The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 11/21/2019
2019 DSEI Japan Recap
Aaron Lin, Senior Market Analyst
The Defense Security Equipment International (DSEI) Japan conference took place from November 18-20 in Chiba. Some of the highlights from the exhibition include:
- Japan’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA) continued to circulate its R&D vision during the show. Initially released in August 2019, this document outlines key technologies ATLA hopes to develop and acquire. The R&D vision can be found here. Hypersonics research has already begun, with over $170 million being allocated in the 2018 and 2019 defense budgets, specifically for “hyper velocity gliding projectiles,” which Japan hopes to deploy by the 2030s. An enhanced scramjet weapon is expected to follow. ATLA is also cooperating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a scramjet engine and has already conducted early tests.
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) displayed a prototype armored vehicle that will be offered for the Type 96 armored personnel carrier (APC) replacement. The vehicle also comes in ambulance and command and control variants. MHI has traditionally supplied the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) with heavier vehicles, while Komatsu supplied lighter vehicles like the Type 96 APC. But with Komatsu’s decision to cease new vehicle development following significant technical problems with its prototype APC in February, MHI has now stepped into this space. The Japanese MoD has already selected two Patria and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) in addition to MHI as contenders for the future APC.
- Light armored vehicles were showcased including the GDLS Ocelot, and the NMS4x4 designed by Turkish firm Nurol Makina. Although a well-defined requirement from the Japanese MoD has not yet been released, there currently does not appear to be a Japanese alternative to succeed the light armored vehicle (LAV). Komatsu’s LAV has been in service with the JSDF since 2002, providing troops with improved small arms and mine protection
- While the appearance of small arms manufacturers at a defense trade show itself is not necessarily interesting, the 2020 Japanese defense budget request asked for funding for a new handgun and new assault rifle. The current standard JGSDF handgun is a Minebea M9, a license produced version of the SIG P220. The M9 entered service in 1982. The current assault rifle is the Howa Type 89, which entered service in 1989. The Type 89 has only received minor ergonomics and optics upgrades since entering service.
- Japan Marine United (JMU) displayed its design for a 19,000-ton landing helicopter dock. This design may be developed further to eventually replace the 9,000 Osumi-class landing ships that entered service between 1998 and 2003. Replacing the Osumi-class with a larger class of ships would be a logical move to make for the JMSDF considering the increasing importance of the amphibious assault mission.
During the third day of the Dubai Airshow, the UAE announced two major purchases. The first was a plan to purchase an additional pair of GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft. The potential $1 billion deal with Saab would provide the UAE with a fourth and fifth GlobalEye aircraft after previous sales in 2015 and 2017. The GlobalEye’s will be used to provide surveillance and coordination against air, ground, and maritime threats as Iranian strikes have targeted oil refineries and tankers.
Second, the country announced that they would be doubling the size of their tanker fleet by acquiring an additional three A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports. The tankers will be used to support the operations of the UAE Air Force, with an interest likely being paid to its fleet of advanced F-16 Block 60s. While no financial details were disclosed, Avascent research indicates that the sale will likely be in excess of $750 million.
On November 15, Babcock International Group was officially awarded the UK Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigate contract. Babcock International was previously selected as the preferred bidder in September 2019 to supply its Arrowhead 140 frigate. The total contract value is $2.5 billion (GBP 2 billion), though Babcock International is receiving $1.6 billion (GBP 1.25 billion) of the contract for its role as a prime contractor, with the remaining value to go toward subcontractors. The Royal Navy is acquiring a total of five vessels, each costing $324.2 million (GBP 250 million). The first Arrowhead 140 is expected to be delivered by 2023, with the final delivery in 2027. Babcock International’s Arrowhead 140 frigate beat out bids from BAE and Atlas Elektronik. The Arrowhead 140 is multi-role frigate based on the Iver Huitfeldt-class used by the Royal Danish Navy. The Arrowhead 140 will feature eight canister-launched surface-to-surface guided weapons, 32 vertical launch cells, close-in weapons system, a towed array radar, a flight deck that can accommodate a Merlin-sized rotorcraft, and a hangar that can potentially hold two Wildcat helicopters.
On November 19, the Royal Thai Air Force placed an order for another RAT 31DL air-defense radar from Leonardo for an undisclosed sum. The new system will be installed in Samui and will provide radar coverage over the southern part of Thailand. The RAT 31DL, specifically designed to be effective in the face of jamming, is resistant to anti-radiation missiles and electronic counter measures. It is likely that Thailand is hoping the radar will provide warning against hostile actors approaching from the South China Sea. The Thai Air Force had previously purchased the RAT 31DL radar in 2015.