Sunday, September 02, 2007

Even More Carrierwatch

In the light of renewed War! War! War! fears, it's clearly time to check out the indicators; currently, there is one US Navy carrier group in the Middle East (Enterprise and Co). This is down from two for most of this year, and is the lowest for some time - although not quite, as there were a couple of days in early August with no carrier. Stennis left the Gulf heading east on the 11th of July and was due in Bremerton on the 31st August; Nimitz left on the 23rd of July and is making a leisurely passage back to San Diego. On the other side of the balance, Enterprise sailed on the 7th of July and made a notably quick passage (less than two weeks) to her only port call en-route, Cannes, and then took not much less time to reach her station. So, there was a gap from the 23rd of July to the 12th of August.

As before, Vinson, Roosevelt, and Washington are all in dockyard hands. Lincoln is in the early stages of workup, having done flight deck and carrier qualifications in July. Eisenhower took part in a JTFEX during July, but please note that as she only returned from deployment in May, she probably has significant yard time in her future. The next ship in the cycle is therefore Harry S. Truman, whose JTFEX it was, and who has also recently done her COMPTUEX.

Kitty Hawk is on her way back to Japan from the Valiant Shield exercise off Guam with the two returning carriers. Note that she is due to return to the US and head for the breakers' yard at the end of the year, to be replaced by Washington. Note also that the Reagan had to dash off to Japan in the spring to cover her beat, breaking off her own maintenance and training schedules because Kitty was inoperable; presumably her joints are no less creaky than three months ago, so there is a possible commitment to replace her at any time.

That gap, now. I recall reading (possibly at Pat Lang's) that some of the GCC states had expressed much concern at this maritime no-bicycle; if there is a crackerjack indicator for a war with Iran, I reckon it would be the movement of Patriot/Arrow/whatever SAMs/ABMs to the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Not only are they allies, and extremely vulnerable, Qatar is the seat of CENTCOM and various air bases, Bahrain of the US 5th Fleet's Middle Eastern logistic support, and Dubai is both the general political-economic centre, a hugely important port, and the seat of the only shipyard in the region with the hope of taking in a major warship (and, as in the Iran-Iraq war, making a fortune patching up tankers). Saudi oil installations need no introduction, but they (like Israel and Kuwait) have their own.

I recall a minor blogfroth about this two Iran scares ago (ie January 2007 - the rate is a little higher than Friedman units.) As far as I can make out they went to Qatar, but I am not at all sure; the unit was the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery. Here's a photo of one of this outfit's soldiers being annoyed with stupid questions, by "business leaders" flown in for a look-see. It's given as "Southwest Asia", but the matching press release makes it clear that it's a huge great airbase, the location of a Combined Air Operations Centre; realistically it's got to be Al-Udeid in Qatar. So no new information in that. An alternative would be to deploy Aegis cruisers.

Any others I should watch? (Oh yes, if you've read this far you ought to read this too.) What gets me is that Newsnight is quite happy to spend its whole allocation of airtime grammarchopping What Bush Said without one word regarding the facts.


Sander said...

This story (personal communication from an LSO on a carrier attack group, presumably near the Gulf of Hormuz) sounds ominous, though.

The military may not have the resources in place that you would reasonably expect them to need, but the command structure hasn't acted reasonably in a while.

Alex said...

If I had a quid for every "my friend who's in (unit) says we're going to invade (Pakistan/Iran/Canada) (tomorrow/next week/tonight)" story..

dan said...

It's always worth noting that whilst Qatar might be the hosts for Centcom, they have very good relations with Iran at the same time; this has something to do with ongoing Saudi-Qatari personal feuds.

The UAE is in some respects an offshore Iranian colony - about 25% of the population is Iranian, it functions as an offshore financial services/credit card processing centre for US sanctions avoidance, and the trade volumes between the two are substantially higher than any shipyard repair work that might come its way in the aftermath.

I can't tell if Bahrain and Iran have actually re-established diplomatic relations yet.. but 60%of the population is Shia.

For both the UAE and Bahrain there is substantial political risk involved - and I would expect the various ruling families to be loading up their lear jets with as many bearer bonds that they can lay their hands on if the shit hits the fan.

The Saudis no longer host US military bases, but have hosted the Iranian president for a formal state dinner in recent times.

The one thing that is reasonably certain is that none of the US Persian Gulf allies have any enthusiasm for being dragged into a confrontation with Iran.....been there, done that, wished they hadn't bothered, and it's really not going to be much fun having to deal with 70 million righteously pissed-off Iranians in the subsequent grief and recriminations.

US use of their facilities/airspace will strip them of their neutrality in the conflict and that means the loss of Lloyds cover for any damages.

Alex said...

an Iranian colony

Yes, I noticed that when I was there; huge stacks of IRISL shipping containers at the docks, Iranian house nights at the clubs.

Anonymous said...

The UAE is in some respects an offshore Iranian colony

But was also one of only three nations to recognise the Taliban - who hated the Iranians and vice versa. (The others were the Taliban's bosses, Pakistan, and their bankers, Saudi Arabia.)

johnf said...

Cloned Poster posted this on Pat Lang's site:

and got these two responses from John Shreffler:

Cloned Poster,

The Nimitz and Kitty Hawk are heading for an exercise of Sri Lanka with the Indian Navy, Malabar 07-02 to start on Sept. 7th. Both groups would be on station on Sept. 11th when Petraeus. Given that the Reagan and the Enterprise had been in port for the same short time when they each last deployed, I'd reckon the Eisenhower is also on call. Why would it need dockwork? The intervals between deployment are for the crews, who take a lot more of a beating tn the carriers do. I'd guess that the Malabar carriers will go home but you never know.

Posted by: John Shreffler | 02 September 2007 at 07:52 PM

BTW, the work on the Kittyhawk was scheduled work. The carrier scheduled to cover for it was the Stennis and the rush was because the Stennis got pulled on short notice for the 5th Fleet and the brand new 2 carrier force in the Gulf. I gather the Kittyhawk has had that kind of work every year for some time past. Old but not out. Besides, you're forgetting all the cruise missiles on the escorts.

Posted by: John Shreffler | 02 September 2007 at 07:59 PM

Nell said...

I've been doing my best to keep track of the carriers for several years now because my s.o.'s nephew is on one of them (he's isn't in a position to know anything useful and wouldn't tell us if he did).

The Stennis took part in Valiant Shield before heading back to Bremerton, FWIW.

Your carrier roundup mentions the Truman, but you don't say when it's due to join the Enterprise. A news story said it would depart its home port in early October. That puts it in striking range of Iran by early November.

There's a fine line between the supply of reality-check-providing logistical information and know-it-all dismissal. The periodic Iran scares aren't manufactured by paranoid antiwar commenters; they're the result of intensified Bush administration threats and propaganda.

I hope you'll take note here promptly of any Aegis cruiser or air defense units being deployed, and not be stopped by your own apparent disdain for "blogfroth".

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