. Both ships displace more than 21,000 tons full load and will make a major contribution to French power projection capabilities.
Submariners also had reason to celebrate in France, with the announcement that the navy plans to purchase six new Barracuda-class submarines. The boats, the first of which are expected in service between 2014 and 2016, will replace the six Améthyste-class submarines now in use. Meanwhile, testing continues on the new French M-51 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) intended to replace the M-45 currently in use on board France's nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine force.
In neighboring Germany, several different classes of advanced warships are under design and construction. In 2006 the third and fourth Type 212 air-independent propulsion-equipped submarines were delivered, and in September Germany announced the decision to purchase two additional Type 212 boats, providing an eventual total of six.
Work on the Braunschweig-class (K-130) corvettes continues, with the first and second units launching this past year. Both are due to enter service in 2007; current plans call for all five of the class to deliver by the end of 2008. Work on the Type K-130s is divided among several shipyards, with sections of each warship constructed at different locations and then brought together at a lead yard for final assembly.
Though the navy is itself downsizing, the fleet is also moving to enhance its blue-water and expeditionary focus. Germany has also begun to express interest in outfitting its new Sachsen-class guided-missile frigates with a ballistic missile defense capability. Plans for Germany's new 5,500-ton F-125-class frigates appear to be on track, with the first of the class expected in service sometime between 2011 and 2013.
Service entry for Greece's first Type 214-class submarine, the Papanikolis, has been delayed after several major problems were uncovered; primary among these were reported flaws in the submarine's air-independent propulsion system. The defects may cause slippage of planned delivery and operational dates for sister submarines Pipinos, Matrozos, and Katsonis, all three of which remain under varying stages of construction. Greece has announced plans to launch a new frigate program, and design bids for the program will likely come from successful Dutch and German designs. Plans are also in the works to upgrade Greece's MEKO-200-class frigates during the next decade.
Italy formed a new amphibious battalion in 2006 that will consist of joint forces from both the Italian army and navy. Additional restructuring can also be expected, as a new defense strategy was unveiled in January 2006. Italy's newest aircraft carrier, the Cavour, is expected in service in 2007 and will certainly add a powerful punch, joining the smaller carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service since 1985.
On the submarine front, four Type 212 submarines are planned for service, with the first two, the Salvatore Todaro and Scire, having entered service in 2006. Work continues on Italy's two Project Horizon destroyers, the Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, which are expected in service during 2007 and 2009, respectively. One of the largest ongoing programs is the joint French-Italian FREMM frigate program with Italian plans to purchase ten units, six of which are being configured as land-attack assets and four intended primarily for antisubmarine warfare.
The Netherlands was the first European navy to begin serious investigation into providing a ballistic-missile defense role for its De Zeven Provinciën-class guided-missile frigates. Equipped with the Smart-L radar system, a BMD capability could, if funded, greatly increase the usefulness and flexibility of these already excellent warships. During June 2006, the Dutch patrol and support vessel Pelikaan entered service with the Royal Netherlands Navy. Designed to serve as support ship in the Netherlands Antilles, the Pelikaan was built at Damen Shipyards in Galati, Romania, and replaced an older ship by the same name.
As the importance of expeditionary warfare has not been lost on the Dutch, the Johan de Witt, an enhanced version of the successful Rotterdam-class amphibious transport ship, began trials in September 2006. The new ship is unique for the Netherlands because it is capable of serving as a marine component command ship during joint and multinational operations, allowing it to play an important command role in future operations and exercises. All these new capabilities have in many ways been paid for by cutbacks elsewhere in the force, and Karel Doorman-class frigates continue their slow retirement from the ranks, deemed excess owing to budgetary constraints.
Though Norway's defense budget was reduced in 2007, its navy actually received a funding increase. The first Norwegian Aegis-equipped warship, the frigate Fridtjof Nansen, began sea trials early in 2006 and entered service in March of that year. A second unit of the class, the Roald Amundsen, had also been delivered by late 2006. Part of the operational assessments for this class includes conducting live-fire Aegis testing with the Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, a unique weapon combination that proved successful during trials. Though Norway continues to clash with shipbuilder Navantia over payment for the frigate program, these financial problems mar an otherwise successful effort.
On 30 October, the second Skjold-class air-cushion guided-missile patrol boat was launched, and the warship is expected to enter service in February 2008. Though new production is important, keeping older platforms and airplanes such as the air force's P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operational remains high on the priority list, and in August plans were announced to upgrade the fleet of four P-3Cs for continued operation through 2030.
As Poland works to modernize its fleet, the navy continues to retire many older Cold War-era vessels, though there is also a concerted effort to breathe new life into warships that may otherwise be considered a bit long-in-the-tooth. Poland's military leaders chose Sweden's Saab RBS-15 Mk3 missile to arm its Orkan-class ships, and hopes remain high to enhance the weapon fits on board two second-hand Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and Kobbins-class submarines. Unfortunately, progress toward many other Polish navy goals has been slow. A proposed mine-countermeasures ship program known as the Kormoran class remains on hold, and progress on the four MEKO A-100-class frigates remains slow. The first unit was laid down in 2001 and is planned to commission in 2007.
In Portugal, another NATO nation struggles to meet its maritime needs in the face of budget realities. Portugal aims to replace its aging Daphne-class submarines with two air-independent propulsion-capable German Type 209 boats ordered in 2004, and replacements for the aging Baptiste de Andrade-class patrol ships are also on order, expected to join two recently delivered units.
Romania continues efforts to upgrade its Type 22 frigates, the Regele Ferdinand and Regina Marina, transferred from the United Kingdom in 2004-05.
Much naval construction has been ongoing in Russia, but many of the ships being built do not hold much chance of making it into operational service because of persistent funding shortages. Prime examples of the apparent spike in shipyard productivity can be found in keel laying or launchings of vessels such as the new Project 22350 frigates, Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, Severodvinsk-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, Lada-class submarines, and Steregushchiy-class corvettes-all of which benefited from increased shipyard production in the past year. During this same time, Russia announced that its ninth planned Oscar II-class submarine, the Volgorad, would not be commissioned into service as its funding was needed elsewhere.
While Russia's shipyards have also kept busy building ships for China, India, and other navies, several trading partners are beginning to acquire the skills required to build larger, more advanced warships on their own. Thus it may only be a matter of time before exports to China and India begin to wane, though perhaps new markets in places such as Venezuela and Iran will keep Russian shipyards afloat.
Spain is now reaping the benefits of technical and financial investments made more than a decade ago in the Álvaro de Bazán class of Aegis guided-missile frigates. By January 2006, the fourth unit of the class, the Méndez Nuñez, was conducting sea trials. A fifth unit was ordered in 2005 and is expected to enter service by 2012; a sixth unit is also expected. Also on order are four BPC-47 patrol ships, displacing nearly 3,000 tons when fully loaded. The BPC-47 program calls for four of the units to begin entering service by 2008, with an additional six on order. The Spanish submarine community will receive a boost when its four new S 80 submarines begin to enter service around 2011. The keel for at least one of the class is due to be laid down in 2007.
The submarines, being built by Navantia, will be fitted with an air-independent propulsion system, the first such Spanish submarines to be so equipped. Perhaps the most high profile of all Spanish warships is the new 27,000-ton "strategic protection" and amphibious-assault ship, recently named the Juan Carlos I, which is scheduled to commission in early 2009. The new ship displaces a full 10,000 tons more than Spain's aircraft carrier, the Príncipe de Asturias and can carry 1,200 troops or function as a second mini-aircraft carrier for Spanish EAV-8B Harrier jets and helicopters.
Sweden continues to invest in advanced hull designs and technology, and these investments have begun paying dividends. The Karlstad, the last of five Visby-class combatants, was launched in August 2006 and, though hampered by numerous delays, the class promises to live up to its unique design and multipurpose intentions.
In Turkey, efforts to complete eight locally built Type 209/1400 submarines continues with the last of the class, the Ikikci Inönü, to enter service in 2008. Orders for 17 additional S-70B Seahawk helicopters were placed late in 2006, reflecting the importance of maritime aviation and the desire for enough helicopters on board Turkish navy surface ships. Deliveries of the new Seahawks will begin in 2009, and bring to 24 the total planned for Turkish naval service.
Future budget priorities can also be found in efforts to bring the proposed Heybeliada (MIL-GEM) -class corvette program to fruition. Seven of the class are planned, and it is hoped that the lead unit, the Heybeliada, will begin entering service around 2014. In addition to these programs, air-independent propulsion-capable submarines sit high atop the Turkey's naval wish list.
The United Kingdom is heavily involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, and naval operations around the world. As a result, the British Royal Navy has had a difficult year making ends meet. Though belt-tightening measures have been under way for years, additional cuts go so deep that many fear an irreversible degradation in capabilities. In July the First Sea Lord announced that force-projection and maritime security were two primary roles for the Royal Navy, yet attempting to find the right force mix has proved quite vexing.
In the submarine community, older submarines are being retired early to make way for the new Astute-class boats that have been delayed for a multitude of reasons. In 2006 Swiftsure-class submarines Sovereign and Spartan were retired, and Superb is due to retire by 2008. Debate continues on the affordability of the new aircraft carrier program, though first of the class, Queen Elizabeth, is now expected in service in 2014 and Prince of Wales in 2017.
On the surface-combatant front, work on the Type 45 destroyers is progressing, though delays continue to be cause for concern. The first of the class, Daring, was launched in January 2006, and by midyear, reports surfaced that instead of the eight currently planned, only six may eventually be built. In December 2006 the actual delivery date for the destroyers was pushed back by seven months to accommodate rapidly rising program costs. The destroyers are to begin entering service by 2010. Smaller patrol ships appear to be faring better as work on the River class is considered a success, and a fourth, modified unit of the class, Clyde, joined the fleet in 2006 via a lease agreement and serves as Falkland Islands patrol ship, replacing the Castle class.
Concerning amphibious-warfare capability, the first two Largs Bay-class dock landing ships, Largs Bay and Lyme Bay, are now complete with both 16,000-ton warships expected to be fully operational by 2007.
Royal Navy aviation capabilities suffered a difficult blow in 2006 when the last remaining Sea Harrier FA.2 fighters were retired. Though partially replaced by the Royal Air Force GR.7/GR.9, the radar-equipped Sea Harriers and their AMRAAM beyond-visual-range missiles will be sorely missed. Maritime patrol and rotary-wing aviation fared better in 2006 than did the Sea Harrier community, with full production of the Nimrod MRA.4 approved in July 2006. Current plans call for the MRA.4 aircraft to be delivered by 2012. Thirty Future Lynx naval helicopters were also ordered in June 2006, with deliveries planned to start in 2015.
The Royal Navy also plans to replace its older Royal Fleet Auxiliaries under the MARS (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) program. In the not-too-distant future, the U.K. Ministry of Defence hopes to down-select to a single bidder capable of ably managing procurement, construction, and support of the MARS program for decades to come.
Middle East and Africa
Construction of three guided-missile patrol craft for Egypt is under way by VT Halter Marine in the United Kingdom, with the class expected to begin delivery in 2007. Late in 2006 three rolling airframe missile launchers were reportedly ordered to arm the craft. During the spring of 2006, the United States offered two Osprey-class minehunting vessels to Egypt, and delivery of the ships is expected in 2007.
Iran continued saber rattling throughout the past year and twice conducted substantial air, land, sea, and undersea war game exercises in and around the Persian Gulf.
While the lack of stability in neighboring Iraq remains a major question in the world, Iraqi maritime forces have begun to piece themselves together and appear to be in adequate shape. With a current force of around 700 to 800 sailors and 200 marines, the force has made major gains since the Iraqi coastal defense forces stood up in 2004 with little more than 200 trainees. Additionally the force is expected to take delivery of more than a dozen new small patrol boats during 2007-08, though understandably, several locally built small craft are facing delays.
Israel had a difficult year in 2006 and was forced to reexamine its tactics and strategies as a result of lackluster performance battling against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. During fighting, the Israeli missile corvette Hanit was caught with its guard down and struck by a terrorist antiship missile that inflicted substantial, though reparable, damage. There have been some interesting developments for the Israeli submarine force, with two air-independent propulsion-capable submarines ordered from Germany. The new submarines, modified and lengthened versions of the Israeli Dolphin class, are to cost about $1.2 billion in total, with one-third of the cost paid by Germany. Delivery of the new AIP-equipped boats can be expected around 2010. An option for a third new submarine may be exercised at a later date.
With an emphasis on antiterrorism duties, the Israeli navy recently ordered six Defender boats from the United States in addition to a number of smaller boats. Three Super Dvora Mk III patrol boats were delivered in September 2006, and these join three others already in service. On the international cooperation front, Israeli forces have recently joined NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea to assist with Operation Active Endeavor counterterrorism duties.
In Kuwait, 12 new 27-mm guns were ordered to equip each of the new Mk V-C Pegasus-class special operations craft, the first of which are expected to enter service in 2007. The class is a slightly modified variant of those used by U.S. Navy SEAL teams.
As trade becomes more normalized with Libya, discussions are now under way with the Thales Group to examine upgrading Libya's aging Combattante-II-class guided-missile patrol craft.
By early 2006, the African nation of Nigeria had acquired its first Defender-class response boats from U.S. builder Safe Boats, for use in oil-rig defense duties and other maritime patrol-type operations.
In the Middle East nation of Oman, a 64-meter landing craft that was ordered in 2005 and built by Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding in the United Arab Emirates has now been delivered for service. The new landing craft is capable of carrying 50 troops or 46 tons of cargo. Design work continues on a new class of corvettes for Oman to be built by Vosper Thornycroft in the United Kingdom, with deliveries estimated to begin in 2010. The new corvettes will likely be armed with an OTO-Melara gun, vertically launched Mica point defense surface-to-air missiles, and other weapons.
In September and again in November of 2006, news reports indicated that Saudi Arabia's navy was studying an Aegis-equipped version of General Dynamics' littoral combat ship design, as well as expressing interest in purchasing Type 45 destroyers from the United Kingdom.
By early 2007 all four MEKO A-200SAN frigates, the Amatola, Isandlwana, Spioenkop, and Mendi, had been delivered by Blohm + Voss and HDW for South African service, and the class has proven successful enough that the option for a fifth unit was exercised in the summer of 2006. South Africa's submarine program continues as well, with a third and final Type 209/1400 submarine expected to deliver late in 2007. Additionally, four Super Lynx 300 helicopters ordered in 2003 for the South African Air Force are expected for delivery in 2007, to be carried on board their MEKO frigates.
The keel for the first Baynunah-class guided-missile patrol combatants has been laid down, with five more of the new warships now on order for the United Arab Emirates. Current plans call for the 800-ton Baynunahs to be armed with Evolved Sea Sparrow and Exocet missiles, among other weapons. The first of the class is to enter service in 2008. The retired German mine-countermeasures vessels Weiden and Frankenthal were decommissioned and transferred to the United Arab Emirates in late June 2006. Both are Type 332 coastal minehunters and quite young by minehunting standards, with many years of service life remaining. Since recommissioning into UAE service, the Weiden has been renamed Al Hasbah and the Frankenthal is now called Al Murjan.
Argentina's Type 209/1200 submarine Salta has returned to service following a 2005 midlife upgrade, during which the boat received some much needed maintenance and a new battery.
In Brazil work continues, albeit slowly, on the new Barroso frigate, with plans calling for the first and likely only ship of the class to commission in December 2008. All five German Type 209/1400 Mod 3-class submarines have now entered Brazilian service, with the newest unit fully operational by early 2006.
In Canada, continuing budget problems have forced reexamination of upgrades to the Halifax-class frigates and have also delayed service reentry (until 2010) of the submarine Chicoutimi, which was damaged by a serious on board fire in October 2004. Two of the four Victoria-class submarines are back at sea, with a third to be fully operational by 2008. The Canadian submarine program has proved to be a disappointment, though the navy has worked to put these problems in the most positive light. Indeed, the submarines are now expected to play increasingly important roles in training and conducting special operations missions.
Meanwhile, preliminary work continues on Canada's joint support ship program, with prime contractors for the project having been narrowed down to two shipbuilders prior to final selection by the Canadian government. Current plans call for the first of three joint support ships to enter service by 2013, eventually replacing the aging Protecteur-class replenishment ships.
In Chile, two Scorpène-class submarines, O'Higgins and Carrera, have been delivered as has the first British Type 23 frigate, Almirante Cochrane (ex-HMS Norfolk). Two additional Type 23 frigates are expected to enter service by 2008, joining two retired Dutch Jacob van Heemskerk and Karel Doorman-class warships. Interestingly, the Chilean navy has expressed interest in purchasing second-hand S-3 Viking maritime patrol aircraft from the United States. Because these are very capable aircraft with much service life ahead of them, such an acquisition appears wise.
In Mexico, substantial effort is under way to expand the navy's role in countering piracy and terrorism and performing coastal-patrol duties. New patrol ships such as the 1,600-ton Oaxaca class and smaller Centerary and Interceptor classes can contribute greatly in this arena. Interestingly, the Mexican navy is also looking to enhance its aviation capabilities and has been investigating the purchase of SU-27 fighters from Russia to join its recently acquired E-2C Hawkeye AWACS aircraft.
Though no Russian fighter jets are in the offing for the small Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the island has, in recent months, looked to purchase three offshore patrol vessels from the United Kingdom's VT shipbuilding group. Plans at this early stage remain preliminary.
The U.S. Navy has had a busy few years-to put it mildly. With more than 45 percent of its assets deployed and the Fleet less than half the size it was 20 years ago, leaders have been forced to improvise, compromise, and economize.
Despite budget cuts, the Navy's carrier program remains healthy, and work continues on the newest and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the George H. W. Bush. Christened in October, the carrier will enter service in 2008. The new CVN-21 class of aircraft carriers, designed to increase sortie generation, reduce manpower requirements, and innovate engineering systems, is expected to begin construction in 2008. One of the nation's last remaining non-nuclear carriers, the John F. Kennedy, was suffering from arrester gear corrosion and a host of other problems because of Navy neglect, and the carrier is now scheduled to decommission in 2007.
With looming missile threats from North Korea and Iran, among others, efforts to field naval missile-defense capabilities have increased dramatically. Variants of the Standard SM-2 and SM-3 surface-to-air missiles performed reasonably well during recent testing, and at least three Ticonderoga-class cruisers are currently armed to intercept ballistic missiles. Other efforts to modernize the entire cruiser fleet for service are ongoing, though all nonvertical launch system-equipped cruisers have been retired. The Navy plans to order a new type of cruiser, the CG(X), beginning around 2011, though preliminary design work is ongoing.
Today's fleet of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers provide a strong, multipurpose surface-warfare capability, and the newest of the class, the Gridley, commissioned on 16 January 2007. The next generation of destroyers, the Zumwalt class, will be armed with two 155-mm advanced gun systems and long-range cruise missiles, but price increases and an estimated cost of more than $3 billion per ship is cause for great concern among budget watchers and taxpayers.
The real push in recent years has been for the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS) program, but cost continues to rise here as well-by as much as 49 percent, according to some reports. Two prototype teams (one led by Lockheed Martin and one by General Dynamics) are in the process of building "Flight 0" prototypes of their LCS designs. The General Dynamics design, named the Independence class, includes a trimaran hull with a scalable design. It is lighter and wider but with a deeper draft than the Lockheed Martin design, named the Freedom class. As costs continue to rise, the Navy has had to take drastic steps to keep costs in check, including a 90-day work stoppage on LCS-3 while cost matters are investigated.
The U.S. Navy's submarine community has recently accepted the reentry into service of the submarines Ohio, Florida, and Michigan, which have been reconfigured as guided-cruise-missile submarines and are capable of taking part in a broad range of naval special operations duties. The USS Georgia is to rejoin the Fleet in 2007. Virginia-class attack submarines are also entering service as planned, with the second of the class, the USS Texas, delivered in September 2006. A funding contract was awarded for the ninth attack submarine late in the year. A number of older nuclear-powered submarines were decommissioned in 2006, including the Los Angeles-class attack submarines Salt Lake City and Honolulu and the experimental submarine Dolphin.
The schedule for construction of amphibious ships for the Navy remains busy. Seven Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are now in service, with the eighth, the Makin Island, scheduled for delivery in 2008. The number of Tarawa-class LHAs will decline as replacements, including the new LHA-6 class, are delivered. Six units of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks are under construction, with the last of the class, the Somerset, due to enter service in 2011.
If the budget crunch and wartime pace has been difficult for the Navy, it has been even more problematic for the far smaller U.S. Coast Guard. Though increases in manpower have helped, the job of homeland security is enormous, and the Coast Guard fleet is in dire need of replacement. The Deepwater program aims to help solve these problems, but apparent flaws in Deepwater cutter designs and the discovery of large quantities of money having gone unspent on the program raise red flags that will, hopefully, open the door to greater oversight for what is arguably the most important program in Coast Guard history.
Venezuela's bellicose leader, Hugo Chavez, continues to shake his fist in the direction of the United States and has been working diligently to cement ties and anti-American alliances with foreign nations generally considered hostile to the West. As such, Venezuela's recent naval and military buildup has been seen as worrisome in Washington. Among the top items on Chavez's military shopping list were Spanish C-295 maritime-patrol aircraft, which, because of U.S. technology transfer laws, have been blocked from transfer to the oil-rich nation. Israel and Sweden are among many other nations now banning arms exports to Venezuela, though Russia has offered several export versions of the Lada-class submarine, three of which Venezuela is expected to purchase in the near future.
It has indeed been a busy time for naval developments.
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, available in April 2007 from the Naval Institute Press at