March's top stories: North Korea tests missiles, Russia-Ukraine tensions rise
North Korea reportedly test-launched two medium-range ballistic missiles, hours after it was the centre of talks between South Korea, Japan and the US. Russian forces took control of a Ukrainian naval base in Crimea, while Israeli naval commandos seized Iran's Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel in the Red Sea. Naval-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from March 2014.
North Korea reportedly test-launched two medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea, hours after the US, Japan and South Korea met to discuss the country's arms programmes.
The South Korean Defence Ministry said that the missiles, identified as Rodong-class, flew 650km into the Sea of Japan. Spokesman Kim Min-seok said that the missiles have a range of 1,000km to 1,500km, and are capable of reaching Japan.
The missile launch violates UN Security Council resolutions, and follows a series of shorter-range rocket launches in recent weeks by North Korea, in an apparent protest to the ongoing South Korean and US joint-military exercises.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the French Government signed an agreement to jointly develop a helicopter-borne anti-ship missile, worth £500m.
Under the contract, MBDA will develop and demonstrate the future anti-surface guided weapon (heavy/anti-navire léger (FASGW(H)/ANL) missile for installation aboard the Royal Navy's new AW159 Lynx Wildcat helicopters and the French Navy's maritime helicopters.
UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said: "Not only will the contract protect around 200 specialist engineering jobs in the UK, but [it] is an important plank in building the strength of our relationship with France through joint procurement of common equipment, which will provide interoperability and other benefits."
Russian forces reportedly took control of a Ukrainian naval base in Crimea, soon after storming a headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where they raised their flag.
Ukrainian naval officer, major Eduard Kusnarenko said that the Russian military attacked the naval transportation facility in Bakhchisaray, 30km south-west of the regional capital Simferopol.
However, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has asked the authorities in Crimea to release Ukrainian Navy Head Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, who was detained by forces after attacking the fleet headquarters, and allow him safe passage out of the region, Reuters reported.
The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory jointly developed a new paint additive that will help military vehicles, such as the Marine Corps variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), heal in a similar way to human skin, which could avoid costly maintenance due to corrosion.
The additive, known as polyfibroblast, is a powder that can be added to commercial, off-the-shelf paint primers to enable scratches forming in vehicle paint to scar and heal before the corrosion effects reach the metal beneath.
ONR Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department logistics research programmes manager Frank Furman said that corrosion costs the Department of the Navy billions of dollars each year.
France is considering discarding a €1.4bn deal to deliver two Mistral-class warships to the Russian Navy, if Moscow escalates the situation in the Ukraine.
Denying the legitimacy of the referendum in Crimea to join Russia, Paris urged Moscow to implement vital measures to shun "useless and dangerous" escalation in Ukraine.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: "If Putin carries on like this, we could consider cancelling these sales."
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) will provide more than £300m for modernisation of the BAE Systems Barrow-in-Furness site, which will enable it to build the next generation of nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy.
Employing around 850 contractors, the eight-year programme includes both new build facilities and the refurbishment of existing infrastructure in preparation for the construction of the Royal Navy's nuclear deterrent submarines, known as Successor.
BAE Systems Maritime submarines managing director Tony Johns said: "The site redevelopment programme is fundamental to the future of the company's business and ensures that the company remains at the forefront of submarine design, build, test and commissioning.
Image: BAE facilities in Barrow in Furness Cumbria. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.
The US Navy reportedly started military manoeuvres along with the Romanian and Bulgarian navies near Russia's borders, fuelling tensions in the region.
The joint military training exercises are said to represent the US's resolve to protect its Nato allies, Reuters reports.
USS Truxtun, the US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer with a crew of about 300, will take part in the drills, alongside the Bulgarian naval frigate Drazki and three Romanian naval vessels, Bulgaria's defence ministry said in a statement.
Israeli naval commandos intercepted and reportedly seized Iran's Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel, Klos-C, in the Red Sea.
The vessel was allegedly carrying 40 long-range rockets, sent by Iran to Gaza Strip militants.
Agence France Press (AFP) cited Israeli military as saying in a statement that it had found M-302 rockets, which have a range of 160km, in containers aboard the ship.