June 15, 2010:
A year ago, Bangladesh announced ambitious plan to expand the countrys navy, and to ensure the maritime security of its sea boundaries. The plan called for the obtaining three missile frigates, three large patrol vessels, 12 small patrol boats, two landing craft, four fast attack craft and possibly 2-3 submarines. Within the past couple of months, Bangladeshs government was able to accomplish some of this plan.
Two months ago, the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to donate 16 Defender-class patrol boats (PT) to Bangladeshs navy. With a top speed of possible speed of over 70 kilometers an hour and a range of nearly 200 kilometers, these 8 meter/25 ft long boats have the capacity to patrol Bangladeshs entire coast. The recently founded Special Operations Force of Bangladeshs Navy will likely utilize these craft to combat drug trafficking and counter terror operations in the region. The U.S. Coast Guard has also agreed to donate five other coastal patrol craft. These donations are the largest in the U.S. Coast Guards history and will help strengthen Bangladeshs coastal patrols.
At the same time, Bangladesh revealed the purchase of two Castle-class large patrol boats from Britain, for approximately $2 million each. These 1,400 ton ships are armed with a 30mm cannon and four machine guns.
Due to its close proximity with Myanmar, Bangladesh is a transit point for illegal narcotics. Myanmar produces approximately five percent of the worlds opium. Both criminals and left-wing terror organizations in Bangladesh have engaged in the opium trade and are known to use sea routes to transport their narcotics. As with any drug trade, the illegal narcotic trade is accompanied by an illegal weapons trade.
The recent procurements by Bangladeshs Navy will allow for the force to play a larger role in sea operations in the area. Considering that Bangladeshs navy possesses approximately 57 patrol vessels, the recent procurement of 16 patrol boats and 2 large patrol vessels will significantly bolster Bangladeshs Navys operating capacity. These new forces provide the Navy with a better force for thwarting maritime crime off of Bangladeshs coast and will limit illegal narcotic smuggling to land. --By Bret Perry