The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 11.15.18
Last week, the Indo Defence 2018 exhibition was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Several announcements regarding Indonesian procurements and development projects were made as the show progressed. Notable announcements from Indo Defence 2018 included:
- Indonesia signed a second contract with Rheinmetall for another batch of Skyshield air-defense systems, with deliveries to begin late 2019. The first order was signed in 2017.
- An $89.4 million contract signed with Korean Aerospace Industries for three KT-1B trainers, and upgraded radars and guns to be installed on Indonesia’s T-50i trainers.
- Indonesia hopes to sign a contract later this year to build three submarines. Indonesia ultimately aims to field 10-12 submarines, though this may not be possible by the original 2024 goal set by the Minimum Essential Force plan. Indonesia completed construction of its third Chang Bogo-class submarine, which will bring its current submarine fleet to five.
- Indonesian involvement in the KF-X/IF-X fighter development project with South Korea will continue, as this project is important for local Indonesian industry. Indonesia funds 20% of the project and is re-negotiating its arrangement with South Korea to better manage its financial commitment and the work that can be performed by Indonesia. Indonesian firm PTDI is responsible for the composite wing, horizontal and vertical stabilizers. PTDI will also be responsible for Indonesia specific requirements such as integration of older weapons in Indonesian inventory, a drag chute, external fuel tank, and Indonesia-specific sensors. Planned completion of the critical design review for the program is expected in April 2019.
On November 10, Indian firm Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) laid the keel of the first of three stealth frigates it will build for Project 17A. Mazagon Dock Ltd. in Mumbai (partnered with Fincantieri) is constructing the the other four frigates concurrently, for a total of seven frigates in total. Avascent expects the first delivery no earlier than 2024 and the remaining six platforms to be delivered one a year through 2030. The total project value is $7.9 billion, and it represents a follow-on to the three Shivalik-class frigates that were procured between 2010 and 2012 under Project 17. GRSE has emerged as one of the domestic firms leading the country’s naval modernization, and recently received a contract worth $348 million to build four survey vessels.
On November 14, South Korea received its first Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, which will now undergo acceptance trials. The aircraft is the first of four to be delivered under an agreement worth KRW 1.48 trillion (USD $1.35 billion) awarded in 2015. South Korea is the second Asian customer to receive the A330 MRTT following the delivery of Singapore’s first aircraft in September 2018. A total of 13 countries have either received or placed orders for the aircraft.
Additionally, South Korea awarded a KRW 631.5 billion (USD $557 million) contract to Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to build the fifth and sixth Daegu-class frigates (FFX II) for the Republic of Korea Navy. DSME delivered the first ship in February 2018 and is currently building the second in the class, whilse Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has been contracted to supply the third and fourth frigates. It has been suggested that with DSME now building the fifth and sixth ships, HHI will receive an order for the remaining two ships to be ordered.
A Norwegian frigate sunk following a collision with a Maltese oil tanker, prompting an official investigation into how the collision occurred and whether it was avoidable. The Royal Norwegian Royal Navy’s KNM Helge Instad, part of a fleet of five Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates crashed into the tanker nearly ten times its size around 4AM off the coast in Norway, causing the captain of the frigate to run it aground to prevent the vessel from completely sinking. Fortunately, no one onboard was seriously hurt at the time of the collision. Despite securing the vessel to prevent it from sinking, the anchor wires snapped on November 13 and now most of the frigate is completely underwater. The potentially irreparable damage to the $400 million frigate would be a significant loss to the Royal Norwegian Navy, though naval officials are holding on to hope that the sizeable hole in the hull can be repaired. But with most of the vessel flooded with seawater, the navy would need to replace most of the frigate’s electronics, engine components, and weapon systems. While Norwegian officials have not commented on the cause of the crash, indigenous news sources are reporting that the frigate might have ignored warnings from the Maltese-based tanker, largely due to confusion at the helm of the Nansen-class frigate over the severity of the situation if it did not adjust its course. Adding to the situation was that the frigate’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was turned off, similar to the 2017 collision of the US destroyer Fitzgerald. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense had no plans to replace the Nansen-class frigates under its Future Acquisitions 2018-2025 plan.
The Royal Norwegian Navy was planning on conducting a mid-life upgrade for the frigates beginning in the early 2020s. Norway will likely need to rethink its naval acquisitions following the likely loss of the KNM Helge Instad.
The Norwegian and Finnish governments have both confirmed that GPS signals were disrupted during the NATO Trident Juncture exercises, indicating that the likely culprit was Russia. During the training exercises, which ran from October 16 to November 7, there were several cases of GPS signals being jammed in northern Norway and Finnish Lapland, leading Finland’s state Air Navigation Service to announce a warning to civil air traffic about likely signal loss. The Norwegian Defense Ministry was quick to announce that the source of the disruption likely originated from Russian forces, while non-aligned Finland was more cautious. Russian officials have denied the allegations, but it would mark at least the third major case of GPS jamming in Northern Norway since Russia’s Zapad military exercises in September 2017 along with notable disruptions by Russian forces in the Baltics, Syria, and Ukraine. This has led to significant new R&D investment on the part of the United States and its allies to gain Assured-PNT solutions to counter Russian electronic warfare capabilities.
On November 14, it was stated by both German and Spanish officials at IQPC’s International Fighter conference in Munich that Spain is expected to join the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program to replace their F/A-18 Hornet (EF-18) and Typhoon fleets in the 2030s. Spain has been a participant in recent major European aircraft programs, including the Eurofighter and A400M, and with Airbus having a major presence in the country, plans to join FCAS is not surprising. Of the four original customers of the Eurofighter Typhoon, only Italy has yet to announce its intentions for its next generation aircraft.
On November 9, Turkey signed an agreement with BMC to mass produce the Altay main battle tank. The initial contract is for 40 tanks, with an additional 210 tanks to be completed after the first set is delivered in 2020. The value of the contract was not disclosed. The new tanks will likely be used as a replacement for Turkey’s aging inventory of M60 tanks. The Altay main battle tank was developed by Turkey as part of a larger effort to create more indigenous platforms and broaden its domestic industrial base.