Monday, February 8, 2010

Even the Russians know they suck, Part 4

D. Joint Russian-French Training

1. “The Russian side tried to take control of the training”.


2. “Planning was complicated”

Questions pertaining to the joint exercise on the Tourville were handled by the operations officer equivalent in rank to Captain 3rd Rank (the responsibilities of the operations officer is similar to our BCh-7, only he is also responsible for combat readiness and doesn’t stand a watch)(Note: Handwritten exclamation mark here). He himself resolved all issues (consulting with the commander for specific complicated problems) and immediately after agreement with the Russian liaison officers, issued corresponding commands to the Combat Information Center watch and the submarine Emeraude. The operations officer also developed the personnel plans for the officers on the ship. There in a special box in front of the stateroom, each officer on the ship could pick up his personal plan for the day in the morning. In accordance with this plan, each officer ran his division.

The commander of the task group made all the final decisions on the BPK. Plans often changed at night. As the French interpreter (in voice over the radio) noted, the change of the commander of the BPK for the Chief of Staff on the bridge lead to a change of plans. Late at night the plan changed again (probably by the task group commander). This inconvenienced the French operations officer since he had to revise the plan a couple of times and issue supplemental orders to the submarine Emeraude. And do this all at night instead of resting.

In Brest, after two hours of work to plan the final step of the training, the French side (represented by a Captain 2nd Rank from the base ops department and the ops officer from the Tourville, a Captain 3rd Rank) asked the Chief of Staff (representing the Russian side), “We agree, but is this the Russian side’s final answer?” The answer was, “I can’t make a decision. We have to consult the admiral.” This caused a misunderstanding with the French and when the task group commander arrived, planning began again.

3. “Exercise planning in this season in this area”.

More than once French officers, including the captain of the destroyer asked, “Why did you plan an exercise in this season in this area?” Traditionally there are strong storms here in fall. (Note: handwritten exclamation mark in the margin). It would have been better, in their opinion, to do these exercises in the Mediterranean.

4. No reason for stationing French liaison officers on the BPK.

The commander of the Tourville, just like the commander of the Latouche-Treville in 2003, asked the same question, “Why are our officers on board the Russian ship if you never resolve any issues with them?” The French liaison officers asked the same question.

5. “Dangerous method of launching the rubber boat”.

As noted above, the Tourville launches and recovers their rubber boat without crew for safety reasons.

A SPETZNAZ detachment was launched in a rubber boat from the BPK for an inspection operation. The launch was conducted in full view of the French ship. Because there was no initial planning of the launch and the boat wasn’t hooked up in the center, the boat was launched in almost a vertical position with SPETZNAZ troops strapped in. The French noted that this was dangerous.

It can be noted about boarding operations that the order to form a boarding group was only given as the ship was leaving base. No member of the team had a clear idea of what to do or how to do it. For a month before deployment the commander of the SPETZNAZ detachment on board was told that his help wasn’t needed during boarding and inspection operations. As a result, the order was given to the SPETZNAZ representative to be included in the inspection group and they began a crash training course (without actually getting into a small boat).

E. Organization of communications.

1. “Ineffective comms in the tactical zone”.

Exercise experience has shown that existing means of communications (simplex radio communications on one frequency) normally allows only two ships to execute tasks. When submarine is added to the mix, confusion and missed messages results.

The French liaison officers brought to the BPK PC-NET device allowing comms between ships in automatic mode. But the device wasn’t installed and tried out by the Russian side. It’s practical application remained unknown. (The PC-NET device was developed by a civilian organization for automatic communications between French fishing ships. It worked well and was accepted into use in the French Navy. It consists of a PC and an attached small scale radio transmitter. The installation of the PC-NET on board the Russian ship was in the plan for the first French-Russian exercise, but wasn’t installed by the French for technical reasons). (Note: Big exclamation mark in the margin here).

2. “Lack of satellite phone on the BPK”.

The Tourville has two satellite phones onboard. One is on the bridge for official use. The second is located in the main passageway for the crew to use to call home. The crew pays for their own personal calls, but phone card can be obtained on base in advance.

The necessity for a satellite phone on board, even if it is only for official use, was demonstrated while resolving the situation surrounding obtaining medical help for Seaman Golub. Arrangements were made with the Russian embassy in Spain and an American airbase by the Russian liaison officers in a short amount of time because the French offered the use of the official satellite phone.

The French means of communication were used again to send a fax from the Admiral Chabanenko to the commander of the American airbase.

Besides satellite telephones, the French destroyer has access to the internet and permanent antennas for satellite television. Not everyone had access to the internet. There is an electronic address for the ship to which comes all the messages which allows delivery of personal messages to members of the crew. Members of the crew give their responses to the postal service. The satellite TV is streamed to the wardroom and sailors’ messes. (Note: big exclamation mark in the margin).

3. “Many personal messages on the radio”.

The French interpreters, who were always present during radio conversations and immediately conveyed the gist of those conversations to their commanders, had to interpret a series of incomprehensible conversations. For instance: The Chief of Staff ordered a Russian communications officer to read him the text of a message (already sent to headquarters using secure communications) over the HF radio concerning the readiness of Russian ships to carry out unofficial events during the visit, but the Russian officer evaded giving an answer, considering what a serious violation of communication’s security this represented.

In addition, the BPK openly reported names, ranks and positions of officers in the clear in HF. It is fair to say that the callsign of the 2nd DPLK (Division of Anti-submarine Ships) “Maslina” is now linked to a concrete billet by the French Navy.


Aslak said...

This is really fascinating - it really shows you the cultural and organizational differences. I hope you keep it up

Aslak said...

This does make you wonder - even if the Russians get the Mistral, would they be able to maintain it or even make effective use of it?

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