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Algerian National Navy

The Algerian National Navy is the naval branch of the Military of Algeria, operating from three bases at Algiers, Annaba and Mers-el-Kébir on the Mediterranean coast. In 2010 it consisted of 6,600 personnel with most of its equipment provided by Russia. With help principally from the Soviet Union, the Algerian Navy underwent considerable enlargement and modernization during the 1980s. Its ambition was to develop a fleet of well-armed vessels that would enable it to deal with the Moroccan or Libyan fleet and permit Algeria to project naval power beyond its own coastal waters.

The Regency of Algiers was governed at this time by a Turkish janissary garrison that selected its own ruler, the Day (“Uncle”). The prosperity of this garrison and its population of Kouloughlis (Turco-Algerians), Moors, and tribal migrants depended in large part on the tribute that trading states paid to protect their shipping from corsair attacks and on the seizure of ships, crews, and cargoes belonging to states that failed to pay. For the Regency, these seizures were a lawful economic activity; for the U.S., they constituted piracy.

The U.S. was in competition with European interests, and it is likely that the British among other were encouraging the corsairs to attack defenseless American ships. Ben Franklin, the Minister to Great Britain, wrote in 1783 that London merchants had a maxim: “If there were no Algiers, it would be worth England’s while to build one.” Mohamed Ben Othman (Dey from 1766 to 1791) let it be known that he “declared war on all states that did not want to pay the customary fees for freedom of navigation.” Starting in 1785, numerous American ships, crews, and cargoes fell into the hands of the Algerines (as the inhabitants of Algiers were known) and other Barbary corsairs. Algiers alone captured at least 15 American ships in the period from 1785 to 1793).

American efforts to deal with this situation were hampered by an internal debate on how best to deal with the Barbary corsairs. Many European countries paid tribute on the assumption that doing so was cheaper in the long run than the cost of deploying large navies, the losses suffered to corsairs, and the ransoms required to release captured crews. In 1785, John Adams, Minister to Great Britain at the time, espoused this view, while Thomas Jefferson, then Minister to France, argued against tribute and for a resort to naval power. The debate was settled by budgetary considerations – the fledgling republic did not have enough tax revenues to build and deploy a large navy.

In 1814, immediately after the close of the War of 1812 with Great Britain, a squadron under the command of Commodore Decatur was sent to punish the Barbary powers, particularly Algiers, for wanton aggressions upon United States commerce during the war, which prevented action being taken at the time. In 1815, when Algeria was deemed one of the Barbary Pirates, the Algerian force afloat was a half stronger than Decatur's. It included five frigates armed with eighteens and twelves, six sloops-of-war armed with twelves, nines, and sixes, and a schooner—in all twelve vessels carrying three hundred and sixty guns. Moreover, these vessels were fully manned with able seaman, and their admiral, Rais Hammida, was the terror of the Mediterranean. He "had risen from the lowest to the highest place in the Algerian navy (something that cannot be done in the navy of the American republic), and he had proved his prowess and valor over and again.

Moreover the harbor of Algiers, formed by an artificial mole, was defended by double and triple rows of heavy batteries, so that over five hundred pieces of ordnance bore upon the maritime approaches of the place. In fact, when England in the year 1816 made war on the Dey, five ships of the line, five frigates, four bomb ketches and five gun-brigs were deemed by the Lords of the Admiralty too small a force. In 60 days after his arrival in the Mediterranean Decatur hud captured the principal vessels of the Algerian navy and had forced treaties on Algiers and Tunis which compelled these faithless pirates to a recognition of maritime right.

The resulting Treaty of Peace of 1815 obtained the release of all American captives and established relations of peace without further payment of tribute. Dey Omar’s attempts to evade it required a new show of naval force under Commodore Isaac Chauncey and conclusion of a confirmatory Treaty of Peace and Amity in 1816. On this occasion, Omar was so afraid that his entourage, whose livelihood depended on corsair prizes, would kill him for signing that he demanded and obtained a certificate stating that he had been forced to sign at the muzzle of a cannon. Nine months later, he was assassinated anyway.

By 1972, the Algerian armed forces consisted of about 55,000-60,000 men, nearly all of whom serve in the Army. The Air Force and Navy consisted of about 3,000 men each. The Algerian navy is the smallest of the services, with the mission of coastal defense. It possesses a modeot number of missile patrol boats of the Komar and Osa class.

As of 1993, the navy was reportedly interested in acquiring surplus vessels from West European navies for patrolling its 320-kilometer exclusive economic zone. These purchases, however, had not materialized by late 1993, probably owing to financial constraints. In 1993 the naval complement of officers, enlisted personnel, and cadets was estimated at 6,700, with an additional 630 men in the coast guard. The latter group is part of the Ministry of Interior, although under the navy's operational control. All navy and coast guard personnel are volunteers. Previously, the commanding officer of the navy had held the rank of colonel; in 1992, however, a brigadier general, Chaabane Ghodbane, was named to the post.

Algeria received its first two submarines, Romeo-class vessels, from the Soviet Union in 1983. In 1987 and 1988, the country acquired two Kilo-class submarines, quiet-running, highspeed vessels armed with both torpedoes and mines, from the Soviet Union. The Romeos were retired for use as training ships. Two additional Kilo-class submarines were ordered.

The largest surface vessels are three Soviet Koni-class frigates commissioned between 1980 and 1985. With 1,440 tons displacement, each frigate is armed with Gecko SAMs and four 76mm guns. Three Soviet Nanuchka II-class corvettes of 850 tons were delivered between 1980 and 1982. They are armed with Gecko SAMs and four surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs). New diesel engines are reportedly being installed on the corvettes after problems were experienced with the performance and reliability of their propulsion mechanisms.

In addition to the larger combat vessels, in 1993 the naval forces operated a number of fast-attack craft and some smaller units for coastal patrols. They included eleven former Soviet Osa I- and Osa II-class missile boats, each mounted with four Styx SSMs. The navy also possessed twelve Kebir-class fast-attack craft, each mounted with a 76mm gun. The coast guard was temporarily operating six of these. Designed by Brooke Marine, the first two were built in Britain and the remainder were assembled or built at Mers el Kebir with assistance from Vosper Thornycroft. A maritime reconnaissance squadron with two Super King 200Ts had been assigned to the navy, although the squadron's personnel and aircraft came from the air force.

Algeria's naval academy at Tamentfoust near Algiers provides officer training equivalent to that of the army and the air force academies. The navy also operates a technical training school for its personnel at Tamentfoust. Some higher-ranking naval officers have taken advantage of training in France, Russia, and the United States. Principal naval bases are located near Algiers, at Mers el Kebir, and Annaba.

In addition to sixteen Italian-built light patrol craft, the coast guard in 1993 operated six Chinese patrol boats delivered in 1990; a seventh was delivered in 1992. In carrying out its coast guard duties, the navy coordinates its activities with elements of the Ministry of Interior, with the customs and immigration services, and the national police. Its goal is to prevent smuggling, the illegal entry of undesirable aliens, and other offenses in order to ensure the security of coastal areas.

The USS Arleigh Burke DDG-51 arrived in Algiers on 05 October 2009 to conduct exercises with the Algerian Navy. The crew also visited sites of cultural and historical importance and played a soccer match with Algerian Marines.

The Algerian navy ship ANS Soummam arrived in New York City on 09 July 2012 for a five-day port visit, marking the first time an Algerian navy ship has visited the United States. Soummam transited the Atlantic Ocean as part of a training program for officer trainees from the Algerian Naval High School. The visit by Soummam displays the increasing cooperation between the U.S. and Algerian navies. Earlier this year, Algeria hosted the combined maritime operations center in Oran during Exercise Phoenix Express. While the training mission is designed to instruct students on navigating the world’s oceans, the port visit is also part of their training. According to Baali, a cultural and sports program was developed to give the officer-trainees an opportunity to conduct exchanges with the U.S. Navy in order to better acquaint themselves with the world’s largest navy and learn about its different services.

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Page last modified: 29-07-2013 18:57:22 ZULU