03 March 2010

Yarrr, it be Navy Day at Wings Over Iraq!

Today, I'd like to take a look at two different navies that have featured prominently in the blogosphere recently.

The first navy we'll take a look at is the Royal Danish Navy. Though Denmark is half the size of the state of Maine, and has a population of just five million, it fields quite an impressive navy. This might have something to do with the fact that Denmark (or "Jutland") is strategically located on the Baltic Sea, and was the site of one of the largest naval battles in history.

The Danish Navy has been participating in NATO's anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia for quite some time. The most notable vessel in their fleet, the flagship destroyer HDMS Absalon, sank a pirate "mother ship" off the coast of Somalia. This is the second such incident in which the Absalon's crew did battle with pirates in recent weeks, rescuing the occupants of a freighter which had been previously boarded by pirates.

The US Navy's Commander Herb Carmen weighed in on the Absalon at Tom Ricks' The Best Defense. It seems that the ship is about 3/4 the size of a typical Arleigh Burke destroyer, yet it's quite a remarkable machine. Although it sports an impressive array of weaponry for taking out surface ships and aircraft, it's also quite well suited for the "small wars" as well. It's equipped with a "flex deck", capable of carrying over 7 Leopard II tanks, a containerized hospital, or a command post. Throw in a compliment of two helicopters, and you've got a ship capable of almost anything.

The Absalon is apparently quite modern and has fairly decent amenities. A number of posters were in shock that the Danes picked up the vessel for such a low price.

Cmdr. Carmen said it best though, when talking about the crew of the Absalon:

The right ship matters, but what is primary in naval warfare is the fighting spirit of her crew. Commodore Christian Rune and the crew of Absalon have certainly shown superb fighting spirit in 2010. Commodore Rune flies his flag in Absalon and leads the NATO's counter-piracy mission off the east coast of Somalia.
Here's to our NATO allies!

The next navy I'd like to look at is, well, our old adversary: the Russian Navy.

Let me be the first to note that I think that the Russian Navy, like the Russian Army and Air Force, is little more than a "boogey man" cooked up by defense contractors to scare Congress into purchasing more weapons. Much like the Russian Air Force, which consists of a few technology demonstrators and squadrons of broken MiGs, the Russian Navy consists of submarines which, well, never seem to return to the surface. Don't forget their one "aircraft carrier"--which really carries about 1/3 of the aircraft compliment of an American aircraft carrier--that is constantly accompanied by tugboats in the event of a breakdown. Put it all together and you get a paper tiger.

The USNI's blog features an after-action report written by a few French liaison officers who spent some time aboard a Russian anti-submarine ship during a training exercise. Take a look at how bad things have gotten for the Russian Navy.
The metal decks, especially when they are wet or covered in salt, are very slippery. There is a great probability of falling and receiving serious injury during pitching. The guests often slipped. The decks on French ships (as well as on American, British and Norwegian ships) are covered with a rough paint which limits slipping even when wet. The ladders also have a special coating, kind of like emory board, that limits slipping.
So wait. The same Russians who claim to have a super-fighter capable of defeating an F-22 don't even have the technology to come up with slip-resistant paint for the decks of ships?

Wait, it gets even better:
French officers were surprised that onboard the most modern Russian ship, provision of hot water to the staterooms wasn’t even planned for and that cold water was available once a day for ten minutes. The entire [Russian] crew (450 people) washed once every ten days, over the course of eight hours. Each man had three to four minutes in the shower. The French officers paid attention to the appearance of the Russian sailors. By the end of the deployment, lice was found on the sailors.
Seriously, the Russians are supposed to pose a serious threat to US carrier operations and they can't even figure out how to boil enough water for the crew of a small ship? Are they short of water in the middle of the ocean?

There are also some damning indictments on Russian leadership. Rank does come with a few benefits, but judge for yourself:
Food on French ships was significantly better and varied. The basic part of the menu – frutti di mare, meat and vegetables. For the week the Russian officers were on board, the menu did not repeat itself. According to the French sailors, the menu begins to repeat itself after they have been at sea for a month. As opposed to the Russian [ship], where the ration worsens as you go from the Captains table, to the wardroom for the officers and warrants and further down to the crew, on the French destroyers and multipurpose submarines, there is one galley and the food is the same for everyone.

What surprised me is the brutality of the Russian Navy, and the manner in which sailors are treated by sadistic officers. Junior sailors seemed to be repeatedly berated by officers, and information flow was abysmal. Typical for a unit with poor discipline, the ship had numerous "musters" ("formations" for us army guys), during shift changes, rather than relying on junior leaders to enforce standards of timeliness upon their subordinates during shift changes.

Definitely give the USNI's post a read.


Lily said...

Sweet of you to mention Denmark!

Actually DK is located IN the Baltic!
Well it does consist of a number of islands... (not counting Greenland... and that sort of thing...:-)!)
However the only peninsula is actually Jutland (ask the Germans, they regularly invade it because they love the North Sea, but not the fact that they can't make it over the channel... - Jutland got the North Sea on one side, on the other the Baltic)

Anyway, tiny little Denmark has got more than 8000km coastline (still not counting Greenland!)and that explains perhaps a part of the Viking-heritage...

Good you didn't ask the Danes what they think about the Russian army...
And frankly I'm scared sh.. thinking off what might be rusting away, just around the corner of Kirkenes*-bay, a little farther east of the Barents Sea... or have they recently started recycling and know where all their old nuke-trash is?

*Kirkenes is the most north-eastern harbour in Norway, a couple of 100 km north of the Polar circle, 2nd most bombed target during WWII

Lily said...

uhm, I meant the Russina navy..., not their army... it would rather be the cold-war-Germans who would have some nasty comments about those...

El Goyito said...

Hey Starbuck, I'd like to give a shout-out to the Mexican Navy Marines who are doing a phenomenal job in the Drug War. They took down Arturo Beltrán Levya, one of the biggest cartel bosses taken out so far, last December and have since expanded their operations here in the north.

Starbuck said...

Greg--I'll definitely check it out!