Two Sailors Evacuated After Hours-long Fire Breaks Out RIMPAC Warship

Two people were injured in a fire that burned for several hours on a Combined Task Force surface vessel participating in RIMPAC 2022, a Navy official said Sunday. A fire broke out in the engine room at 8 a.m. local time and was extinguished by 1:40 p.m., Cmdr. Sean Robertson, RIMPAC spokesperson, said in a […]

Peruvian Navy corvette BAP Guise (CC-28), French Navy frigate FS Prairial (F731), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyerS USS Chafee (DDG-90) USS Gridley (DDG-101) gather in formation in front of legend-class cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757) during a ship maneuver exercise during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on July 13, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

Two people were injured in a fire that burned for several hours on a Combined Task Force surface vessel participating in RIMPAC 2022, a Navy official said Sunday.

A fire broke out in the engine room at 8 a.m. local time and was extinguished by 1:40 p.m., Cmdr. Sean Robertson, RIMPAC spokesperson, said in a statement.

Two personnel, in “critically stable” condition, were evacuated from the Combined Task Force surface vessel by a French helicopter from frigate FS Prairial (F731), Robertson said. They were taken to U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757) then to carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and then to shore. Navy officials would not detail the ship’s name or country other than it wasn’t American.

U.S. Safeguard-class rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) left Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, according to ship spotters. RIMPAC officials would not confirm if Grasp was dispatched to assist the stricken ship.

According to July 13 images released from the Navy, Midgett and Prairial had been operating in a surface group with Peruvian Navy corvette BAP Guise (CC-28) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Chafee (DDG 90) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG-101).

The following is the complete Sunday statement from the RIMPAC spokesperson.

“As of 1:40 p.m. HST, the fire in the engine room aboard a Combined Task Force surface vessel is now extinguished. Two critically stable patients were evacuated from the ship by a helicopter from French navy frigate FS Prairial (F731) to USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757), and have since been transferred ashore by U.S. Navy helicopter from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).”

Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Miguel Keith Operating in South China Sea

Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is on a Manila port visit in Manila after operating in the South China Sea while Expeditionary Support Base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-6) is in the Philippines for the upcoming U.S-Philippines joint exercise Balikatan 2022, while U.S destroyers conducted firing exercises in the Philippine Sea on Thursday. Balikatan 2022 […]

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Gonzales, from Lotulla, Texas, stands port lookout watch as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Manila bay, Philippines, for a port visit on March 25, 2022. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is on a Manila port visit in Manila after operating in the South China Sea while Expeditionary Support Base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-6) is in the Philippines for the upcoming U.S-Philippines joint exercise Balikatan 2022, while U.S destroyers conducted firing exercises in the Philippine Sea on Thursday.

Balikatan 2022 will run from March 28 until April 8 across Luzon, Philippines and involve 3,800 Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel and 5,100 U.S military personnel according to a U.S Embassy Philippines release issued on Tuesday. “During Balikatan, the U.S. military and AFP will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, 3rd Marine Division Commanding General in the release.

U.S military aircraft have been arriving in the Philippines over the past week with V-22 Ospreys of VMM-363 and KC-130Js of VGMR-152 arriving at Subic Bay International Airport on March 19 and Pacific Air Force (PACAF) C-17s and C-130s flying in to the airport to deliver equipment and material for the exercise. Miguel Keith is currently operating with CH-53E Super Stallions of HMH-466 and AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Ys of HMLA-369 embarked.

Abraham Lincoln pulled into Manila Bay for a port visit on Friday after Wednesday’s operations in the South China Sea. Before that, the carrier was operating in the Philippine Sea. A number of U.S surface ships are also operating in the region on independent patrols. Navy released photos showed destroyers USS Dewey (DDG-105) and USS Milius (DDG-69) conducting live firing exercises on Thursday in the Philippine Sea, with Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block 3As. Earlier Dewey, Milius, USS Barry (DDG-52), and USS Higgins (DDG-76) were shown by 7th Fleet social media to be operating together on March 15 in the Pacific Ocean. All four destroyers are part of DESRON 15, which is based in Japan. The U.S, Australia and Japan conducted a trilateral exercise in the South China Sea which concluded on March 15. The exercise participants were destroyers USS Momsen (DDG-92) and JS Yudachi (DD-103), frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH-151) and a P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft from VP-26. A photo of the exercise with all three ships and the P-8 showed a Chinese warship observing in the background. Yudachi was homeward bound after a deployment to the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrols.

Nearby in the South China Sea region of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) exercise Bersama Shield is ongoing from 19 March to April 22. The joint exercise involves 36 aircraft and three ships, Republic of Singapore Navy Corvette RSS Valour (89), Royal Malaysian Navy Next Generation Patrol Vessel KD Selangor (F176) and Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Tamar (P233) operating together as a combined task group. 

Marines and sailors aboard the USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) conduct flight operations ahead of Balikatan 22 Mar. 19, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Japan reported the sighting of a Russian intelligence gathering ship on Sunday and a Russian destroyer on Tuesday in the Tsushima Strait. In a release on Tuesday, the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self Defense Force stated that a Russian Navy Vishnya-class intelligence ship was sighted traveling southwest 40 km east-northeast of Tsushima. Then the ship went southward in the Tsushima Strait and was spotted around 70 km southwest of Tsushima. The ship then sailed northward in the Tsushima Strait towards the Sea of Japan. Photos of the ship show the pennant number corresponding to RFS Kareliya (535), which is assigned to Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The release stated that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force multi-purpose support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303) and JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi conducted monitoring on the Russian ship.

On Friday, the JSO issued a release stating that a Russian Navy destroyer was sighted at 2 p.m. Thursday traveling south-southwest 210 km northeast of Tsushima.Subsequently the ship sailed southward in the Tsushima Strait toward the East China Sea. The photo of the ship in the release shows the destroyer as RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548) and the release stated missile patrol boat JS Otaka (PG-826) and P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 observed the Russian ship.

The French Navy frigate FNS Vendémiaire (F734) is currently operating in the Sea of Japan as part of a deployment to Southeast and Northeast Asia. The ship recently concluded a port call to Busan, Republic of Korea from March 19 to 24. Before that it conducted monitoring surveillance missions in the East China Sea on ships violating the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile the last of the ships involved in relief operations in Tonga have returned home. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Landing Platform Dock CNS Wuzhishan (987) and replenishment ship CNS Chaganhu (967) arrived home on Monday at Zhanjiang, Guangdong while over in Australia, the Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Canberra (L02) arrived in Townsville on Thursday. Canberra will return to her homeport of Fleet Base East next week, stated an Royal Australia Navy release.

French Carrier Charles de Gaulle Leaves for 2022 Deployment with U.S. Destroyer

The French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group left today for its Clemenceau 22 deployment, which will last until April and take the CSG to the Mediterranean. Task Force 473 is built around aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and includes European Union, NATO and French partner nations during the deployment. French […]

French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle deploys on Feb. 1 2022. French Navy Photo

The French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group left today for its Clemenceau 22 deployment, which will last until April and take the CSG to the Mediterranean.

Task Force 473 is built around aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and includes European Union, NATO and French partner nations during the deployment. French Navy ships in the task group along with Charles de Gaulle are destroyer FS Forbin (D620), frigates FS Alsace (D656) and FS Normandie (D651), replenishment ship FS Marne (A630) and a nuclear attack submarine. Partner ships integrated into the group are U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71), Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Juan de Borbon (F102), Hellenic Navy frigate HS Adrias (F459) and Royal Moroccan Navy corvette Sultan Moulay Ismail (614). A Hellenic Navy submarine will join the task force on Feb. 7.

Ross
’ participating in the Charles De Gaulle CSG demonstrates “the interoperability level between U.S. and French naval forces,” the U.S. Navy said in a news release last week.

“While TF 473 operates in the Mediterranean with an integrated U.S. destroyer, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, working in close coordination with other commands throughout the alliance, is exercising command and control of a U.S. carrier strike group. The flexibility of command and control structures among allies supports the collective defense of Europe,” according to the U.S. Navy.

The embarked air group aboard Charles De Gaulle includes 20 Rafale F3R fighters of Flottilles 12F and 17F, two E-2C Hawkeyes Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft of Flottille 4F, 1 Dauphin helicopter and 1 Panther helicopter of Flottille 35F and 36F, respectively, and a NH90 NFH Caïman anti-submarine warfare helicopter of Flottille 31F. A Belgian Air Component NH90 helicopter is embarked on Forbin. Land-based fixed wing aircraft supporting the deployment are a French Navy Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and a U.S Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The task force will support Operation Chammal, the French component of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, and is also set to conduct exercises with the Italian Navy, the U.S. Navy’s Harry S. Truman CSG and other NATO ships operating in the Mediterranean, reported Naval News. The Truman CSG – which is operating under NATO – is the flagship of the Neptune Strike 22 exercise that will end on Friday, but few details have been released on the exercise due to the ongoing tensions with Russia.

Meanwhile, Russian task groups from the Pacific, Northern and Baltic Fleet are also heading to the Mediterranean to rendezvous for an exercise in the area. The Russian Pacific Fleet task group consists of cruiser RFS Varyag (011), destroyer RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and replenishment ship Boris Butoma. The task group previously carried out exercises with the Iranian Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the Arabian Gulf. Meeting the Pacific Fleet task group in the Mediterranean are landing ship tanks RFS Olenegorskiy Gornyak (012) and RFS Georgiy Pobedonosets (016) and landing ship RFS Pyotr Morgunov (117) from the Northern Fleet and LSTs RFS Korolev (130), RFS Minsk (127), and RFS Kaliningrad (102) from the Baltic Fleet.

In other developments, the French Armed Force Staff disclosed on social media today that patrol ship Commandant Blaison (F793) had shadowed Russian Navy corvettes RFS Stoykiy (545) and RFS Soobrazitelny (531) in the English Channel on Sunday and Monday before handing over the watch to United Kingdom Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll (F231) and U.S. Navy destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) to shadow the corvettes. The Russian ships, part of the Baltic Fleet, had left their home base on Jan. 24 for a long-range deployment that includes participation in the Russian Navy’s large scale exercise and ensuring the naval presence and display of the Russian flag in various regions of the world, according to a Russian military news release issued on the ships’ departure.

French Fleet Beginning to Recover From Budget Turmoil, Says Navy Chief

This post has been updated to correct the planned tonnage of France’s new carrier. The carrier is planned to be 80,000 tons. The French Navy is only now starting to recover from 30 years of deep budget cuts that saw its fleet size halved, its senior admiral said Monday. Adm. Pierre Vandier, chief of the […]

Adm. Pierre Vandier. French Navy Photo

This post has been updated to correct the planned tonnage of France’s new carrier. The carrier is planned to be 80,000 tons.

The French Navy is only now starting to recover from 30 years of deep budget cuts that saw its fleet size halved, its senior admiral said Monday.

Adm. Pierre Vandier, chief of the French Navy since September 2020, said, it “now lacks certain naval assets [going into] the future” despite operational demands that it remains a global force.

Even with an uptick in defense spending, he added, “gaps will not be filled until 2029.” Vandier said that the 20-year plan for the French navy’s modernization runs the gamut from nuclear deterrence with a new 80,000-ton carrier and nuclear submarines to aircraft to support and patrol ships.

To achieve that across-the-board modernization requires a long-term “high-level of investment” to keep pace with competitors’ technological advances and that will require choices, he said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies online forum.

In September, France committed to a 2022 annual defense budget of $48 billion in 2022 — an almost $2 billion increase from 2021, reported Jane’s.

These decisions, included in a French defense white paper to modernize, “were shaped by competition for the global commons.” Vandier defined the commons as maritime, cyberspace and space. “The oceans are closely linked to cyberspace” through the undersea cables transmitting massive amounts of data and space critically important for a navy’s communications and navigation, he said.

“We are in a new arms race” in high technology, Vandier said. He said there is an increasing need among allies to become more interoperable in their military operations. Adding that interoperability was more easily done in the framework of an alliance like NATO but was equally important in the Indo-Pacific.

This competition among great powers in the three commons “gives rise to great risks,” he said. The commons also have become new arenas for gray zone activities – from cyber attacks to disrupting communications to illegal fishing and arms smuggling.

Vandier said in this new year’s meeting with senior naval officers he stressed the need for the service to be ready for “high-end conflict” from the Atlantic into the Indo-Pacific where 1.6 million French citizens live. His guidance to the French fleet shortly after he assumed command in many ways paralleled that of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, he said.

“The challenges are huge,” Vandier said.

Artist’s impression of the French PANG aircraft carrier.

“NATO is the first engagement” for the French navy in meeting its global commitments. Related to the rising tensions over Moscow’s demands on not expanding the alliance and Ukraine’s future, he noted the increased presence of Russian submarines and surface combatants in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and the deployment of S-400 air defense systems.

In response, Vandier said the French “go into the Black Sea on a regular basis,” four or five times a year and has also participated with Turkey in naval exercises there. He said these deployments were “a way to say we’re alongside NATO” and also to re-assure Ukraine.

Vandier added around Ukraine “much of the [Russian] activity is ashore” with the positioning of 100,000 troops along the border and new military exercises in Belarus. In the Black Sea itself, he reported a “normal pattern of life” with the Russian fleet, based at Sebastopol in Crimea.

The United States is watching the increased Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean, said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby during a Monday briefing. The movement so far is not considered threatening, although he would not give specific details on Russian naval activity.

NATO has assumed command of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, which is the first time it has commanded a U.S. strike group since the Cold War.

It is rare for NATO to assume command of a strike group, Kirby said, and it is meant to send a signal of the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.

“I would hope that the message sto be taken away from this is that NATO is a strong alliance, it is unified and the American commitment to the NATO alliance is ironclad,” Kirby said.

In the Indo-Pacific, Vandier said the French are introducing a new class of patrol boats to monitor maritime activities and plan to introduce more patrol aircraft to its possessions there in 2025. Paris is also updating satellite links to the region to better identify “where activity is abnormal.”

He also noted the extended presence of its aircraft carrier strike group in the Indo-Pacific last year as a demonstration of the French navy’s global reach and readiness after decades of budget turmoil.

USNI News reporter Heather Mongilio contributed to this report.

Top Stories 2020: International Naval Acquisition

This post is part of a series of stories looking back at the top naval news from 2020. China, Russia and the U.S. all announced sweeping expansions of their naval capacity in 2020 as the three largest world fleets vie for high seas influence in a declared era of great power competition. The new tone for […]

HMS Queen Elizabeth R08 arriving back in Portsmouth July 2, 2020 after a period at sea conducting Operational Sea Training. UK Royal Navy Photo

This post is part of a series of stories looking back at the top naval news from 2020.

China, Russia and the U.S. all announced sweeping expansions of their naval capacity in 2020 as the three largest world fleets vie for high seas influence in a declared era of great power competition. The new tone for naval forces is helping U.S. allies achieve more lethal navies and expanded capabilities.

Everyone Wants an Aircraft Carrier

Chinese carrier Shandong. PLA Photo

While a debate of the future aircraft carrier force raged in the U.S., American allies and adversaries moved to purchase their own naval aviation capability.

In China, the People’s Liberation Army Navy made progress on its third aircraft carrier that would be a domestic design featuring modern catapults and arresting gear. The Type 003 (occasionally referred to in the West as the Type 002) is a departure from the Soviet-style carriers currently in the PLAN’s inventory.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft. [China’s] second domestically built carrier is projected to be operational by 2024, with additional carriers to follow,” the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities.

At least one senior U.S. official said China’s enthusiasm for the program makes a case for the efficacy of the carrier platform.

“To me that makes all the sense, they’re a maritime power and they understand the great value that comes from carrier aviation and how that can shape the international environment. It’s taken us over 100 years to get that right,” Adm. Chris Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said during the American Society of Naval Engineers 2020 Fleet Maintenance Modernization Symposium in September.
“Lot of blood, lot of loss of life, a lot of sweat and tears to make naval aviation work. We’ve got a huge lead and one that will continue to expand into the future. Go ahead and build that big ship, but to build the ecosystem that is naval aviation that brings that ship to life – that’s going to take a lot of hard work and time.”

Concept image of the LPX-II Lighting Carrier from South Korea. Republic of Korea Navy Image

South Korea is developing capacity to allow their big-deck ships to launch fixed-wing fighters. Following Japan’s conversion of its two Izumo-class helicopter destroyers to field F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, the Republic of Korea Navy is building a light carrier to field F-35Bs. The LPX-II carrier will be dedicated to naval aviation and not be modeled after U.S. and Japanese big deck amphibs, USNI News and Naval News reported in August.

Artist’s impression of PANG aircraft carrier.

France kicked off its own carrier program with an announcement from President Emmanuel Macron in early December. The PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation, or next-generation aircraft carrier) program is set to produce a replacement for the existing FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) aircraft carrier around 2038. Reuters reported the carrier could cost up to $6 billion.

The U.K. Royal Navy continued the development of its two-ship Queen Elizabeth-class carrier program with a carrier strike group exercise featuring lead ship HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). HMS Prince of Wales (R09) was commissioned in late 2019 and has been working through post-delivery trials. The ship is currently undergoing repairs after major flooding in October. In November, the U.K. proposed a massive $32-billion military expansion that includes a larger Royal Navy fleet.

China’s Rapid Naval Expansion

Chinese sailors. Xinhua Photo

China’s rapid expansion of the People’s Liberation Army Navy drew major concern from the Pentagon in 2020.

“The PRC has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020. China is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes,” reads the Pentagon’s annual China military power report.

China is expanding its fleet in every area.

“It’s important to highlight the Chinese shipbuilding advantages in terms of its size of the fleet, is both in context of the broader modernization ambitions, virtual class military. This is a long-term challenge, and it’s not only demarcated by a single variable, which would be total number of vessels, tonnage capacity, capabilities, location, posture, activities, and then other aspects,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said in September.

In addition to aircraft carriers, the PLAN kept up a high rate of construction throughout 2020.

The report highlighted the launch of almost two dozen Luyang III guided-missile destroyers, the commissioning of the 30th Jiangkai II-class guided-missile frigate, the construction of six Renhai guided-missile cruisers and the entrance more than 40 Jiangdao corvettes into the PLAN fleet.

The lead Chinese Type-075 preparing for sea trials. Photo via Weibo

China is also expanding its amphibious fleet, marked by the start of sea trials for the Type-075 big-deck amphibious warship. The Congressional Research Service tied the development of the Type-075 and the Type-071 amphibious warship to Beijing’s desire to reunite with Taiwan.

“The Type 075 would be of value for conducting amphibious landings in Taiwan-related conflict scenarios, some observers believe that China is building such ships as much for their value in conducting other operations, such as operations for asserting and defending China’s claims in the South and East China Seas, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) operations, maritime security operations (such as antipiracy operations), and noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs),” the report reads.

China is also looking to expand its submarine force.

“The PLAN currently operates four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) with two additional hulls fitting out, six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), and 50 diesel-powered attack submarines (SSs). The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis,” reads the report.

Many of the new platforms are fielding new anti-ship weapons and land-attack cruise missiles.

HI Sutton Image, used with permission

China also developed its own unmanned surface vehicle that bears a resemblance to the U.S. Navy’s Sea Hunter program.

Russia’s Less Rapid Naval Expansion

K-560 Severodvinsk in 2018. Russian MoD Photo

Russia has seen a more modest uptick in naval construction in 2020.

In July, Russian Navy head Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov promised the Russian Navy would commission 40 ships into service – a mix of corvettes, mine countermeasures ships, ballistic missile submarines and a blend of nuclear and diesel-electric attack boats.

Among the most important shipbuilding efforts for the Russian Navy is the Yasen-class nuclear attack boat program.

The Russians have been slow to deliver the highly capable attack boats with only one, Severodvinsk, currently in service. Second-in-class Kazan is close to commissioning, successfully test firing both land-attack and anti-ship missiles in a training range near the Northern Fleet’s White Sea naval base, reported Naval News. The third ship in the class is also set to commission soon.

The effectiveness of the Yasen boats have, in part, driven the U.S. to pay more attention to anti-submarine warfare efforts in the Atlantic.

Jane’s reported that the Russians had laid the keel for two more Yasen attack boats, bringing the total under construction to eight.

The Russian Navy is moving to expand its fleet in the Pacific, announcing an increase of 15 ships in its Pacific Fleet in 2020 in the state-controlled Tass wire service.