Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Even the Russians know they suck, Part 5 (end)

Zh. “Other details noted by the French and Russian liaison officers”.

1. There is an identical uniform on surface ships and submarines in the French Navy: dark blue jumpsuit with corresponding stripes. There are service shoes, but in general everyone wears dark “civilian” shoes. They wear the same uniform in the mess at chow time. They go out and stand watch on the weather decks without covers since they don’t have the equivalent to our “pilotkas” (garrison cap?). On the Latouche-Treville, there was a ships laundry with a couple of modern automatic washers where they washed sheets. No ships laundry was ascertained on the Tourville. There was a meshbag full of underwear hanging in the wardroom, from which officers could take sheets (?!?). Probably there is system of single use sheets on the older Tourville.

2. (Note: Circled and exclamation pointed). Food on French ships was significantly better and varied. The basic part of the menu – frutti di mare, meat and vegetables. For the week the Russian officers were on board, the menu did not repeat itself. According to the French sailors, the menu begins to repeat itself after they have been at sea for a month. As opposed to the Russian BPK, where the ration worsens as you go from the Captains table, to the wardroom for the officers and warrants and further down to the crew, on the French destroyers and multipurpose submarines, there is one galley and the food is the same for everyone. The only difference: the crew’s mess is self service while the wardroom is served by well trained orderlies.

3. There are two wardrooms on the French destroyers: a senior mess and the wardroom for junior officers. Entry into the wardroom, except for those that mess there and the orderlies is prohibited. The prohibition on entry into the junior wardroom even extends to the senior officers. One shift an hour eats there since there is time to linger over cool drinks before eating and a cup of coffee and conversation afterwards. The senior wardroom has its own fund that they use to buy additional supplies and organize additional excursions during foreign port calls with everyone’s agreement. Similar funds on Russian ships are funded by the officers themselves, while in the French Navy they are a separate line in the ships budget.

4. All the combat posts and officer staterooms on French destroyers are equipped with laptops or computers connected to a local network. Each officer has a personal password and can connect with the appropriate access levels to a data base. Messages, including secret messages, are received on the laptops and sent by email to the radio room for transmission. All the incoming messages are sent to the commander’s laptop, who readdresses the messages to the appropriate combat post. There are very few messages printed out on paper on the ship. There a plans for the future of a paperless ship, where all documentation is electronic.

Power to these computers on the French ships is provided by ordinary power outlets both at combat posts and in living spaces without any additional adapters. There are a couple of computers on the BPK which were plugged directly into ship’s current without any sort of stabilizer. They malfunctioned because of surges in voltage and frequency.

5. All the passageways are named for streets on the destroyer.

6. The French officers noted that admirals in their Navy rarely go to sea and then only in specific circumstances. Usually, there are no senior officers on board.

7. All the household trash on French ships underway is collected and stored in bags in special compartments. When they make port call in a domestic or foreign port, the garbage (for pay or for free) is disposed of. Nothing is thrown overboard. We throw everything overboard, therefore one can often see a greasy stain and household trash in the water around our ships in foreign ports.

8. Smoking is prohibited inside the Tourville. There are two specially equipped areas to smoke in on the weather decks: the signal bridge and the fantail. There is only one spot in foul weather where one can safely smoke – the signal bridge. Smoking is prohibited on the signal bridge on the BPK, but they smoke there anyway (especially during storms), and butts are thrown overboard. The wind often blows them onto the decks below or onto the small boats.

9. French ships are painted a lighter shade. Against the background of the sea, they are less noticeable from the air than the darker Russian ships. Against the background of the land – it’s the opposite.

10. The French noticed that a Captain 1st Rank (the Chief of Staff) spent a lot of time on the pier with a radio handset, assembled those who were going on liberty in town (after they had already assembled on the ship), as well as those returning from liberty, for uniform inspection.

11. The French noticed that there weren’t a lot of Russians on liberty out in town as compared to the number of crew members. The Russian side requested more buses during the exercise planning and the French met our request, but just two or three busses were used. The rest ran empty. In five days, the 530 members of the crews of the BPK and submarine made 925 trips to shore. When the French ships tied up, only the duty section and those who had work to do stayed.

International military cooperation at sea continues to develop at a higher level: from port calls to joint exercises at sea. It bears paying attention to the unofficial opinions that the French side has of the Russian Navy. It would be better if we could incorporate some of their experience (such as use of non-skid on the decks and the use of satellite phones).


Acting Chief of the International Military Cooperation Detachment of the Northern Fleet, Captain 2nd Rank O. Prasov

28 October 2004