German Navy Chief: Frigate Deployment to Indo-Pacific First of Biannual Deployments to Region

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – The current six-month-plus deployment of German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) to the Indo-Pacific is the initial step toward a regular biannual naval deployment to the region, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach said today. During his speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ 42nd Fullerton Lecture series in Singapore, […]

FGS Bayern at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. German Embassy, Singapore Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – The current six-month-plus deployment of German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) to the Indo-Pacific is the initial step toward a regular biannual naval deployment to the region, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach said today.

During his speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ 42nd Fullerton Lecture series in Singapore, Schönbach said Bayern’s deployment was to enable the German Navy to familiarize itself with the region, given its last presence here was 19 years ago. He said that, subject to the final decision of the German government, he intends to have German maritime assets deploy to the region on a regular basis, then potentially also in an international format together with European and Transatlantic partner navies.

His intention is to send ships into the region again in 2023.

“This time was just a frigate, as a teaser to prepare for the next time, where there will be two,” the German Navy Chief said.

The 2023 deployment is slated to include a frigate accompanied by an auxiliary ship to support the frigate. Schönbach also said that with the newer F125 Baden-Württemberg-class frigates, the deployment scope could be expanded further, as the ships are capable of remaining in the region for up to two years with a crew rotation in place. The German Navy was in discussions with partners in the region – particularly Singapore along with potentially Japan and South Korea – for the establishment of a non-permanent logistics support hub to facilitate the deployments, Schönbach said.

He noted that while the German Navy would not deploy to the Indo-Pacific in 2022, German Chief of Defence Gen. Eberhard Zorn has announced that German Air Force units, as well as cyber defense units, will deploy to the region in 2022. The Luftwaffe is scheduled to deploy six Eurofighters, three Airbus A330 tankers and three A400M transport aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force’s Pitch Black multinational air combat exercise, scheduled for Sept. 5 through Sept. 23, 2022 in Australia, though Germany is also said to be talking to other countries in the Indo-Pacific about bilateral exercises next year.

Schönbach said that Bayern’s deployment was in line with Germany’s Indo-Pacific policy guidelines that has Germany committed to step up its security and defense engagement in the region.

“Germany is committed to strengthening the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that it remains a place of inclusive cooperation. Germany advocates open shipping routes, open markets and free trade, a level playing field while at the same time promoting digitalization, connectivity and human rights,” he said, adding that the deployment of Bayern is intended to underpin the security aspect of Germany’s commitment in the Indo-Pacific.

FGS Bayern at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. German Embassy, Singapore Photo

During the question and answer session, Schönbach was asked about Bayern not transiting the international waters of the Taiwan Strait. He replied that from the beginning, Bayern was not planning to pass through the Taiwan Strait, as this deployment was a step by step progression for the German Navy after a 19-year absence from the region. Schönbach said he would recommend to the German government that it conduct a transit of the Taiwan Strait during the next deployment.

The German Navy Chief said that while Bayern’s independent deployment with a predominantly bilateral format for its activities may appear to be a contradiction of the German government’s emphasis on multilateralism, it was more beneficial to carry out a bilateral approach, given this was the first deployment.

“I, too, thought long and hard beforehand whether it would be advantageous to sail together with our American, British and/or French partners, integrated into an international naval task group,” he said. “In hindsight I am convinced that it has been a good decision to conduct most of the visits in a bilateral format, in particular as this is the first deployment in this context. By doing so, we have been able to intensify the dialogue with our partners to the benefit of all parties involved.”

Schönbach said that while the integration of a German Navy ship into a U.S., United Kingdom or French carrier task group would make sense both on a practical and logistical basis, doing so would depend on feedback from Germany’s regional partners about Bayern’s deployment. As to whether they preferred Germany to conduct its naval engagement bilaterally or as part of a multilateral group, he said: “We don’t want to be here to demonstrate in a group with others or bringing in a European or NATO problem to this region.”

Earlier today, Schönbach and German Ambassador Norbert Riedel formally welcomed Bayern at Changi Naval Base in Singapore. The ship arrived on Monday. Prior to its arrival in Singapore, Bayern’s previous activities included conducting an exercise with Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Tulsa (LCS-16) in the Philippine Sea in October.

In November, the frigate participated in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s ANNUALEX exercise, which also included participation from the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the U.S. Navy. Bayern also conducted maritime surveillance and monitoring operations in support of the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea last month. While voyaging to Singapore from its last port call in Busan, South Korea, Bayern was replenished by USNS Yukon (T-AO-202).

The ship will now remain in Singapore until January 2022, when it will leave for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for its next port call.

U.S. Begins Exercise Off Japan with Canadian, German and Australian Navies

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training […]

Fifteen ships from the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and U.S. Navy sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training event led by the JMSDF, with navies from other countries invited to participate in the event. This year’s iteration marks the first time the German Navy is taking part in these drills.

The exercise will “include enhanced maritime communication tactics, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction maneuvers,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

The Chief of the German Navy, Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach, reiterated in the release his earlier announcement about a regular German Navy deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

“The German navy will strengthen its commitment to the region through deeper security and defense cooperation with regional partners,” Schönbach said in the news release. “Germany would seek to send a frigate every two years to the Indo-Pacific region with a supply ship.”

German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) is currently on a deployment to the region and participating in the ANNUALEX 2021 exercise. It remains to be seen, however, if the incoming German coalition government that is about to form will support and commit to a regular German naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The U.S. is participating with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and an unnamed Los Angeles-class submarine.

“ANNUALEX presents an opportunity to strategically coordinate, collaborate and further strengthen our network of partnerships and alliances, enabling us to remain a flexible, adaptable and persistent combined force capable of quickly projecting power, where and when needed,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, said in the release.

Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg’s (FFH338) participation in the exercise is its last major engagement for its presence deployment in the region before the ship sails for home. The Royal Australian Navy is participating with destroyer HMAS Brisbane (D41) and frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152). Prior to the exercise, Warramunga and Bayern were on separate monitoring and surveillance patrols in the East China Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Asagiri-class destroyer JS Yamagiri (DD 152), left, JMSDF Asahi-class destroyer JS Asahi (DD 119), and JMSDF Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

JMSDF units taking part in the exercise include helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183), destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105), JS Harusame (DD-102), JS Onami (DD-111), JS Teruzuki (DD-116), JS Asahi (DD-119), JS Yamagiri (DD-152), JS Kirishima (DDG-174), JS Chokai (DDG-176) and a JMSDF submarine.

“Many naval forces (United States, Australia, Canada and firstly Germany) will join this JMSDF exercise. I’m very proud to participate in the exercise as a commander of surface forces,” Rear Adm. Komuta Shukaku, the commander of Escort Flotilla 1, said in the 7th Fleet release. “We will strengthen the cooperation among those navies through this high-end tactical exercise.”

In other developments, Malaysia and the U.S. began Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 virtually and in the waters and airspace of the Strait of Malacca on Tuesday. The exercise, according to a separate 7th Fleet news release, will take place across eight days and emphasize “the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the U.S. and Malaysia to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy will participate with Littoral Combat Ship USS Tulsa (LCS-16) and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft from CTF 72. The Royal Malaysian Navy is expected to deploy frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30) and corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) for the drills.

“Our commitment to dedicating resources in exercises is a testament to our innate belief in the power of sharing responsibility in ensuring regional security,” Rear Adm. Chris Engdahlb, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, said in the release. “MTA Malaysia 2021 represents another step forward.”

The at-sea portion of the exercise will feature training for “divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuver,” 7th Fleet said.
“Other focus areas include surface warfare, mobile dive and salvage training, replenishment-at-sea, a gunnery exercise, and exchanges between Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians.”

Malaysia and the U.S. will also participate in exchange engagements for subject matter experts to drill for multiple missions ranging from diving and salvage to maritime law and law enforcement, according to 7th Fleet.

“The intergovernmental organization personnel from the European Union’s Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (EU-CRIMARIO) initiative will provide subject matter expertise aimed to aid in understanding of the operational environment, and 7th Fleet desires to continue this approach in future iterations,” 7th Fleet said.

MTA Malaysia is part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. The U.S. already completed the Indonesia and Brunei phases of the series earlier this month. MTA Malaysia has resumed with safety mitigation measures after being cancelled in 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Russia announced the first-ever Russia-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) naval exercise, which will kick off on Dec. 1. The Russian Mission to ASEAN announced the news on Tuesday in a social media post.

Destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (548) will represent Russia in the exercise, which will continue through Dec. 3 in Indonesian territorial waters off the coast of North Sumatera. ASEAN nations have yet to release which of their naval ships will participate. This exercise will make Russia the third country, after China and the U.S., to hold naval exercises with the regional body. China conducted exercises with ASEAN in 2018 and 2019, while the U.S. conducted one in 2019. Additional exercises have not been carried out since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.K. Royal Navy Strike Group Drilling with Oman, UAE in Middle East

KUALA LUMPUR – The United Kingdom Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) is now in the Middle East to conduct engagements before returning home in December. After concluding its participation in a maiden joint exercise with India last week, CSG 21 is in the Middle East to undertake F-35 exercises with Oman and […]

Shabab Oman II and HMS Queen Elizabeth on Oct. 31, 2021. Royal Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – The United Kingdom Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) is now in the Middle East to conduct engagements before returning home in December.

After concluding its participation in a maiden joint exercise with India last week, CSG 21 is in the Middle East to undertake F-35 exercises with Oman and the United Arab Emirates air forces in the Persian Gulf, according to a U.K. Ministry of Defence news release from Oct. 25. CSG 21 will also perform maritime training alongside the Royal Navy of Oman.

The British Army will be simultaneously taking part in exercises with Royal Army of Oman units, which will link back to the ship to demonstrate interoperability between land and sea forces, the news release said. Other elements of CSG 21 have completed their participation in the group, such as American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), which departed on Oct. 19 and is now heading home. Frigate HMS Kent (F78) recently made a replenishment stop in Sri Lanka and conducted an exercise with Sri Lanka’s OPV SLNS Samudura (P261), which is the former USCGC Courageous. (WMEC-622), while Richmond has detached from the main body and is currently in Pakistan on a port visit.

Last week, the U.K. CSG wrapped up a joint exercise with India known as Konkan Shakti 21, which took place from Oct. 21 to 27 with two phases – a land phase between the British and Indian armies in Chaubatia, Northern India and a combined sea and air exercise between the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) with CSG 21 in the waters off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea. CSG 21 carried out Exercise Konkan earlier this year with the Indian Navy from July 21 to 22 in the Bay of Bengal, prior to its arrival in the Western Pacific.

Beforehand, the Indian Air Force carried out operation engagements with CSG 21 on Oct. 19 and 20, before CSG 21 docked in India for engagement activities and the harbor phase of the exercise. The sea and air phase of the exercise, which begin on Oct. 24 with CSG-21 ships, involved aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), destroyer HMS Defender (D36), frigate HMS Richmond (F239), replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387), Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805), and CSG 21’s embarked air complement of F-35B fighters, and Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. The Indian Navy participated with destroyers INS Kolkata (D63), INS Kochi (D64) and INS Chennai (D65), frigates INS Talwar (F40) and INS Teg (F45), replenishment ship INS Aditya (A59), a Scorpene-class submarine and Sea King 42B, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters and shore-based MIG-29K fighter aircraft, Dornier and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft. The IAF aircraft deployed Jaguar attack aircraft and SU-30 MKI fighters along with electronic attack, command and control and tanker aircraft.

Participating units were split into two opposing forces, with the aim of achieving sea control for land ground troops at a pre-designated site, the Indian Ministry of Defence said in a news release last week.

One force led by the Indian Navy Western Fleet was comprised of the flag ship Chennai, other warships of the Indian Navy and Richmond. The other force operated under Queen Elizabeth and consisted of the remaining CSG 21 and Indian Navy ships.

The two forces’ drills included replenishment-at-sea approaches, air direction and strike operations with fighter aircraft comprised of the MiG 29Ks and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, and cross control of helicopters.

The forces also simulated induction of Army troops, followed by setting up a joint command operations center. The two forces then conducted a rendezvous at sea with advanced air and subsurface exercises.

 

Meanwhile, destroyer HMS Diamond (D34) sailed out of Singapore last week after resolving technical issues that kept the ship from participating in the Five Power Defence Arrangements 50th anniversary display on Oct. 18. Diamond had successfully completed its participation in the FPDA Bersama Gold exercise prior to the incident. In an Oct. 27 answer to parliament about whether technical faults in the Type 45 destroyers escorting Queen Elizabeth jeopardized the carrier’s safety, U.K. Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said that “the Ministry of Defence regularly reviews the safety and security of deployments during both the planning and operational stages. Prior to the deployment, the number and type of escorts forming the wider Carrier Strike Group for HMS Queen Elizabeth was carefully considered against the planned scheme of manoeuvre. At no point during the deployment has the safety or security of HMS Queen Elizabeth been impacted by technical faults experienced by HMS Diamond.” The replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136) replenished Diamond around October 30 and the two ships are likely now headed to join the main body of CSG 21 in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, submarine HMS Astute (S119), which has operated as part of CSG 21, arrived in Perth, Australia on Friday. The visit is likely tied to the recent Australia-U.K.-U.S. agreement, known as AUKUS, on Australia developing and acquiring nuclear powered submarines via the U.S and U.K.

In other developments, the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is in the South China Sea. Carrier Strike Group 1 is comprised of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW 2), cruisers USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and USS Shiloh (CG 67), and destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106). The strike group is conducting bilateral operations there with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH 184), according to a U.S. Navy news release issued last week. However, tracking on that date showed Kaga with its escort, destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101), making its way down the Malacca Strait and passing the Singapore Strait on Oct. 26. The JMSDF said in a news release on Saturday that the two ships had made a replenishment visit to Changi Naval Base from Oct. 26 to 29.

Kaga and Murasame, with destroyer JS Shiranui (DD 120), form the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) force, though Shiranui is operating separately from the other two ships. Shiranui recently completed a port call in Haiphong, Vietnam from Oct. 24 to 26. It conducted a training exercise last week with the Vietnam Navy’s patrol boat 266 in the waters around Haiphong. Earlier, on Oct. 19-24, Shiranui conducted joint training with destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) in the South China Sea.

Destroyer JS Yudachi (DD 103) and Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) also operated bilaterally in the South China Sea last week. The two ships formed a Surface Action Group (SAG) while transiting and practiced a range of surface warfare tactics, including flight operations, communications drills and coordinated tactical maneuvering, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release.

In the meantime, destroyer JS Akizuki (DD 115), which is on its way back to Japan after completing a Middle East deployment, conducted joint training off of Okinawa with destroyers USS Benfold (DDG-65) and HMAS Brisbane (DDG 41) on Oct. 25. Brisbane subsequently docked at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka on Oct. 30 for a replenishment stop. Japan’s Defense Ministry on Oct. 28 announced that Australian frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) is currently conducting monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit maritime activities, including ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels prohibited by the United Nations Security Council resolutions, in the waters surrounding Japan.

German Navy frigate Bayern (F217), which is on a deployment to the region, is also heading to Japan. Bayern previously made a port call to Guam, where it exercised with Jackson and USS Tulsa (LCS-16) on Oct. 18 prior to the port call.