Home' Work Boat World : November 2015 Contents Specialist training ship cuts
With TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE
Maritime forces are constantly seeking to cut costs, with
operational training being a particular target. Many elements of
shore-based training have therefore been outsourced to the
private sector, with the use of contractor-provided simulation
systems being a major growth sector.
The use of expensive, and increasingly scarce, front-line
platforms is still common, though, for such evolutions as live
missile and gun firings, helicopter exercises and board and
search training using small boats.
These days, however, hard-pressed, and in many cases, shrinking,
naval forces are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the
deployment of their warships on training tasks. They are therefore
examining the provision, by the private sector, of alternative, and
more cost-effective, ways, of meeting this vital need.
In the vanguard of contractor-supplied offshore training is
the French Navy (FN), with France-based SeaOwl Group, a
NATO-approved outsourcing company, using the British-registered
former oil industry offshore support vessel ‘VN Partisan’ to supply the
service with range of training capabilities.
The German-built, 1977-vintage, 79-metre ‘VN Partisan’ is fitted,
on a modular basis, with specialist equipment designed for training
in various naval disciplines. The ship offers a range of cost effective
training solutions, with its prime mission being to reduce the training
demands on FN front line operational units.
Services currently offered by ‘VN Partisan’, which is staffed mainly
by experienced and qualified former naval personnel, include
replenishment at sea techniques, testing and trials of new equipment,
and helicopter pilot qualification, utilising the ship’s flight deck and
flying control facility.
Special forces maritime training, including the use of an on-board
close quarter battle training module, is also undertaken, as well as
defence against high speed attack boats, and unmanned surface and
underwater vehicle operations, including the deployment and
recovery of remotely controlled target craft.
‘VN Partisan’ also acts as a target vessel in weapons training
exercises, simulating a high value unit to be defended against air and
sea attack. It is equipped for mine warfare training, opposed
boarding tactics and towing operations. It can also run courses for
naval-affiliated voluntary organisations such as sea cadets.
SeaOwl says its ship can execute several different training missions
simultaneously, and can readily operate in company with front-line
surface warships, aircraft and submarines.
‘VN Partisan’ was put through its paces at the recent DSEI
2015 defence equipment and conference in London, operating
in company with a number of new designs of small naval and
paramilitary craft. Capabilities displayed included acting as
target vessel for a board and search exercise by British Royal
Marines, and the support of helicopter and unmanned airborne
The demonstration attracted much attention and comment from
staff from the many naval forces represented at the event, and it is
likely that the concept of a cost-saving, multi-purpose, contractor-
operated modular training platform will be closely scrutinised by
some navies in the near future. Not all senior naval officers are keen
on following in the training wake of the FN, though, fearing that the
adoption of vessels such as ‘VN Partisan’ would simply invite the
bean counters to slash numbers of front line vessels even further!
Israel gearing up for new maritime security challenges
The core of the relatively small, but very active Israeli Navy is a
flotilla of three 1,275-tonne , 1990s vintage Northrop Grumman
‘SA’AR 5’ class corvettes, armed with Harpoon anti-shipping cruise
missiles (ASCM), and Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles (SAM).
The ships are fitted with a hangar and flight deck for a Panther
anti-submarine and surveillance helicopter, and their roles include
sea surveillance, interdiction of arms shipments, enforcement of
blockades and support of operations by special forces.
The corvettes, active in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the
Gulf of Aqaba, often operate in company with smaller Israeli surface
warships, and submarines.
Now, however, two factors have convinced the Israelis that they
need to upgrade their offshore capabilities.
Firstly, two rival navies, namely those of Iran and Egypt, are of
increasing concer n. The Iranian fleet has shown itself in recent
years to be capable of sustained long range operations, and Tehran
is building up its inventory of indigenously-built submarines, and
missile-armed frigates. The Egyptian Navy, meanwhile, is
undergoing a radical upgrade programme which includes the
commissioning of new French-built frigates and assault ships, and
American-constructed large fast attack craft.
Secondly, the development of huge offshore energy resources is set
to add a new dimension to Tel Aviv’s maritime responsibilities.
According to some reports, two large gas fields off Northern Israel,
named Leviathan and Tamar, could potentially generate up to
US$150 trillion of export revenue.
The fields will be vital to Israel’s future economy, and their
existence has already increased the nation’s diplomatic clout. They
are, however , potentially vulnerable to a range of threats. These
include missiles launched from territories hostile to Israel, and attacks
by terro rist groups using small vessels, possibly including suicide
boats, remotely controlled explosive craft, midget submarines, and
unmanned airborne and undersea vehicles.
Israel has therefore placed an order with TKMS of Germany for
four corvettes to boost offshore security. They will be built in Kiel, to
a design based upon the 1,800-tonne K-130-class, already in service
with the German Navy, and modified to Israeli requirements. As with
Israel’s current order for German submarines (Naval Gazing October
2014), Berlin will be providing a significant element of the funding,
reportedly €115 million of the total cost of €430 million (US$480
million). The first of class is due to enter service in 2019.
The new 90-metre, diesel-powered warships, to be designated the
SA’AR 6-class, will fitted with Israel-m anufactured weapons and
sensors. It has been confirmed that these will include Barak-8 SAM
systems, and the new ELM 2258 rotating and scanning phased array
radar. Other equipment fitted is likely to include Rafael towed array
sonar, advanced Gabriel ASCMs and an ADS unmanned helicopter.
In advance of this programme, the weapons and sensors of the
SA’AR 5 corvettes are being upgraded, so Israel’s blue water
capabilities are therefore certainly set for major enhancement.
‘VN Partisan’ at DSEI 2015
12 November 2015 WORK BOAT WORLD
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