Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 1.23.20
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto is in the middle of a European tour that has taken him to France and Germany, before continuing on to Russia.
Considering that such visits usually lead to speculative reporting of potential arms sales, it was no surprise that French newspaper La Tribune published an article citing Prabowo’s stated interest in 48 Rafale fighter jets, up to four Scorpene-class submarines, and two Gowind-class corvettes.
Reporting on pitches from German and Russian industry is expected as Prabowo’s visits continue, and analysts will need to assess the real opportunities from than diplomatic niceties.
Indonesia certainly has outstanding requirements that would justify such purchases. According to their Minimum Essential Force plan, the Ministry of Defence aims to have 128 fighters and eight submarines by 2024.
The Indonesian military currently has 49 fighters and five submarines. Cost will affect whether Indonesia goes forward with the French procurement, as well as how much it will have to scale back or delay planned purchases from the US (32 F-16Vs), Russia (11 Su-35s), and South Korea (KF-X and submarines) in order to do so.
Unless Indonesia’s defense budget grows beyond the one percent of GDP, there are limited funds available for a significant procurement from France without cuts or delays elsewhere.
The purchase of Rafales could serve as a back-up plan should US sanctions successfully pressure Indonesia to drop its purchase of 11 Su-35 fighters from Russia, or if Indonesia and South Korea cannot come to a new agreement on KF-X fighter development that would see 48-50 KF-X fighters delivered by the end of the 2020s.
The submarine purchase, which would allow Indonesia to retire its two Cakra-class submarines, would be enabled by a bold claim by La Tribune: Indonesia would cancel a $1 billion contract with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Maritime Engineering (DSME) to build three submarines.
The Gowind-class offer likely speaks to Indonesia’s need to patrol its vast maritime territory, while still being ready to meet higher-end threats should the need arise.
Recent incursions of Chinese fishing boats and Coast Guard vessels near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands encapsulate the maritime issues at hand.
India has made the first round of bidder selections for the procurement of the $7 billion Project-75(I) submarines.
Under India’s newest Strategic Partnership model, the project would see two local shipyards – now revealed to be either Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders or Larsen & Toubro – partner with one of five international OEMs to produce six diesel-electric submarines with air-independent propulsion.
The five bidding OEMs and submarines are Rubin Design Bureau’s Amur 1650, Naval Group’s Scorpene 2000, Navantia’s S-80, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ (TKMS) HDW 214, and Daewoo’s KSS-III.
Two local contractor teams, Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited and a consortium of Hindustan Shipyards and Adani Defence, had their bids rejected, while Saab chose to no bid the competition over transparency concerns.
Going forward, the two local contractors are expected to partner with one of the five listed OEMs to establish a joint venture that would be able to provide full technology transfer and set up a domestic supply chain as part of the bid process, which is expected to close by the end of 2020. Award is currently expected in 2022.
On January 22, the Head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Blaszczak, announced on a radio program that Poland would be officially signing a contract for 32 F-35 aircraft in the next week.
The contract, valued at approximately $4 billion, would see the first units of F-35s delivered by 2024. Notably, the contract would not see the defence ministry sign an offset agreement for the purchase, which would likely significantly increase the cost and complexity of the contract.
Thus, the final deal is quite in-line with the F-35A’s $75 million flyaway cost, accounting for the requisite training and logistics costs.
On January 21, it was reported that a protest was filed against the German government’s decision to award its new frigate production program to Damen.
MKS, which submitted a bid that lost to Damen, filed the protest and has stated that it will pursue all legal measures available to have the decision overturned.
The frigate program itself is valued at USD $6.7 billion and will produce four multipurpose combat ships. However, the German acquisition program was criticized domestically for being open to bidders throughout the European Union.
Germany is considering taking legal steps that would exempt national security-related acquisitions from EU-wide competition rules, but that effort is still ongoing and is subject to a number of different bureaucratic processes before it would go into effect.
At present it is unclear how long the protest will delay the beginning of the project, as these protests can last anywhere from several weeks to more than a year.