Sunday, February 7, 2010

Even the Russians know they suck, Part 3

C. The Crew

1. “How seniors in rank and position relate to juniors, particularly to the sailors”.

This was a topic that the French officers paid special attention to. There was much yelling and cursing on the BPK and subordinates were often belittled (even senior officers in the presence of sailors.

The Chief of Staff refused to talk with a Russian communications officer (who had told the COS that he was a Captain 3rd rank) over the HF radio (I.E for the whole world to hear) to resolve some sort of problem. The French interpreter interpreted this conversation for the French servicemembers present. And they were very surprised: “Why doesn’t he want to talk to a Captain 3rd Rank?”

It was noted by the French officers that similar relations between people in France would be intolerable.

2. “There are a lot of officers on the ship”.

There are twenty four officers in the three hundred person crew on the Tourville. On board the BPK Admiral Chabanenko, with just a little more crew, there were twice as many officers, and taking into account embarked staff – four times as many. French officers were surprised at the amount of senior officers on board, especially Captain 1st Ranks – seven, whose functions could not be understood (on the Tourville, there is only the captain).

3. “Lots of musters”.

Russian liaison officers didn’t observe one crew muster onboard the Tourville in a week.

On the BPK, musters came one after another.

4. “Another BPK commander is onboard the Chabanenko, but he outranks the commander of the Chabanenko”.

After the Chief of Staff (the commander of the BPK Admiral Kharlamov) briefed the French, he was asked, “How can the commander of one BPK give orders to the commander of a second BPK?” and “How the commander of the BPK Admiral Chabanenko Captain 1st Rank S. Grishin takes such orders?”

D. The Ship’s Watch

1. Organization of the bridge watch

While spending a lot of time on the underway bridge of the BPK, the French liaison officers (the first one – the navigator, who normally stands officer of the watch and the second one – the electronic warfare officer, who normally stands watch as the combat officer) noted the following:

- The constant presence of the captain or senior on the bridge, who runs the ship: he works the radio himself, he himself evaluates the situation, he himself gives the wheel and engine telegraph commands. The watch officer plays no role in the running of the ship. The function of the watch officer is not understood.

In the French Navy, ships and submarines are run by the watch officer. There is no command watch. In normal situations, the commander appears on the bridge only episodically (on submarines, surfacing is done without the commander): in complicated situations, he will be there but he does not take control, but is there to support the watch officer. The watch officer, in turn, trains his assistant (the warrant officer). In 2003, during a refueling evolution, the Latouche-Treville came along side the Admiral Chabanenko twice for refueling: the first time, the watch officer brought her along side (with advice from the commander), while the second time, the commander didn’t participate as the watch officer advised his assistant.

- Stationing an additional navigation watch.

On the French destroyers, the plot is kept by the watch officer or by one of his

two assistants (a warrant officer and a senior sailor who also is the signalman). The plot is kept on the bridge with the aid of GPS. Besides that, the plot is kept in the combat information center on an electronic map on a personal computer.

- Conflicting commands are issued.

Often, conflicting commands were issued when the commander of the ship, the chief of staff and task force commander were on the bridge. The French liaison officers were surprised when someone corrected the orders of the ship’s commander.

- Tense situation on the bridge.

This was noted especially in areas with a lot of shipping traffic. There was much screaming and cursing on the bridge. The BPK, even having the right of way in accordance with MPPSS-72, would initiate unpredictable maneuvers, confusing the transports proceeding in their own lanes. The French liaison officers asked, “Don’t you ever have intensive marine traffic transiting your area?” (Note: This whole paragraph is bracketed in the report).

- Current information for the watch standers are written on cardboard cards.

On French ships, all the current information (course, speed, callsign) is written in marker on glass on any convenient place, including the bridge windscreen.

2. “Many watchstanders have unclear roles”.

The French liaison officers, probably, have in mind the supplementary watch, stationed in the corridors and hatches along their routes.

3. “There are more watches on the BPK”.

There aren’t many differences between the French and Russian Navies concerning how watches are relieved or when. ON the Tourville, watch turnover is at 0400, 0800, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2000, and 2400 (on the BPK there is no turnover at 1500, but at 1600 instead). But they have four watch sections (and in certain situations, three) while we have two or three watch sections.