ASW capabilities: the European context – Part 2

I previously wrote :


I will contiue with some conclusions regarding the detailed numbers i wrote in part 1.

Numbers, people and training
Not only do numbers matter, people to operate the systems, and training… for ASW does matter. The number of people available have declined, and because there are less ships (and people) to do more operations (other than ASW) their availability for dedicated anti-submarine operational training is at a very dangerous low point. The last factor will be: the wearing out of the ships, because all ships will be at a high level of operational availability for low intensity operations… like anti-piracy  in the horn of Africa or on station.  Ships and systems aren’t available for what they were intended for… but are available for operations they are too expensive to operate for. Even the OPV’s are relatively high cost because of the High tech sensor suite and the high load guns on board. (compare it to the French Gowind L’Adroit OPV, or the Spanish BAM for instance. Or take the very expensive NH90 naval helicopter which may be very good for Anti-Submarine warfare and other military operations, but way over the top for SAR, training, Drug and law enforcement operations.

This imbalance isn’t only visible in the Netherlands. The whole of Europe, at least the modern Western-European armed forces have suffered the same decline in ASW capabilities.  The Netherlands and other EU-member states should rethink the decline of (their) relevant capabilities!

Read about it in this indepth special report from a workshop from 2008: DV C. Parry Maritime developments and their



Read all the answers to questions like: Why is it important? Where do we need it for? But first let me start by elaborate on the necessity for a European approach to our maritime security. Personally I think it is possible to do this in a manner that both respects the sovereignty of (our) nation(s) and create an effective European force if necessary. Besides that it will be necessary to better control our borders, surrounding waters and Exclusive Economic Zone’s (EEZ) both in times of peace (coastguard operations) and war (military naval operations Sea Control / Sea Denial)

“Although the interests of European countries can also be differing, we have one big shared interest: We all live on the European continent.”

Not alone but in partnership
In my opinion a European approach to Security & Defence is a very important thing to do because Europe will face imminent threats in the years to come. At the same time we see the forces of the NATO split into the United States (80%) and the rest. European countries are lacking many important capabilities and the Armed Forces of the United States are (re)focusing on the South East Asian and Pacific theatres of operation. Besides that we see that the United States interests aren’t always the same as European and European countries interests. In contrast even, sometimes the interests of the United States and European countries are diametrically opposed to each other. Both Russia and China are following a more aggressive stance while Western (especially European) countries take a more avoidant stance. At the same time we see the West giving priority on short term financial benefits by decreasing defence spending and trying to secure for example (defence) export deals with both countries (thus selling them high tech weaponry and technology transfer) while ignoring possible future conflict situations with both countries. We see a lot of developments in our back- and front yards:

threats to europe

  • Russia: Ukraine, threat full maneuvers in the Baltic Sea, claiming territories in the North pole area, an aggressive stance against some of the Visegrad group of counties and (other) Baltic states e.g.


  • China: claiming territories and islands in the South China Sea area, setting up no fly zones over other countries territories (Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia)  the same for Taiwan, South Korea and Japan areas.


  • Turmoil in several Mediterranean countries: With lots of refugees and civil war in Syria, Iraq and many problems surrounding the whole Southern European (Mediterranean) borders.


Common interests in Europe within NATO
My conclusion is that Europe and the European member states should do more to become more independent from the United States, within NATO structures if necessary, and act as fully responsible and as an assertive (group of) countries. Although the interests of European countries can also be differing, we have one big shared interest: We all live on the European continent. Eventually this also benefits the United States and NATO but on our own terms.


One continent, common threats
European countries share one continent, they thus share common threats to their borders and to their common interests in regard of flow of goods, fuel, raw- and rare materials. Al these interest depend on open and (European) controlled seas. But what if we (Europeans) do not have the ships, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and people to secure those Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC)? Ships with all the things we need (and that’s a lot because many things we can’t make ourselves because its cheaper to buy in Asia….)   sail from Asia to Rotterdam. For example its about 9.343 NM from Singapore to Rotterdam if you take the Suez canal. What if there is a chokepoint, lets say the Suez canal is closed? Ships have to re-route to sail around Africa which means a trip of 14.181 NM. What if there are problems around Africa too? And the northern passage to go round Russia and China isn’t possible? Can we defend our merchant vessels? Against pirates? Ok, but can we defend our merchant vessels against, submarines, enemy fighter attack, long range anti-ship missiles? Is this really a delusional idea? Who would have thought that Russia would be waging war against a country with borders to Europe? Is it really unthinkable that China will wage war against small ASEAN countries like the Philippines, Vietnam e.g.? Does the Netherlands have (or even needs) the capability to perform these kind of operations all by itself? No, that won’t be possible unless it would arm all of its merchant ships… But the European navies together can make a very impressive capability to secure our SLOC. But then we need to cooperate.

No to full integration, Yes to full cooperation
A fully integrated European Armed Force and additional overhead is totally unnecessary in my opinion. This would build a water head without any muscles. I see possibilities for mutual respectful cooperation and standardisation using NATO standard procedures, training, doctrine, (modular) weapon and sensor systems, fuel and spare parts. This will also improve the cooperation with our US allies. Burden sharing with the US will benefit both. We can secure their interests: merchant vessels on route from Asia to the US, and they can secure European merchant vessels en route to Europe. But there is even a broader possibility there are other countries to cooperate with. Brazil, India, South Africa (BRIC countries…. Without China unfortunately) could be security partners too.


Read about some of the current and proposed Maritime Patrol Aircraft market.


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