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February 16, 2010

Friend and/or foe

In case anyone thinks France selling Mistral-class assault ships to Russia is no big deal, Russia's naval chief begs to disagree.

The Mistral is a mighty, 199-metre-long vessel that carries tanks and helicopters, and can conduct and manage amphibious landings. Kaarel Kaas, of the International Centre for Defence Studies, a think-tank in Tallinn, says that such ships would “transform the power balance” on Russia’s borders.

One region affected is the Baltic, where Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, NATO’s most vulnerable members, are still waiting to see concrete plans for the alliance to defend them in a crisis. The other is the Black Sea. The Mistrals could matter in any conflict over Crimea in Ukraine, where Russia is due to give up a naval base in 2017. Russia’s naval chief, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, says that with such ships Russia would have won the 2008 war against Georgia “in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours”.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. Salt to taste but the man has a point, if only in terms of Russian expectations and consequent Russian behaviour.

Related: The United States faces the loss of maritime supremacy in the South China Sea. And, I might add, the Pacific Ocean.

Foreign observers of China's growing naval prowess might be worried by what they’ve seen in recent years. Around a hundred new warships have come off the country's slipways since 2001, while another dozen are under construction. Chinese ships are, on average, getting bigger and more powerful as well as more numerous as Beijing builds what is shaping up to be the world's biggest submarine fleet, as well as new types of anti-ship missiles and the nation's first aircraft carriers. One older Russian carrier is being refurbished and US analysts expect the first fully home-built Chinese carrier to enter service by 2015, with the possibility of more to follow.

More bad news: The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk will not be sold to the Indian Navy.

"The ship was meant to last 48 years. It is in Wilmington (North Carolina) and not for sale. There is no intention to sell it. It has already outstretched its intended service life," Rear Admiral Allen G. Myers, the Director (Warfare Integration) of the US Navy, told IANS.

This puts to rest all reports of the decommissioned carrier being offered to India, which, at one stage, expressed interest in the vessel.
At 82,000 tonne Kitty Hawk is twice the size of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov that the Indian Navy has bought from Russia and which is expected to be inducted in 2012 after undergoing an extensive refit. This apart, the keel of India's first indegenous carrier was laid at the Cochin Shipyard last year.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 16, 2010 08:28 AM


Well, she didn't earn the name "Shitty Kitty" for no reason. Perhaps its for the best that the Indians learn to build their own.

Posted by: dpatten [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2010 09:15 AM