Monday, December 17, 2007

NoCo 2007 - New Name, Same Thing

The German Luftwaffe's Operational Staff Airforce just completed exercise "Kalkar Sky 2007".

This was a comparable small exercise by numbers of people involved, however a somewhat important one - the task was to install and operate a Combined Joint Forces Air Command HQ (no, you don't want to know the German term for that), command forces enforcing a simulated no-flight-zone, coordinate tactical air transport, SAR, MEDEVAC etc pp. The usual things. Primarily a test of newly acquired C3I IT equipment and "deployable HQ structures", btw.

The interesting part? The scenario.

It involves Amberland and Beachland, a former war leading to a just-beginning peace-keeping & -enforcing EU/NATO mission, a no-flight zone installed over the disputed territories,
a fundamentalist separatist group in the disputed territories operating with terrorist tactics, the whole thing turning into a limited asymmetric war zone...

Right. That's exactly the Northern Coast 2007 OPGEN scenario, with the focus here being on the airforce assets instead of the Navy.

I'd actually love to see this scenario develop. Update it a bit, say every 3 or 4 months, with OPFOR info from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon (all three of which are in there), as well as other intel, and let it run its course with regular maneuvers over the next couple years. As long as there are good storyboard writers in the background, this could turn out interesting.

Fully Operational?

Since their commissioning, the three Type 124 AAW frigates have been wrought with one little problem - their FCS software is incompatible. This is the result of ordering the ships from three different yards, and splitting FCS installation along with the contract (something that will not be repeated with Type 125). The incompatibility isn't visible at first - each ship funtions perfectly well, as long as it's on its own. However, the three ships are not able to share battlefield information among each other beyond standard Link-11 datalink messaging. Which effectively means that they cannot form a joint AAW battlespace.

The problem has been known for over a year now. It pretty much popped up after the second Type 124 commissioned. And they're still working on fixing it, with about any attempt short of ripping out the entire system on all three ships. What adds time to is that the three frigates are doing their regular training; the Marine just keeps them "close" and doesn't send them on deployments. By most accounts, the problem "should be solved" next year.

Last week, the Type 124 frigate Hamburg completed the German Operational Sea Training. The GOST is held in a NATO framework at Plymouth under Royal Navy auspices every year. It lasts 6 weeks and effectively trains every part of the ship's crew in full wartime operations; this includes live-fire exercises, firefighting/damage control, and other scenarios, and is finished with the "Weekly War", a full War scenario for a flotilla.

Now, both her sisters, Sachsen and Hessen, completed the same in the years before as flagships of small flotillas. What's different about Hamburg is that she's now actually going to be deployed next year. Not to one of the full deployments (UNIFIL and TF150), but as leader of the EAV - the German training cruise flotilla, which will also include Type 122 frigate Köln and a AOR. In previous times, when a Type 124 lead the EAV, such cruises were short due to above software problems - North Sea, North Atlantic, Mediterranean perhaps.

This time, the three ships will "visit three continents, do live-fire exercises in South Africa, and do joint maneuvers with the South-African and Indian Navies as well as navies of other NATO partners". In short: It'll pretty much revisit SNMG1's cruise around Africa - with a stint across the Indian Ocean as well.

It'll be interesting to see how Hamburg will perform on this cruise. And how much it will be covered publicly. Especially when it enters the TF150 AoR.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Modern Naval Fire Support

TKMS, in its latest release on the F125, has confirmed planned integration of ADLER-II/ASCA into the ship's FCS. A little thing that popped up somewhere in the middle of the text, without much fanfare. And as I understand it, the integration is not just for a proprietary system with an ASCA interface, but full-scale ADLER-II integration.

Now what does that mean? Simple - ASCA is an interface protocol for NATO artillery C2I systems, here in particular the German Army's ADLER-II artillery combat network. ADLER-II provides information distribution, establishment of the battlefield situation, full fire direction and fire control capability for all connected units, and the necessary calculation routines regarding weapon and ammunition selection based on target, weather, geological information and other parameters.

ASCA itself is a joint protocol also allowing the ADLER-II network nodes - and the F125 - to be networked with other Artillery C2I systems, such as the US AFATDS system.
This integration is on some levels similar to the USN Naval Fire Control System (NFCS), although NFCS requires some more complicated local problem resolvement.

This integration will allow a F125 offshore to act within the battlefield network as "just another" artillery gun - available to the artillery network without complication, and capable of providing naval fire support as directed by standard Army forward artillery observers.

What will be interesting is whether they'll integrate the RBS-15 Mk4 missiles into the network as well - it's currently being done for GMLRS missiles on Germany's MARS launchers, so guided systems are definitely not out. Shouldn't be that much trouble, as the Mk4 system is still under early development, and would be a real force multiplier on a tactic-strategic level.

Where are the Corvettes?

The new German K130 "corvette" class (at 1,840 tons, they're light frigates in reality) has received a lot of hype from the German Navy.

However, it seems as though their introduction is turning into a long, drawn-out affair. Originally, it was planned to commission the first two corvettes in 2007, with the other three following in 2008.

To be more exact, F260 Braunschweig was supposed to commission in May 2007, F261 Magdeburg sometime around July. Then May came around, and the Navy pushed commissioning dates back to "Summer 2007" for both ships. Understandable, as Braunschweig did have some problems during her early sea trials - including damaging her screws on a high-speed run.

Then "Summer 2007" rolled around. And where are the corvettes? Well, on trials. Still. They were also not commissioned in Autumn '07. F260 Braunschweig was originally planned for the Northern Coasts 2007 exercise, back in late October (and this was still the plan in September, one of the backposted potential commissioning dates). As she apparently wasn't ready, she was struck from that exercise.

Actually, they're nowhere around their future squadron's homeport, Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea, even - both ships tend to hang around Kiel and in particular Wilhelmshaven lately, the sites of the two Marinearsenal navy yards. Sometimes in other ports for trials, e.g. in Eckernförde (the German submarine force homeport). Occasionally they seem to go to sea for trials, or are used in port shows - but not much else.

There are some rumours that F260 Braunschweig is still supposed to commission this year - though, considering there's only like two weeks left of that year, that's really rather doubtful.

The construction goes on nonetheless. All five corvettes have now been christened and launched, the last one (F264 Ludwigshafen) on September 26th. All corvettes already carry their armament - even Ludwigshafen is being shown with her forward RAM and 76mm displayed proudly.

And even the training of future crews is ongoing. This is done "dry" on a full replica of the stations at the Marinetechnikschule in Stralsund. This has been going on since at least July with two technical crew being trained.

So where's the delay? Some critical failure in building? Engine problems? One can only wonder...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Entering Combat ... though not in the South

Since late October, German forces in Afghanistan have been involved in Operation "Harekate Yolo II", in some cases seeing heavy fighting. This lasted about two weeks, and has only since last week slowly surfaced.

The operation is a joint NATO effort to regain control of the provinces Badghis and Farjab in north-west Afghanistan. Badghis is part of the Italian Regional Command (West) and Farjab lies next to it in the German Regional Command (North) zone.

Over a few previous weeks, Taliban forces had apparently overrun several districts in both provinces, attacking police stations and local security forces, and taking some measure of control in Badghis province in the Italian zone. There, Taliban units also blocked the "Ring Road" which connects all major Afghan cities. Estimates talk about around organized Taliban units numbering around 300 men in the area, with "not only light weapons".

The primary unit in the operation is the 209th Afghan National Army Corps with up to 900 soldiers deployed, along with its embedded Bundeswehr advisors. Germany also supplied recon forces, medical support and logistics units with up to 300 soldiers deployed. Additionally, some 260 Norwegian soldiers were deployed (including the RC(N) QRF from Mazar-e-Sharif), as well as Italian units and other, smaller NATO groups. The German Regional Command under Brigade General Dieter Warnecke, who lead this operation for ISAF, was forward-deployed to Maimaneh in Farjab province, where the Norwegian PRT is located. RC(N) units were not only deployed in Farjab, but, for some time, also out-of-area in Badghis in the Italian zone.

Fighting to regain Badghis province was apparently heavy. For Norway, newspaper Aftenposten cites the Norwegian Commander that last monday's fighting was the heaviest Norwegian units have been involved in since WW2. No NATO casualties in connection with this operation have so far been reported though.

Apparently, several times, air strikes had to be ordered to support ground forces, in one case killing a high Taliban commander according to NATO (and some civilians by unaccounted Afghan sources). These strikes were directed by German or Norwegian advisors accompanying the Afghan forces. In another case, Norwegian Forces had to call in airstrikes as they came under mortar fire from fortified Taliban positions. German Tornado Recce assets were also heavily used in the operation.

After about two weeks, the operation was declared over last week; German and Norwegian units withdrew back from Badghis to Farjab. Badghis was declared in a "state of consolidation", with other NATO troops stabilizing it, and Afghan forces supposed to take back over "in a few weeks".

Taliban troops in the area are of course not beaten yet. Taliban Commander Mansur Dadullah announced a "new front" in the North a week ago, and yesterday in Farjab, Norwegian forces that were involved in the operation suffered one fatality and one injured from a roadside bomb attack.
Pressure on the region has been increasing over the last two months; German troops had already been involved in - less violent - joint operations with ANA units in the eastern part of its zone. The reason for this increase in pressure is a power vacuum created by the local Warlord General Dostum losing influence and money.

Norway is - in light of this and planned future operations - currently increasing its deployment to Afghanistan, with an extra 50 military advisors for the ANA, and a 150-strong combat company with 2-3 helicopters planned for early 2008. These are specifically planned to "increase presence" in RC(N) and will bring the Norwegian deployment to 700 soldiers total. Germany still has a buffer of about 350 soldiers available in its recently extended mandate in addition to the deployed 3,150 soldiers. Defence Minister Jung announced late October that German military advisor numbers to the ANA would be "tripled". The rest of the buffer - about 250 soldiers - will be filled by German troops replacing 240 Danish and Czech troops in the North. A related measure is probably also that six CH-53 - long planned - finally transferred last week from Task Unit Termez/Uzbekistan to Task Unit Mazar-e-Sharif.

The recent fighting - also in the South and East - is some of the last major operations on both sides before the Afghan Winter will grind everything to a halt later this month. It'll be interesting to see what will happen in spring.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A reiteration of "Basis See"

As it's popped up around a couple forums, a reiteration of the concept.

The concept intends not to build a taskforce around a single base unit, but to assemble a taskforce in which every ship provides specific capabilities.

Within the stabilization forces (as these are the more interesting ones for "Basis See"):
  • Type 125 FFG: C3, MIO base, Land Attack, ASuW, Escort, transport/ASW/SAR (2 helos)
  • Type 143A FAC: ASuW, Escort, Patrol (Link 11/Palis CMS)
  • Type 212A SSK: Patrol/Surveillance, ASW, ASuW, SOF
  • Type 332 MCMV: Minehunting (Penguin B3 UUV)
  • Type 333 MCMV: Minehunting (Seefuchs I UUV), Patrol (Link 11/Palis CMS)
  • Type 352 MCMV: Minesweeping (Seehund USV), Patrol (Link 11/Palis CMS)
  • Type 404 AGS: supply, limited C3, maintenance
  • Type 702 AOR: supply, limited C3, medical, transport (78 TEU), evacuation (450 PX), transport/ASW/SAR (2 helos)
  • P-3C MPA: Patrol/Surveillance, ASuW, ASW

In the up-downward 3-tier system, the Intervention Forces lend downward support for AAW and ASW in particular, the Support Forces lend upward support with towing, supply, transport etc.

Within "Basis See", units out of the above are attached as needed.

The F125 in particular is not intended as a "mothership" of any sorts, nor is it intended to optionally have the capabilities that other units within the "Basis See" provide. The A702 EGVs have far more of such a "multi-role base" role.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Praising Continuity

Yesterday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected vice-chairman of the Social-Democrat Party of Germany. Now, of course, this candidate isn't just anybody - he's the current German Foreign Minister.

His speech at the party summit, before being elected, summarized his intentions with regard to foreign policy quite easily - continue what we're doing, and balance our way through the international scene.

One particular project of his - sanctioned by the Chancellor - is the attempt to form a strategic partnership with Russia. He describes this as a "key question" for both Germany, the European Union, and beyond, and goes on to say that Russia - despite some "frustrations" - is a key to maintaining international stability.
Steinmeier's main "keystone" is "energy foreign politics", ie securing energy resources for Germany and the European Union. To him, "global security" means "energy security" foremost - hence a concentration of foreign policy on establishing the necessary ties to secure ressources.

Something that the German Foreign Ministry sort of highlighted last year is that "a lot" of areas German soldiers are operating in are potential energy ressource providers. The Northern areas that Germany commands and attempts to stabilize in Afghanistan - in particular the Jowzjan province - have natural gas fields, with the production facilities were destroyed in the 80s. There are German soldiers in Uzbekistan already, and Turkmenistan "looks interesting". Georgia, as an important future transit country of oil from Azerbaidjan, has a German military observer mission. In Sudan, where Germany has some 75 soldiers, Germany is supporting the oil-rich Southern rebels - and German companies are already planning "alternative" routes for Sudanese oil through "safe" Kenya.

The unilateral cancelling of the treaties that ended the Cold War - CFE, INF etc - by both Russia and the USA is something seen "with great concern". Germany is working on several initiatives regarding international disarmament, in particular with the renewal of the NPT, and these actions are rather "disruptive".
The US missile shield is a project Steinmeier sees "with concern" due to its repercussions on stability in Europe with regard to Russia - hence it's something technically - in the current "version" - opposed by Germany.
In recent months, Steinmeier has repeatedly talked about "renewing" and "redeepening" the relationship with the USA. However, recent US foreign policy (threatening with "WW3" and "military options") is something that has been sharply criticized by Germany.

Steinmeier - and the SPD - support Turkey in entering the European Union, in particular as Germany has had a considerable Turkish minority for the last 40 years. However, any kind of military escalation on the Turkish-Iraqi border is something also seen "with great concern". Iran is seen as another "keystone" in German politics in that area - including as a potential guarantor to peace and stability in areas where Germany is involved - Lebanon/Syria, and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a topic by itself really. The direction aimed for by Steinmeier - and hence, Germany - is to reduce OEF soldiers in favour of ISAF, stabilizing the region Germany is operating in (instead of patrolling the coast of Somalia). Withdrawing from Afghanistan is out of the question.

The one bloc that has seen changes recently is the treatment of China - that relation has cooled down significantly from the 2002/2003 times of open political cooperation. Germany has just been officially visited by the Dalai Lama - and Uyghur dissidents will also soon officially visit the Chancellor. China is of course reacting to this with the usual diplomatic inconveniences - which Germany fully returns. It will be interesting to see this developing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Current German Navy Deployments

To the best of my knowledge. Notably absent from any of the deployments are both Berlin class AORs (update: found one of them, Berlin, see below).


Mandate recently renewed; drawdown to one frigate, one tender and two to four smaller units.

FGS Bayern (F217)
FGS Donau (A516)

Rotating In:
FGS S72 Puma (P6122)
FGS S75 Zobel (P6125)

Rotating Out:
FGS Lübeck (F214) (late October)
FGS Kulmbach (M1091) (early November)
FGS Ensdorf (M1094) (early November)

CTF 150 (Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa)

FGS Augsburg (F213)

TFE (Operation Active Endeavour)

FGS Oker (A53)


FGS Spessart (A1442)


FGS Rhön (A1443)


FGS Datteln (M1068)


German contribution inactive since July 07.
Original planning: FGS Kulmbach, now in MTF 448.

Northern Coast 2007

Exercise finished 10/26, mission drawing down.

Rotating Out:
FGS Hessen (F221)
FGS Bremen (F207)
FGS S78 Ozelot (P6128)
FGS Dillingen (M1065)
FGS Bad Rappenau (M1067)
FGS Alster (A50)
FGS Werra (A514)
FGS Ammersee (A1425)
FGS Tegernsee (A1426)
FGS Westerwald (A1435)
FGS Fehmarn (A1458)
FGS Spiekeroog (A1452)

Training Cruises

FGS Gorch Fock - enroute from Halifax
FGS Hamburg (F220) - currently in Devonport
FGS U15 - currently in Devonport
FGS Rheinland-Pfalz (F209) - returning from UK

Docked in Marinearsenal

Ships in regular/irregular maintenance, only those with known data.

FGS Karlsruhe (F212) - planned till November
FGS S74 Nerz (P6124) - as of early October
FGS Berlin (A1411) - planned till mid-November

NBC on the Rise?

NBC Counter Warfare has been scaled back to next to zero in Western countries since the end of the Cold War. Especially since shortly after the Gulf War, no one has been interested in it - threat dealt with, no more money. Even though OIF in 2003 again saw deployment of specialized units (both by the USA and Germany), existing equipment was deemed enough for that purpose. This is particularly interesting as NATO in 2002 committed its "Prague Initiatives for NBC Defense" which were supposed to increase capability in this field. The German take on the components of that NATO initiative pretty much was "we already have that, now shut up". Ok, not really, but it appears to have developed along those lines.

Germany has, since the end of the 90s, scaled down its active capabilities in that field effectively to only two battalions (from seven), two companies (mostly for training) and a few spread-out platoons.
Procurement of new decontamination equipment (TEP-90) has been postponed for the last 15 years now, with only some units equipped, still leaving the decon platoons with the good old Cold War equipment from the mid-70s that was already breaking down constantly when i worked with it 8 years ago. Same for the Fuchs/Fox, which is pretty much a 60s APC equipped with "cutting-edge" early 80s electronics (late 80s in the US Fox).

Now, suddenly, there seems to be interest again. Germany now holds yearly large-scale exercises (codenamed Golden Mask, with 800+ soldiers each time), but these are mostly intended to prepare the NATO Response Force CBRN Defence Battalions, and to train civil-military cooperation in that area a bit. And there's suddenly orders for equipment:

Rheinmetall reports an entire series of orders for their NBC detection equipment, to the tune of about €25 million. Sounds low - as military orders go - but for this money, Germany and the USA are upgrading 37 and 18 Fuchs/Fox mobile NC detectors respectively. For scale: 18 Fuchs are the entire recon component of a mixed NBC Battalion. Additionally, Germany has ordered a prototype for a bio-warfare analysis laboratory on a Yak armored truck (a Duro 3), something that Germany so far hasn't had in mobile form. Switzerland is buying prototypes for a future series of 12 mobile NBC analysis laboratories.
For the near future, Rheinmetall expects follow-up orders (with the prototypes, and more upgrades) for over €50 million.

Interesting that this suddenly pops up like this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Splitting Forces

I've mentioned in some other places how the F125 project is part of a very specific effort for specific tasks. Thought I'd expand on that a bit...

The Bundeswehr, in 2003, started a transformation process. The end result of this transformation process will be essentially a three-tier military formed around specific tasks.

The first tier are the Intervention Forces, a core military force of 35,000 combat personnel that will be equipped with top notch equipment, and will be specifically trained for a peace-enforcing role. That is, overpowering an enemy, quickly, with superior technology primarily. This core military force will have about 2 divisions in ground forces available, as well as a modern full-spectrum naval taskforce, and appropriate airforce support for anything that's needed.

The second tier are the socalled Stabilization Forces, which pretty much rely on manpower, and are trained and equipped to handle peace-keeping missions. They will have about 5 divisions in ground forces, a navy taskforce specifically built up around their task, and some serious air support when needed.

The third tier are the Support Forces - pretty much anything that doesn't fit directly into the forward- or rear-echelon combat parts of the first two tiers. The wider logistics scale, infrastructure - including forward bases -, maintenance units, anything that's stationary in Germany, and, pretty important too, all training. This tier supports the other two in their operations, and also provides other, secondary functions also in the civilian world such as for example SAR or VIP transport.

It's actually a rather radical idea to put up the forces along these lines - however, for Germany, it provides the opportunity to streamline their forces their along multinational contribution requirements, to streamline the already low conscript usage by the military - by building "usable" units completely devoid of conscripts - and to streamline funding of course along priorities.

So, the F125. Well, let's first expand on what the navy contributes where according to 2003 data:

Intervention Forces: 3 F124 (AAW), 4 F123 (ASW), 5 K130 (ASuW), 4 U212A (SSK), 6 MCMV, 3 aux
Stabilization Forces: 8 F122 (ASW), 10 S143A (FAC), 4 U206A (SSK), 9 MCMV, up to 6 aux, 10 MPA
Support Forces: all civilian-manned auxiliaries

The F125 is the replacement for the F122 class. It's also the first step at redefining the outfit of the Stabilization Forces in order to make it fit its task.

The long-term plan for the Stabilization Forces is now shaping out to look like this:
  • 4 F125 as "cores" for taskforces, primary role maritime interdiction/land attack; 2014+
  • 6 K131 corvettes, role yet to be defined, replace FACs; 2020+
  • 2-4 U212A submarines, modified for recon/surveillance/SOF role; 2012+
  • 9 MCM units; from existing stock
  • 2 JSS cargo/sealift ships, design yet to be defined, new capability; 2020+
  • 2 AOR; second carrying a containerized joint command center, 2013+
  • 3-4 tenders; from existing stock
  • 8 MPA; for the medium-term, the P-3C recently bought used
These Stabilization Forces have a very broad taskset. One that doesn't really include "traditional" conventional naval warfare though - that's what the Intervention Forces fleet is for. The taskset will be to patrol embargoes, patrol coastal areas, support land-based peacekeeping forces, general littoral-only warfare, SOF support, limited tactical land attack. Within their spectrum, they're capable of dealing with ASW (via helo/MPA/subs), MW and ASuW threats, for AAW beyond self-defence land-based fighters (roughly 2-4 squadrons within the Stabilization Forces) or the Intervention Forces have to lend lateral assistance.

Within that roleset, the F125 outfit - relatively low, special armament, relatively large design, high endurance, small commando carrier - make a lot of sense. The future K131 corvette class will be used to fill holes in the concept, with the design or role to be defined sometime over the next 10 years.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Working in the Background

The Baltic Sea, in recent times, has become somewhat more of a potential low-conflict zone. This, of course, because of the Joint German-Russian pipeline that is supposed to run through it, and for which construction is supposed to start next year already.

The big point for other nations is where this pipeline is supposed to run, and who will tend to it once operational. Russia has stated that the Russian Baltic Fleet will be used to protect the pipeline - something Sweden deeply opposes, as this would permanently place the Baltic Fleet just right outside of Sweden's 12-mile zone. In the south, disputed territory between Denmark and Poland in the sea has lead to the pipeline being rerouted through non-disputed waters. And in the north, of course, Estonia is refusing to have it run through its waters, so there's another detour there. And Poland of course is simply calling the pipeline "the new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" (aka "Hitler-Stalin Pact"), because it will make it possible for Russia to cut gas to Poland without affecting Western Europe. Finland is cooperating with Germany and Russia - they're completely dependant on Russian gas anyway, and are getting a new direct spin-off from this pipeline out of it.

Germany has so far pretty much not commented on such security and conflict considerations. However, there's work going on in the background, somewhat silently. It might also be that this actually "conveniently" drowned somewhat in news of Russia testing new bombs, reactivating naval aircraft patrols and such around the same time.

On September 14th, the German and Russian Navy signed a bilateral cooperation treaty (i.e. outside existing NATO PfP arrangements) to "improve joint operations against new threats". This was followed by a 4-day visit visit of the Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Sidenko, to the German Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Stricker, on October 10th now, with a little tour through commands and some squadrons. Of course, officially, this visit runs under NATO PfP of course, but it's an interesting coincidence.

Of course it all just ties into a bigger picture. The German and Russian Navy have cooperated closely since 2006. Germany got the Baltic Fleet into the annual Open Spirits minehunting operation since then, integrating them closer with NATO navies in the area. Ships of the Baltic Fleet have paid friendly visits to German events in 2007 - such as a Neustrashimy at the Kieler Woche - and Russian and German rear-echelon officials have exchanged concepts and ideas with regard to coastal security and environmental protection since 2006.

All little things, which don't really pop up in the news. But things that could be interesting when considering the future - post-2010 - security environment of the Baltic Sea region.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Concept Testing, Part 2

I've by now actually read the scenario outlines for NOCO '07. These are actually available declassified through the English article on the exercise.

The exercise, to hype realism, is rather complicated. It involves a multitude of tasks, both symmetric and asymmetric, for the employed forces within an environment that involves five virtual countries.

The biggest part is probably the final exercise Honest Mediator from October 21st to 25th. It will involve:
  • - multiple symmetric air threats (Tornados)
  • - multiple asymmetric air threats (Pilatus, T17, light helos)
  • - asymmetric subscenarios (terrorists, pirates) including hostile EW and IEDs
  • - maritime interdiction operations (against smugglers)
  • - MIW operations (ocean sweeping, harbour demining, EOD at sea - with hostile mine laying both by ships and subs)
  • - special forces usage against coastal targets (from a U212A submarine)
  • - ASW operations (against the U206A and the Gotland)
  • - convoy escort missions (including of course incidents)
  • - other events: disaster relief, riot control in port and at sea, land-side attacks on ports
And the whole thing wrapped into a background involving a recent (and still hot) ceasefire between two warring nations, and NATO forces moving in peacekeepers via sealift.
The force protection requirements for involved units read almost as if they're holding this exercise somewhere in the Gulf.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Concept Testing

Just as the NATO CoE for Littoral Warfare (I don't think they really expect anyone to say "operations in confined and shallow waters") in Germany is slowly starting work and establishing itself, Germany already engages in the first maneuver coached and inspired by this CoE.

And what a maneuver it is. Probably one of the biggest joint maneuvers in years. And by big I really mean big. I'm rather surprised at the numbers, so i better repeat that.

The name is Northern Coasts, short NOCO, and this will be a new ongoing multi-national exercise series happening annually. For Germany, the deployment for this multi-national exercise will replace the national SEF training exercises. The focus will be on large-scale interoperability between Allied navies and land and air forces, just as the new Navy doctrine prescribes.

In 2007, the focus is joint navy-airforce operations , with some ground force involvement as well, in a realistic scenario (deployment on UN ticket in a interstate conflict background). The scenario will involve certain component tasks of "Basis See", e.g. embargo enforcement, convoy escort and humanitarian assistance. And, from the ships involved, there'll also a rather hefty MIW and ASW part. The exercise will take place in the Western Baltic Sea and last a full two weeks (October 12th to 25th).

The line-up on the German side includes one F124 AAW frigate, one F122 ASW frigate, one ELINT ship, two minehunters (one of which has been refitted as a "guard ship" - a gunboat if you want - for boarding ops), one tender, two submarines (one 206A and one 212A), one FAC and five "local" auxiliary units (high-sea tugs, small tankers and such - probably "bait" in the exercise).

In Seabase terms that means the deployed German Seabase will at least have a command ship with AAW capability, a full-spectrum ASW capability (as there's also a P-3C deployed), two RAS- and VERTREP-capable supply ships, large recon assets, and boarding/interdiction assets with minehunting capability.

The second large contribution will be by Sweden - two corvettes/FACs, a submarine, no less than six minehunters, and three auxiliaries (including a minelayer).

Of course however, the German and Swedish Navy won't be alone. Denmark commits Esbern Snare, the second ship of their new Absalon multi-purpose class. Denmark, Finland and Latvia will also each send two FACs/patrol boats as well. The UK and Poland will each send in a frigate (a Type 23 and a OHP).

The airborne component of this exercise will be provided with two MPAs, four fighter jets and eight helicopters. Additionally, both Sweden's and Germany's contributions include special forces, in particular mine divers, and Germany uses some MSK naval infantry as well, presumably as MPE units. France provides some staff personnel for exercise planning.

Looks like the new NATO CoE is getting some good introduction here. And, with "about 40 ships" involved officially (Hm? Did i miss five?), this is probably one of the biggest exercises worldwide for 2007. It will be interesting to see results of this exercise.

And btw, the German Navy really should work on their press releases a bit. While the English-language article reads rather dry and technical, it has a lot more info on the procedures that will be trained in this exercise. The German version is sort of short and informative - but it lists all participating units down to the number of UH-1D helos deployed.

Gunboat Diplomacy and Asymmetric Threats

So what does "Basis See" actually mean for deployments for the German Navy, as, with its means, it certainly wouldn't be any equivalent to parking a CBG or ESG offshore to enforce political goals?

"Basis See" (the Seabase) is of course modeled on current deployments (OEF, OAE, UNIFIL), and the direction these could take in the future. Past deployments, such as to Cambodia or Somalia, or missions in Albania and DR Congo also play into how it it composed. The core strength of the Seabase is that it is scalable, and easily adaptable.

A Seabase could be stationed to perform disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in South-East Asia - and would then be composed of say a EGV or JSS along with a frigate like the F125 providing additional airlift or SAR functions while also providing security. This is modeled on actual deployment after the tsunami in Indonesia btw, where Berlin was quickly detached from TF150 and sailed across the Indian Ocean with Allied escorts.

A Seabase could also easily be composed to provide a - littoral - embargo and interdiction system - in that case, a F125 could be joined by several smaller "gunboat" units such as the converted minehunters and FACs and a tender for supply, with ground forces and land-based air assets also networked into the Seabase. Submarines and/or ELINT ships would provide surveillance for the entire taskforce.

In a quick, potentially dirty, peacekeeping deployment such as the one in 2006 to DR Congo - to provide security during elections there - Seabase components offshore would provide not only supply and maritime overwatch roles (as the Navy did in that deployment), but could also provide a "safer" location for command and communications, as well as a central network node for intelligence and reconnaissance. If the situation goes potentially haywire - like in Somalia - the deployed Seabase could provide the ground forces with fire support, as well as - depending on composition - could evacuate deployed forces in orderly fashion.

For the more naval side, deployments such as Gibraltar Straits within OAE, or the primary function of TF150 - providing escort for transiting ships - can be taken care of within the Seabase framework; like in that past deployment, the deployed Seabase would consist of a central core with a command frigate and supply ships, with FACs or corvettes depending on theater providing actual escort against asymmetric threats - be they pirates, local insurgents or terrorists - and land-based assets within secured areas providing additional general support (logistics, fire support...) as well as airborne overwatch/patrol support. If an underwater threat such as minefields has been identified, the appropriate capability can easily be attached to the system.

So, what's really new about this "Basis See"? After all, it only provides the exact same functions the Navy has filled otherwise in the past years.

Well, mostly "Basis See" is about enhanced integration. The Navy is now defining a framework from which capabilities are selected and deployed according to the needs of deployments. What happens if that isn't applied was somewhat visible in the TF150 deployment within OEF: German Forces in that theater were vastly oversized, and some components - such as the FACs - weren't suited to the environment even. The result is that Germany has withdrawn almost its entire forces from that deployment - one frigate remains there - while Allies are clamoring for more contribution.

For comparison, the initial German contribution to TF150 consisted of twelve ships, about ten aircraft, a logistics unit, and a company-sized naval infantry deployment; a MCM squadron with six ships was additionally earmarked in case of demand.

"Basis See" is also about enhancing cooperation with other parts of the military; especially in the reconnaissance, fire support, logistics and deployment C4I areas, on which they are focussing, this could lead to far more "compact" - and cost-effective - deployments managing equal results in the field.

And then there's the real expeditionary part - within the "Basis See" framework, the Navy is supposed to gain the capability to flank diplomatic efforts. This actually is Gunboat Diplomacy - the Seabase flanking a diplomatic effort is supposed to provide escalation and deescalation as needed to obtain political goals. However, the Navy restricts itself to a capability there that's actually obtainable both politically and through tight funding - that is the capability to escalate by lobbing a few missiles at high-priority targets by offshore assets. There's no one - well, no one outside the Internet - crying for German carriers, or German amphibious assault assets. Because, in the real world, that's not a capability the German Navy needs, even for its expeditionary efforts.

I also find it somewhat remarkable that the German Navy - for the most part at least - has managed to complete blend out looking at particular systems while designing the "Basis See" concept. The concept stays completely abstract and theoretical - what is needed is not this or that upgrade to a certain ship class, but what's needed for "Basis See" is a certain capability. Which has to be "as good as possible". Sure, there is threat analysis and possible counters to threats involved. But, within the abstract level, this becomes "Do we have the capability to counter X efficiently? Within which system, which has which other capabilities?". It's an effort to divide between looking for certain capabilities, and looking for particular systems to fill those capabilities - and a commendable one. After all, you should first look at what you actually want to do, before spending heaps of money on systems you might never need within your strategic positioning.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The German Navy - Setting the Course for the next 20 Years

The German Navy, in the last 15 years, hasn't changed much from the Cold War NATO-contribution Navy it was. A few units have been newly built, a few capabilities reduced, but overall, so far it's only been a renewal of existing capability. Take the direct replacement of three Type 103B AAW destroyers with three new Type 124 heavy AAW frigates, a good example of that. But now, since last year, the Navy has actually started redefining itself.

For the German Military, which has been in a transformation process officially since 2003, last year was a rather crucial point in publicity, as the Ministry of Defense released its new Weißbuch. The Weißbuch - quite literally "whitepaper" - defines the threats, missions and challenges the German Military faces in the present and future, and gives a broad view of how the Military should face these.

This whitepaper actually has rather big implications for change for the Navy. The Navy is supposed to turn "expeditionary". Based upon the missions the navy currently faces, their new mission has been defined as "transforming the sea into an operation base for joint-service operations". The Navy, based upon this new task set, has worked since last year to develop an approach on how to handle this. The core concept for this new approach is called "Basis See" (Seabase).

"Basis See" is composed of several subtasks that might seem somewhat familiar:
  • - Enforcing maritime embargoes and other interdiction missions
  • - Protecting German maritime trade routes, including overseas
  • - Transporting, prepositioning, supplying and evacuating ground forces in theaters
  • - Supporting such ground forces with fire support, in particular standoff strikes
  • - Supporting such ground forces in communications, command and reconnaissance

Of course, "Basis See" won't be the sole capability of the Navy; the MoD and Navy high-ups also stress that the Navy will still need to be able to deal with underwater threats - both submarines and mines - as well as deal with conventional warfare within a regional conflict. And all that is supposed to work both within Germany's international security framework - i.e. NATO, EU etc - as well as independantly.

While the other parts - conventional warfare and surface/underwater asymmetric/terrorist threats - are well dealt with within the German Navy within existing capabilities, the "Basis See" part isn't all that clear yet. So far, mostly interim solutions have been used on existing missions, but for the medium to long term, the Navy is working on building actual plans to deal with these missions. By the end of the year, a self-analysis of the German Navy will be finished - which will outline which capabilities needed for "Basis See" are existant in the current Navy, and which will have to be newly acquired.

So how will the Navy approach this? With funding tight, and political support for new defence acquisitions always a bit shaky, the only realistic possibility is to reuse and redefine as much existing equipment as possible, and fill the holes with new procurement.

The easiest thing for the Navy is the stuff outside "Basis See". Germany has a rather large, very modern MCM fleet from Cold War times, as that was one of its primary functions within NATO. This MCM fleet will almost entirely remain, with only a few older minehunters relegated to patrol duties with a refit to serve as "guard ships" for boarding operations - the first such refitted ship for "guard duties", Bad Rappenau, has just taken part in its first FLOTEX with a 14-man Mobile Protection Element aboard on October 3rd, German Reunification Day (for those wondering: the refit apparently only includes replacing the Penguin B3 drones with RIBs, and adding a 40mm grenade MG and some GPMGs to the regular 27mm gun, plus a OP room for the MPE probably).

In addition to those four 660-ton "gunboats" backing up the current FAC fleets in patrol/interdiction operations, some additional buys have been considered lately; the Navy has experimented with using Finnish Jurmo LCVPs - which can be armed almost to similar levels as the Swedish CB90, but are considerably lighter - from its EGV replenishment ships.

The ASW solution is similar - while there will be somewhat significant reductions (F122 gone in the future, submarines halved in numbers), the future German ASW solution will still consist of a full-spectrum networked system with six extremely modern submarines, at least four updated ASW frigates and eight maritime patrol aircraft. One little downside is that the MPAs are used P-3C which are realistically only an interim solution for the next 10-15 years, and will need replacement then. And that the ASW upgrade for the F123 frigates isn't decided yet, and only Bayern has the LFASS towed array sonar fitted so far. However, all four frigates will receive incremental upgrades over the next 3-4 years, and this will hopefully include LFASS too.
For overall conventional naval warfare, these two fleets will be joined by three modern AAW frigates, as well as considerable additional multi-function assets with ASuW focus and up-to-date self-defence systems, and land-based fighter/strike-bomber cover. A compact navy with very modern assets and considerable firepower.

The approach to "Basis See" is a mixed one. The latest signed contract for the F125 frigates, which are focussed on land attack and maritime interdiction scenarios, show part of the direction this is going. However, the F125 for quite some time will remain the only units that are as focussed on "Basis See". Other tasks within "Basis See" can be solved by existing units, with some upgrades. The main problem is in interfacing navy systems and doctrines with those of the Army and Airforce. To this end, the Navy has performed a couple maneuvers - for command functions with the Army, for AAW coordination with the Airforce - in the last two years, which have highlighted some problems on the Navy side especially regarding command systems and logistics. Most of these can however be solved by "soft" upgrades - integrating and interfacing command systems, upgrading policies and changing doctrines in some regards. We'll see some experiments in this regard over the next few years, probably.

Regarding organization - and concept planning - the Navy has already implemented an effective scheme there as part of the overall Bundeswehr transformation. Within this new organizational scheme, two flotillas have been formed: The "littoral" 1st Flotilla, containing all smaller units up to the corvettes, and the "open-ocean" 2nd Flotilla, containing the frigates as well as the auxiliary units. The Navy has placed connection points to other services - medical and logistics - at the appropriate points, and has centralized training under a single agency operating all Navy schools (except for submarine-specific training). Also, the Navy has deepened its involvement in NATO cooperative concept development, with the NATO Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters recently placed in Kiel as part of the 1st ("Littoral") Flotilla Command. This Center will contribute by developing and testing policies and technologies for littoral warfare, which the Navy will be able to directly apply within ongoing deployments.

Other parts in "Basis See" are already established, even though some adaptions have to be implemented. Within the next 12 months, the Navy will commission five new K130 corvettes, in reality light ASuW frigates, which will considerably lower the workload of existing units, especially in regard to escort and ocean patrol roles. Reconnaissance is addressed by two existing Navy assets - submarines and the Type 423 ELINT/SIGINT ships, whose "coincidental" presence around UNIFIL has been giving Israel some headaches. Additionally, for future conflicts, recon/surveillance support will also be lend by the Luftwaffe's yet-to-be-introduced EuroHawk surveillance UAVs as well as the recon satellite network that's currently being launched - five German radar sats networked with two French IR sats will provide both nations with quite some capability there. The naval role in recon, according to the Navy, will be to provide an asset that can operate even when legal or tactical reasons exclude other means.

Some of the above tasks however will need "creative thinking". For joint command roles that include deployed ground troops - which can easily go to several thousand even in peace-keeping missions - the existing staff rooms aboard F123 and F124 class frigates simply won't be big enough. Those are big enough to implement the necessary staff for a naval taskforce - for example a F123 is currently commanding the naval component of UNIFIL with over a dozen ships - but with staff for ground forces added, something bigger will be needed. There have been suggestions in Navy Staff to go a similar route to the French Navy in that regard - that is, converting AORs into "Command Supply Ships".
With existing units, this is actually a solution that could be implemented pretty cheaply - the Berlin class EGV are equipped to handle containerized modular systems, with currently a 26-container hospital usually mounted on deployments. We might even see such a system procured for or rather with the third EGV, to be commissioned around 2012, as there isn't really a need to procure a third hospital set.

The land attack task mentioned above is also not that much of a problem as it might seem. The 127mm Vulcano guns as mounted on the F125, while capable for this role, aren't the main component, nor are guns in general. The Navy approach emphasizes immediate, flexible escalation against high-priority targets from the seabase at standoff
ranges, meaning the primary system will be missiles. As the current missile outfit of the Navy - Exocet MM38 and Harpoon Block 1C - is considered outdated, the Navy is currently looking for a new "common" missile, which will be mounted at least on the twelve F122 and F123 frigates, and will also outfit the F125. The prime candidate for this "common land-attack/anti-ship missile" so far is RBS-15 Mk4, which is being developed jointly between Germany and Sweden. Since the RBS-15 Mk3 is already fitted to the five new K130 corvettes, this would be a rather prudent move, as that would allow simply switching components to upgrade those to the same standard.

This is not to mean that the 127mm guns just bought will go unused. However, i'm seeing these more used in other roles than simple land-attack. As the Vulcano system will give these guns considerable range with possibility for a non-overkill strike, i could see it given some good use in covering the boats the F125 will deploy in boarding missions (see HMS Cornwall?), or to cover evacuation missions against point targets, something that proved somewhat tough for German troops in Albania in 1997, for example. Of course, for a good number of these applications, integration with the Army's and Luftwaffe's future Joint Fire Support Teams will have to happen first.

The big thing is of course the "transport" task. One can easily mistake that statement for a need for amphibious forces, and this is why implementation will prove tough - especially politically. However, amphibious insertion isn't what the Navy means here. What's meant is pure sealift, with the capability to transport troops even into low-grade ports overseas, and to keep such troops - or their equipment - at sea in a readiness state until the go-ahead is given at a political level. So, no LPDs for Germany really. The Navy is tentatively working on a concept they've called "Joint Support Ship". No relation to the identically-named Canadian replenishment/sealift ship project though, and i'd be surprised if something close to the Canadian concept would be realized - simply because the needs aren't the same, as Germany has dedicated AORs. A straight cargo/sealift ship, maybe with the same module support as on the Berlin AORs, is more likely for Germany. However, this is a project that's far in the future - the Navy doesn't expect this to come anytime before 2020, simply for funding reasons. Politically, this will be a tough one - and a lot of people doubt this will ever come along - but in my opinion that really depends on how they sell it to parliament.

An initial sealift capability has already been introduced - as far as I know without parliamentary approval due to low costs and due to that also not very public. Don't think I've read a single line in German newspapers about it. This initial capability is formed by a joint contract with Denmark signed in December 2006 which will provide both nations with three commercial RoRo ships "on demand". Joining with Denmark here is a good move here as both nations have identical requirements - both operate similar or identical Army equipment - and already cooperate on the Army level with the Multi-National Corps East (along with Poland) within NATO.

"After 2020" is also the date given for another procurement: The Navy is finally looking for an alternative replacement for the ten Type 143A FACs. The originally planned replacement by another batch of K130 corvettes hasn't been possible for cost reasons, and building another batch when funding becomes available would mean procuring a then already old design. So, the Navy will kick off the K131 project with the 2009 funding plan. Of course, since this is a
rather long-term acquisition, the Navy doesn't have any details yet - and doesn't even know what to use these for. I'd say the K131, if realized, will probably be used to stuff holes found in the "Basis See" concept by then. Around the time this would be up for decision, the Navy will have a clearer idea - and some experience - in what it lacks, and can use these new corvettes to address them. The only details - rather tentative - that have been in the rumour
mill by now is that the K131 class will involve six ships, and that they're likely to be smaller (and therefore cheaper?) than the - for a "corvette" - rather oversized K130.

Overall, while the Navy will face some cuts in certain areas - the submarine going down from 12 to 6 subs for example - replacements in almost all those areas are more capable. And better suited to the new "vision" of the Navy. And all this without really "big" investment, as all that has already been done and approved. Due to the submarine cuts, as well as the long-term replacement of FACs with a lower number corvettes, fleet numbers will lower somewhat. Currently the Navy employs 73 "floating weapon systems", with the new corvettes this will rise to 78 by the end of next year. In the long term, due to above cuts, this will be lowered somewhat - say to around 70 maybe - but the German Navy isn't really facing the same huge cuts in numbers that other European Navies are potentially facing over the next 10-20 years.

That brings us to the industry situation. In the short term, there isn't much military work to do in the yards. The K130 have been delivered, and the only ongoing military project is the second batch of Type 212A submarines being built at HDW. This won't change for at least 2-3 years, at which point building for the new F125 frigates and the third EGV will start. However, on the overall situation, the German shipyard industry is doing quite well - because it's not as dependant on the military as sometimes said. Order books on the commercial side are pretty full - about a dozen mid-sized container ships and a dozen mega-yachts are currently under construction in German yards. Additionally, the German Coastguard - an umbrella organization for several different government agencies actually - is currently having four new large ships built in those yards, which will significantly enhance the Coastguards standing in the North Sea.

The German shipbuilding and other naval industry nevertheless will continually try to enhance and apply its military know-how, in particular through exports. New systems are continually developed for this purpose to fit customer markets, like the U210mod submarine design shown by TKMS at SubCon 2007 last month. The government attempts to curb some exploits that have popped up over the last few years - in particular in regard to major foreign shares in German defence industries. This happened in light of unapproved technology transfers (in submarines, in particular) as well as some corruption issues with weapons deals in the 90s. In the reverse direction, that is import of equipment and technology, a similar protectionism is applied though: Production of systems almost exclusively happens locally - missiles generally at Diehl BGT Defence for example - and for to-be-procured systems, German companies are almost always part of joint research. Notable exclusions in the naval field in recent years have been light torpedoes acquired from EuroTorp, naval guns from Finmeccanica, or electronics acquired from Thales - but in general, German procurement attempts to "buy local" and, if that's not possible, at least "build local". While this kind of protectionism might gall some free-market people, I'd say it's a needed tool to keep up a viable defence industry in all fields.

As a whole, the Navy seems to be doing pretty well lately, though. Although it has been bumbling around a bit in the past years without clear concepts (the K130 didn't make much sense in 1998, but fits the picture pretty well today, for example), it seems to have regained some of its wind. While some of the concepts the Navy will be operating under are considered somewhat controversial, the Navy has actually so far managed to put together the puzzle of transformation to an "expeditionary" form to a coherent image that makes sense within the framework and situations it's operating in.