The renewal of the mine warfare group absent from the modernization plan of the Romanian Naval Forces (2017 – 2026)

The Romanian Naval Forces (FNR or Roman Naval Fortress (FNR) benefit from a modernization plan (2017 – 2026) composed of three main acts which are the acquisition of corvettes, submarines and the modernization of two frigates. Even if this is not explained in the Romanian naval program, Bucharest could move forward quickly on the issue of renewing its naval component. mine warfare due to the advanced age of the buildings and the obsolete nature of the materials used.

The theater of the Romanian Naval Forces, the Black Sea, is largely disrupted: the annexation of Crimea (2014) by the Russia whose Black Sea Fleet is being renewed strengthens Moscow's footprint. There turkish navy is also modernizing its submarines in service and building a new generation of submarines while Turkey's place within the Atlantic Alliance is being called into question. The naval presence of NATO followed the establishment of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (2009) which redeploys the American anti-ballistic missile posture in Europe: almost continuous presence of one of the four Arleigh Burke-type destroyers based in Rota (Spain) and installation of two AEGIS land sites ashore (one AN/SPY-1D radar plus 24 RIM-161 Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) in Deveselu in Romania and Poland (2018). The civil war in Ukraine justified an increase in the posture of NATO navies as a whole.

It was in 1998 that the last time a warship was launched in Romania. After these “naval vacations” without any laying down over the next twenty years, the modernization plan (2017 – 2026) of the FNR promises a radical transformation of naval capabilities Romanians. Romania assumes a military effort to the tune of 1,81% of its GDP in 2017 – compared to 1,5% for France. Today, the vast majority of them are based on buildings acquired from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or built under license in Romanian shipyards based on Soviet project plans.

The Romanian naval plan (2017 – 2026) is broken down into three main acts which are the acquisition of corvettes, the modernization of two frigates and the assembly in Romania of submarines:

The acquisition of new corvettes aims to provide for the replacement of the buildings of the 50th corvette squadron (Mangalia naval base) of project 1048 or Tetal-I in NATO code (Admiral Petre Bărbuneanu (1983) Vice-Admiral Eugeniu Roșca (1987), two other units disarmed) and project 1048M or Tetral-II in NATO code (Rear Admiral Eustațiu Sebastian (1989) Rear Admiral Horia Macellariu (1989), construction of two other units abandoned).

Corveta Horia Macelariu 265 Defense Analyzes | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
The corvette Contraamiral Horia Macellariu of the Romanian Navy

The buildings of project 1241 or Tarantul in NATO code (flight (1990) Pescăruşul (1991) et Lastunul (1991) are also classified as corvette in the Romanian fleet typology. These corvettes will benefit from modernization as part of the naval plan rather than being explicitly targeted by the acquisition of the four corvettes. This is perhaps a way of keeping them in service until the Romanian Navy requests the order of additional corvettes in order to be able to replace them and maintain a similar format in this area.

At the end of the procedure launched in 2016 by Bucharest, Naval group was declared the winner of the call for tenders on July 3, 2019 for the supply of four Gowind 2500 corvettes for 1200 million euros. The first unit should be manufactured in Lorient in less than three years and the next three assembled in Romania by Constanța Shipyard and delivered before 2026.

Gowind2500 romania Defense Analysis | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
The 4 Gowind 2500s ordered by Bucharest from Naval Group will considerably increase the anti-submarine and anti-ship performances of the Romanian Navy

The 56th frigate flotilla (Constanța naval base) will benefit from the modernization of the two frigates King Ferdinand of Romania (2004) et Regina Maria (2005) Type 22 acquired on January 14, 2003 from the United Kingdom (commissioned, respectively, in 1988 and 1987). This operation was attached to the program for the acquisition of new corvettes (4 + 2) and will therefore be executed during the same period.

The modernization of Mărășești (1992) is, surprisingly, not included in the lot. The frigate is considered obsolete. It would have been considered preferable to remove it from service rather than launching a modernization program probably considered too costly because it had to be applied to a single building.

The third major act is the renewal of the underwater component which today rests on the submarine dolphin (1985). The Romanian government accepted the Soviet offer for a Project 877 submarine (Kilo in NATO rating). Two additional units had been considered but could not be ordered. Considered unfit for service in 1995, the dolphin is declared operational again in 2018. The naval plan (2017 – 2026) aims to replace it with three new submarines, as in Poland which also has a Project 877 submarine.

DelfinulSubmarine Defense Analyzes | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
The Delfinul, Kilo class submarine project 877, is the only submarine of the Romanian Navy.

These three major acts of the naval plan (2017 – 2026) revolve around a dominant key: the anti-submarine warfare. The axis of reconstruction of the surface and submarine fleets being very explicit, it is surprising not to find no program renewal of the mine warfare component. The project existed before the financial, economic and sovereign debt crisis (2007 – 2009).

The capabilities are currently based on the buildings of the 146th squadron of mine warfare (Constanța naval base), i.e. four minesweepers (Locotenent Remus Lepri (1986) Locotenent Lupu Dinescu (1989) Locotenent Dimitrie Nicolescu (1989) et Hi. Alexandru Axente (1989) of the Musca class and a minelayer, Vice Admiral Constantin Bălescu (1981) of the Cosar class (the second unit was dismantled). These ships have limited anti-submarine warfare skills which could be used.

D.Nicolescu drageuru de mine romania Analyzes Defense | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
Minesweeper D. Nicolescu of the Romanian Navy

In practice, the four minesweepers are not mine “hunters” and are even completely obsolete. They are built around a steel hull, which necessarily makes them vulnerable to mines with magnetic influence, even by demagnetizing the hull. Furthermore, and this is the most damaging, they are not equipped with high-resolution sonar or remotely controlled underwater vehicles. The buildings did not benefit fromno modernization program of age since their admission to active service. The work carried out in 2015 only served to address certain obsolescences.

Historically, it is remarkable that the Black Sea was the scene of numerous mining and counter-mining campaigns during the Crimean (1853 – 1856), Russo-Turkish (1877 – 1878) and two world wars. (1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945). The maintenance, modernization or even extension of mine and submarine warfare capabilities by the Russian and Turkish fleets are not likely to eliminate the use of naval mines in the XNUMXst century, quite the contrary.

frances naval group clinches belgian dutch minehunter replacement contract Defense analyzes | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
Naval Group and the Belgian ECA-Robotics offer the mine warfare solution acquired by Belgium and the Netherlands

Minesweepers are, however, very active and regularly participate in exercises carried out, notably by the Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group Two (SNMCMG2) with the other NATO navies integrated into it. Romanian ships are even seen occasionally crossing the Bosphorus straits to exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.

Given the age of the Musca class buildings (38,25 years on average) and their obsolete nature, the fact that no replacement plan has been publicly presented appears to be a major inconsistency vis-à-vis the naval plan (2017 – 2027) which aims, however, to renew operational capabilities for combat under the sea.

Bucharest, aware of the stakes, despite its silence on the matter, would be ready to move forward quickly on the renewal of the buildings of the 146th mine warfare squadron before committing to a major new program: theacquisition of three submarines. And Naval group is logically both well placed and interested, given its success recorded with the Belgian and Dutch navies. A number replacement for many of the Romanian buildings, given theoffer from Naval Group and ECA-Robotics in Belgium, would require 627 million euros. Romania thought it would have to spend 1600 million euros for the acquisition of four corvettes: Naval group's offer cost "only" 1200 million euros: the budget for four minehunters... Hence perhaps a certain optimism for Naval group.

Nothing has yet been said about the need to renew an offensive minelaying capacity. The introduction of the first mine warfare capability based on the employment of surface and underwater drones could force other protagonists in the Black Sea to upgrade.

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