MANILA, Philippines – A Navy surveillance plane monitoring the activities of in the disputed Spratly Islands has spotted a Chinese landing ship in Subi Reef (Zamora Reef), an area only 12 nautical miles from the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.
The Chinese troop and logistics ship, a Yuting class with bow No. 934, is armed with three heavy guns, built-in cranes, and a helipad.
“We are doing our best with what we have,” Wescom spokesman Lt. Col. Niel Estrella said of their surveillance and monitoring operations on the current security development in the Spratlys.
Estrella said that monitoring operations yesterday were hampered by bad weather in the area.
Wescom commander Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban had intensified air and maritime patrols in the disputed region in response to the recent grounding of a Chinese frigate within the waters of Palawan, particularly in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal), followed by China’s launching of one of the biggest fishing expeditions in the disputed region.
Sabban said that Hasa-Hasa Shoal is part of Palawan waters and the area is outside of the disputed Spratlys.
Aside from China’s landing ship near the already heavily fortified Subi Reef, Wescom is currently monitoring the activities of the Chinese fishing fleet in Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef).
Latest reports said 29 Chinese fishing vessels, a Chinese maritime surveillance ship, and a merchant vessel were photographed anchored at Kagitingan Reef.
In nearby Union Reef, which is occupied by Vietnamese forces, a Wescom surveillance plane also monitored a lone Vietnamese fishing boat near dozens of Chinese fishing vessels in the area.
Union Reef as well as other islets and reefs in the area are within the hexagon area composed of 95 islands, cays, shoals and reefs under Kalayaan town based in Pag-asa Island, as per Presidential Decree 1596 issued by the late , that led to the creation of an island municipality in the region.
AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos has admitted that in the absence of a credible territorial capability, the military’s action is confined only to monitoring the Chinese aggressive behavior in the contested waters in the West .
He said the civilian leadership is addressing the rest of the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
IT is a routine process performed more and more often by the Royal Australian Navy – empty asylum seeker boats being towed back out to sea and set alight.
Yesterday The Daily Telegraph got a rare look as two boats – which this week carried more than 100 asylum seekers across the ocean – were sent to a watery grave.
One boat had been at sea for three weeks transporting 51 Sri Lankans, the other carried 65 people from Indonesia.
Both vessels smouldered for several hours before sinking about 20 nautical miles off Christmas Island.
The burnings came as another asylum boat arrived at Christmas Island yesterday morning. A RAAF aircraft spotted the vessel, which was intercepted by HMAS Childers on Wednesday night. The 25 men on board, from Sri Lanka, were brought ashore at Flying Fish Cove just after 10am.
It was the eighth boat to arrive in Australian waters in just four days, with 913 people arriving this month.
The latest boat was tied up at a mooring off Christmas Island and is also likely to be burned. Asylum boats are routinely towed into deep water by navy ships, or moved under their own steam, before Customs removes any fuel and sets them alight.
Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul claimed burning asylum boats encouraged people smugglers to send only the most unseaworthy vessels to Australia: “Burning asylum seeker boats is one of the Australian government policies which makes boat travel more dangerous. There’s a disincentive created by the process of burning the boats over getting the best possible boats for the journey.”
A Customs spokeswoman said unseaworthy vessels were destroyed by re due to quarantine risks. She said burning the boats was legal under the Customs Act and it was more economical than repairing them.
“The preferred method of destruction for irregular entry vessels is burning at sea for environmental, quarantine and safety reasons,” she said.
“Burning is more likely to result in the hull sinking in one large piece, preventing the risk of collision by shipping, or damage to the environment.
“Before burning, all objects on board the vessel that will not burn or sink are removed, along with fuels and vapours.”
Meanwhile, a small group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers from two vessels rescued near the Cocos Islands earlier this week will be own the 900km to Christmas Island on two charter ights in coming days.
The three ships will participate in exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore 2012.
Captain Dave Welch commands Task Group 73.1 for the second consecutive year. “It is always a pleasure to visit Singapore and exercise with the Singapore Armed Forces,” Welch said. “The Republic of Singapore Navy is filled with absolute professionals, and both navies gain great training and readiness benefit from this key interaction.”
CARAT is a series of bilateral, flexible military exercises designed to enhance regional cooperation, promote understanding and build trust between participating military forces. Its scenarios are tailored to meet evolving threats like counter-piracy and maritime interception operations, in addition to providing a venue to share the latest humanitarian assistance and disaster relief practices.
“I feel fortunate to be able to take part in the experience that exercise CARAT provides,” said Vandegrift Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Brandon Bryan. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our two navies to come together and work towards strengthening our relationships and increasing our ability to operate together, both ashore and at sea. I truly look forward to all that we will learn from each other over the next two weeks,” he said.
CARAT Singapore is a 12-day exchange and training event that includes maritime security exercises, such as practical visit, board, search seizure (VBSS) evolutions, live-fire gunnery exercises, military operations symposiums and professional aviation exchanges. There will also be events to strengthen relationships within the local community, including a sports day, culinary exchanges and community service projects.
According to CTG 73.1 CARAT Officer, Lt. Dan Follett, the operational complexity of CARAT Singapore 2012 will offer new challenges to all participants involved.
“I believe that CARAT Singapore 2012 will be a very dynamic exercise,” said Follett. “The tactical intricacy of this year’s exercise includes air defense and anti-submarine warfare events that will challenge the participants from both the RSN [Republic of Singapore Navy] and USN in both the shore and sea phases.”
This is the 18th consecutive year for CARAT and Singapore is one of the original four participating nations. There are more than 1,500 personnel, 10 ships and 24 aircraft participating in CARAT Singapore 2012.
Press Release – New Zealand Defence Force
“Command Approved, Sea Sparrow,” and with that the warship HMNZS TE KAHA let fly a NATO Sea Sparrow Missile in a live practice firing, achieving the successful destruction of a towed air ‘enemy’ target.20 July 2012
Missile Firing Success for Royal New Zealand Navy Warship
“Command Approved, Sea Sparrow,” and with that the warship HMNZS TE KAHA let fly a NATO Sea Sparrow Missile in a live practice firing, achieving the successful destruction of a towed air ‘enemy’ target.
The firing of a live Sea Sparrow missile occurred this week as part of the ship’s participation in exercise RIMPAC 2012 on the United States Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility north of Hawaii.
The Commanding Officer of HMNZS TE KAHA, Commander Jon Beadsmore was thrilled with the successful event.
“Live firings are an important part of testing the capability of our ships. They ensure a full ‘end-to-end’ check of the ship’s systems is conducted, which extends from maintenance of the ship’s radar and missile guidance systems through to the actual missile launch, destruction of the target and analysis of the flight data.”
The practice missile is equipped with an inert payload that allows data to be recorded from the firing to allow an analysis of the effectiveness of the missile and its guidance system.
“The instant I gave approval to fire was one of the easiest decisions of my life. I have a great team of 170 highly skilled professional war fighters working for me who are well trained, highly motivated and fully supported by a host of uniformed and civilian personnel ashore. If it has been properly forged, honed and aimed. The tip of the arrow has the easiest job.”
A significant component of the firing is the analysis of the training and competencies of all those personnel involved which includes embarkation, storage, preparation, launch and provision of data to the missile needed to complete a successful engagement. A frigate conducts one or two live firings of its weapons systems every two years and this particular weapon cost $778k.
Currently the ship is enjoying the opportunity to take part in the biggest maritime military exercise in the world; RIMPAC 12. Based out of the Hawaiian Islands, the ship is ‘plugged into’ an organisation of 22 countries, a total of 25,000 personnel, 42 ships, six submarines, and over 200 aircraft. TE KAHA is joined by the RNZN Operational Dive Team, Mine Counter Measures Team, a Rifle Platoon from 1 RNZIR, a P3K maritime patrol aircraft (with two crews) and personnel working ashore and afloat in a number of Headquarters.
Link to the video footage of the missile firing: http://youtu.be/I46i7TV9g28
Britain begins Olympics airspace security
LONDON, July 17 (UPI) — British military and civilian authorities have imposed airspace restrictions over London and southeastern England ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The Ministry of Defense said Saturday the restrictions were put into force to “ensure a safe and secure London 2012 Olympic Games.”
“Equipment and personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force are in place to enforce the restrictions and provide enhanced protection for the period the temporary restrictions are in force,” the ministry said in a release.
As part of the enhanced security efforts for the July 27-Aug. 12 Games, Britain has deployed Typhoon jets to the British air force base in Northolt, England, as well as readying Puma helicopters staffed with air force sniper teams to intercept unauthorized aircraft.
The helicopters were deployed last week to the Ilford Territorial Army Center.
Also as part of the preparations, army Rapier and Starstreak ground-based air defense systems have been installed at six sites in London while navy Sea King helicopters were sent to Northolt.
In addition, the British navy’s largest ship — the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean — returned to London to serve as a base for helicopter operations for the Olympics.
Phil Roberts, assistant director of airspace policy at Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, said the agency has worked with the military and civilian air traffic controllers to get word of the restrictions out to pilots.
“The government’s airspace security restrictions will primarily affect private pilots so, together with pilot associations and other bodies, we’ve been undertaking a significant program to alert pilots to how they need to comply and keep flying during the Games,” he said.
The consequences of violating the airspace restricts restrictions could be lethal, warned Air Vice Marshal Stuart Atha, commander of Olympics Air Security.
He told the BBC Friday a plane could be shot down in a “worst-case scenario,” adding “the highest level of government” would make the call on such a decision.
“We are planning on a terrorist threat environment that is severe … we are not suggesting that there is any particular threat or risk to the Games that we know about,” a British Home Office spokesman said.
The BBC reported the pilots of light aircraft would be allowed to fly over London under the restrictions but only if they had gone through a series of security procedures.
The airspace security moves came in addition to the 17,000 troops already assigned to the games. The game’s organizers said last week they were looking into the possibility of more troops to help provide security.
The Daily Telegraph reported another 3,500 service members were dispatched to London last week after a private security contractor came up short in manpower requirements. Company officials admitted they ran into trouble finding enough qualified applicants.
Although the contractor, GS4, will remain on the job despite the short staff, the British military has contingency plans in place to send more people to the Olympics, the newspaper said.
Topics: 2012 Olympics
Marlborough hydroponic lettuce operation Thymebank has expanded its lettuce-growing capacity with the addition of two greenhouses.
Owner Martyn Birch said the increased capacity would enable Thymebank to meet the growing needs of Marlborough and continue to expand its market throughout the country.
The 600-square-metre addition takes Thymebank’s total hydroponic area to 6000sqm, set on 2.9 hectares on Hammerichs Rd near Blenheim.
The company produces up to 20,000 lettuces a week for supermarkets and restaurants in Marlborough, which take 35 per cent of the produce, and Dunedin, Wellington and Palmerston North.
“To secure customers you have to be able to supply year round, not just in summer when everything is growing well,” Mr Birch said.
“We actively seek customers during winter when every square inch of growing space is full as possible.”
In summer, production dropped back to about 60 per cent of capacity, because everything grew bigger and matured in half the time it took in winter.
This gave them the opportunity to spread plant turnover and keep up to date with maintenance, he said.
Mr Birch hires 10 staff and will be looking at taking on more as production increases.
Since taking over Thymebank in 2005, the former Royal New Zealand Navy physical education instructor said there had been “continual growth” in demand for a good quality, year-round supply of lettuce, salad greens and herbs.
The popularity of reality TV shows such as MasterChef and an increase of people seeking healthy diets had fuelled that demand, he said.
“We’ve expanded by about 50 per cent in the seven years since I took over. We saw the growth in the industry, the population is growing and people always need to eat.”
To grow the same number of lettuces outside would require 20 hectares of land and 20 times the amount of water, making hydroponics an environmentally friendly option, he said.