Friday, August 30, 2013

The Mediterranean Had some Interesting Visitors Exactly A year Ago

Editors Note (2016) No change in the size of the American "6th Fleet" or the Italian Navy / Coast Guard. There is now the largest Russian presence since the Cold War. More over, Russia has demonstrated the ability to hit parts of Syria with shipboard missiles launched from relatively small vessels in the Black Sea, beyond the reach of any Western surface or subsurface warships. 

Editor's Note (2014) Half of Syria and Iraq fell to ISIS, an unpredictable development back in 2012 when the Med was swimming in Naval envoys. The popularity of the Med as a naval diplomacy destination has abated a bit. Two things haven't changed, the U.S. 6th Fleet is still just one flag ship and a few borrowed units from the Atlantic Fleet and the Italians are still maintaining the watch. 

Editor's Note (2013): Last year at this time things were getting interesting in the Mediterranean as new visitors like China and India came calling for the first time, Russia beefed up its presence, and the U.S. Navy ramped up to keep tabs on all the supposedly friendly guests. Our hosts have always been the Italians who have lots of skin in any Mediterranean game. Yesterday we painted a picture of the U.S. Sixth Fleet that will be responding to any Syrian intervention. We noted that the Sixth fleet had only one ship, a large command and control platform permanently assigned and four destroyers assigned on long term rotations from the Atlantic fleet. Who is on station permanently? The Italians whose naval capacity this post describes after we look at last year's visitors. Now that there may be some shooting in the area there don't seem to be as many "tourist" on scene as last year. But the local sheriff, the Italian Navy/Coast Guard is always on the beat. 


 Any Nation Without A Naval Presence In The Mediterranean Sea Please Raise Your Hand.

File:Fleet 5 nations.jpg
Photo Official USN: by PH3 Alta I. Cutler of  Multi-National Fleet taken 18 April 2002

 OK we exaggerate slightly, As far as we know North Korea, Iceland, Brazil and several others are not in the Mediterranean. Sunday we reported two new U.S.warships entering from the Suez and over the last two weeks we've reported the arrival of new Russian units, Three Chinese units went as far north as the Black Sea, a first for the Dragon, and were last reported visiting ,of all places, Israel. The Dragon was followed into the Med by the Tiger (Indian naval units). So we have enhanced U.S.and Russian fleets present and the first of new to the region "visitors", China and India, plus the usual players like the Israeli Navy,Egyptian Navy, Greek Navy , French Navy, and Spanish Navy. We often seem to underestimate the role and capabilities of perhaps the most interested observer of the Mediterranean, the Italian Navy/Coast Guard. Perhaps no other nation has a more direct stake in peace in the region.

The Italians will suffer the illegal migrant problems, increased shipping insurance rates, and other fall out for armed flare ups anywhere in the Mediterranean Basin. Their Navy / Coast Guard team is very competent and sized as a contender in their relatively small pond.  Unlike Spain and France they don't have an Atlantic Coast to cushion the effects of flash fires on the approaches to their ports. Nor do they have the distraction of having to maintain a two ocean force. Indeed one has to wonder if  Italy couldn't be an effective regional sheriff if the big powers with no Mediterranean coast weren't constantly in the region.


 Here is the Italian main naval fleet whose turf everybody else making headlines is mucking about in: Lets start with their fleet count. Our latest best information indicates:

  • 2 Aircraft carriers
  • 3 Assault ships
  • 9 Destroyers
  • 14 Frigates
  • 6 Submarines
  • 8 Corvette
  • 14 Partol Ships
  • 12 Mine Warfare vessels
  • 29 Auxiliaries
  • 39 Landing Craft
  • 19 seagoing Tugs
  • 11 Coastal Tugs
  • More than 12 harbor tugs
  • 9 Misc. ships including Electronic warfare ships and submarine rescue and salvage vessels.
This is a larger more powerful fleet than What Russia, China, and India combined have entered the area with and they didn't enter in concert with each other. For a comprehensive history and more in depth look at the Italian Navy past and present click here:   
In addition to the above ships the Italian navy operates over 87 naval air craft. And of course the Italian peninsular is a virtual unsinkable aircraft carrier and is home to the Italian Air Force. The Italian Air Force operates over 479 manned aircraft and 6 unmanned air craft.Those 39 landing craft are there for an existing Italian naval infantry (Marine) corps and the Italian Army has its own marine Regiment the Serenissiana Regiment known as the "Lagunari". Considered a separate service within the Italian Navy Department is the Guardia Costeiero or Coast Guard with 11000 uniformed members,6 high to medium endurance cutters, 9 patrol boats, 272 smaller coastal patrol vessels, 212 rigid inflatable response boats, and operating 22 air craft. 

 Official USN Photo of Italian Patrol Vessel

By all accounts the Italian naval inventory is modern, well kept

 By all Accounts the Italian Naval / Coast Guard/ Marine Corps Inventory is modern and well kept. The services appear to be in a good state of readiness. This formidable force is a NATO member and U.S. ally. This is the Western World's real first response force for the Central and Eastern Mediterranean and the nucleus of an allied force if needed in the Mediterranean Sea. We are going through some interesting times in the Mediterranean. We have introduced our readers to the present cast of strange visitors, we thought you might appreciate an introduction to some of our friends in the area.

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