You can read the analysis published in the May 2019 Issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review here:
Sinan TOPUZ / firstname.lastname@example.org
This latest offering to the series of articles detailing the warship procurement efforts of various countries over the last year featured in MSI TDR takes a look at Asia, excluding China, as the largest market in the continent, which will be discussed in a separate article.
Defence expenditures in the Asian continent, the most ambitious region in the world in the arms race, have increased by 61 percent since 2008, reaching $447 billion, with an ongoing upward trend. The main factors increasing the armament drives are: China’s claims over the islands and the continental shelf in the region; the US rejection of these claims; the competition and ongoing disputes between Japan and China, India and China, and India and Pakistan; and the sharing of natural resources, as is the case in other regions. Although the developments in the Chinese naval power are not discussed here, it is worth noting that between 2014 and 2017, China added 44 ships, most of which were frigates and destroyers, to its inventory.  Meanwhile, submarine construction projects and the use of submarines in Southeast Asia have increased significantly, leading countries to start thinking about how to prevent inadvertent collisions of submarines engaged in clandestine activities. As of today, the number of large and small size submarines that can carry out operations in the Pacific are 228 and 52 respectively, whereas the number of large-size submarines is expected to reach 300 in the forthcoming period.
Although Australia is not in Asia, its defence system procurement efforts are shaped according to developments in Asia. Australia has responded to China’s show of naval force with projects which turned the heads towards Avustralia. One of which is for the construction of 12 submarines with a total budget of $35.5 billion. The company that won the challenging tender was Naval Group, with Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A – designed specifically for Australia – which has a length of 90 metres and a displacement of some 4,000 tons. The other two competitors, namely, Mitsubishi/Kawasaki with Soryu and TKMS with its Type 214, were also as ambitious as Naval Group. Although disputes arose in the negotiation phase, it was announced that the contract was inked with Naval Group in early 2019.
Australia’s second eye-catching project is the six frigate procurement with the budget of $35 billion. The project was originally based on a need for a proven ship concept similar to Canada’s, but Australia then decided to purchase the BAE Systems’ Type 26, which has yet to be launched. The other two options were Fincantieri’s FREMM and Navantia’s F100.
Although falling outside the scope of ship purchases, another major project in Australia with a budget of $7 billion is for the supply of MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles, to be commissioned in around mid-2020.
An important procurement activity related to Australia relates to an offshore patrol vessel. It was announced in November 2017 that Lürssen had won the Australian tender for 12 offshore patrol vessels with a bid of $2.4 billion, after competing against Fassmer and Damen. The construction of the first ship in the project started last November.
Among the countries on our list, Bangladesh recorded the highest increase in gross national product in Asia. Bangladesh announced its defence forces’ objectives in 2009 through the Forces Goal 2030 document. Bangladesh purchased two Ming Type 35 G submarines with a value of $203 million from China, which were added to its inventory in 2017. Ships are being used as training platforms for future submarine projects, while Bangladesh is trying to increase the number of submarines in its fleet to six. The country’s plan, entitled Forces Goal 2030, includes the construction of a submarine base, and the transformation of its submarines into air-independent types. The Bangladesh Navy will add two more ships to the two corvettes purchased from China in 2016. Unlike the Type 56, these ships, dubbed Type C13B, were launched in China in 2018, but have no sonars or antisubmarine warfare (ASW) weapons. Furthermore, the Bangladesh Navy also wants to add two maritime patrol aircraft and two helicopters with ASW and surface warfare capabilities to its inventory.
India considers China may also be considered a threat to marine transportation in the Indian Ocean aside from Pakistan. India, the world’s largest importer of weapons, purchased 12 percent of the world’s total imports of weapons between 2013 and 2017. The defence industry partnerships developed with Israel have brought positive results in the ship tenders in South America, in which Indian shipyards participated.
The Indian Navy wants to enlarge its fleet to 150 ships and 500 aircraft in the future to allow it to maintain control of both the Gulf of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In addition to its ship modernisation activities, India is continuing with its base and airfield development efforts.
India is already in possession of an aircraft carrier that was purchased second-hand from Russia, and is preparing to launch a second, completely indigenous ship for which it has even negotiated with the United States for the use of its catapult technologies. Aside from seeking an aircraft carrier, India has also made efforts to acquire four helicopter ships (Multi-Purpose Support Ship).
So-called Project 15B includes four frigates with a displacement of 7,400 tons – planned to be the largest destroyers in the Indian Navy – the design and construction of which have been carried out by Indian engineers. The first two vessels in the class, each costing around $1.2 billion, have been launched, and ships are expected to join the naval forces from 2021 to 2024. The manufacturing shipyard claims that with a cost of $159,750 per ton, the ships are much cheaper than the UK’s Type-45 class ($193,650 per ton), South Korea’s KDX-III Sejong class ($203,720 per ton) and the US’ DDG-51 ($ 205,000 per ton). 
The so-called Project 17B covers seven frigates with a displacement of 6,700 tons, each of which is expected to cost approximately $550 million. The first ship was placed on the slipway in 2017, with the technical support of Fincantieri, and all are expected to join the Navy between 2022 and 2025. Similar to the 7,400-ton Project 15B, Project 17B is also planned to utilise BrahMos and Barak 8 missiles.
According to an agreement concluded on January 30, India will supply two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates (Project 1135.6P/M). India will then build two advanced Talwar-class frigates in the GOA Shipyard with technology transfer from Russia. These four ships, the first of which will be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2026, are expected to be equipped with Indian-made combat systems, such as BrahMos cruise missiles, and will be completed with a total budget of $1.9 billion.
In March, India signed a $3 billion agreement with Russia for the third time for the lease of a nuclear submarine for 10 years. Under the agreement, India will replace the first submarine that was leased in 2012. Project 75, as another submarine project in India with a budget of $3.5 billion, covers six Kalvari-class submarines, to be constructed in India by means of technology transfer, and based on Naval Group’s Scorpene design. The first ship of the project has been commissioned and the second has been delivered to the naval forces, while the others are expected to be delivered to and commissioned by the naval forces by 2022. The ships were originally to be equipped with 98 Black Shark torpedoes to be supplied by Leonardo at a total cost of $300 million, however, due to an ongoing litigation process against the company related to past helicopter sales to India, other companies were considered.
Following the Kalvari-class submarine project, Project 75I, covering the construction of six submarines with vertical launched BrahMos missiles and air-independent propulsion systems, was approved, and a Request for Information Document for the project was issued in 2017. Japan and Spain withdrew from the project, leaving Germany’s Type 214; Russia’s Amur, Sweden’s A26 and France’s Scorpene designs to compete. The total budget of the project is $10 billion according to some sources, and $6–7 billion according to others. The process for the selection of the design and the domestic shipyard is expected to take two years.
In March, India signed a $2 billion agreement with Lockheed Martin for 24 MH-60R helicopters, under which the first batch of helicopters will be delivered in 2020, with the entire delivery to be completed within 48 months. Moreover, India is also planning to purchase 22 MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles from General Atomics for the inventories of both its land and naval forces at a cost of $2 billion.
Indonesia consists of 17,499 islands and hosts the critical regions of the Pacific. The country’s total coastline is 81,000 km, and two-thirds of its total surface area within the area covered by its borders is sea. Naturally, the struggle for resources in the region also affects Indonesia, and so the country is looking to strengthen its naval forces.
The second Sigma 10514 frigate, with a displacement of 2,300 tons and a length of 105 m, constructed jointly by Damen and PT Pal, was commissioned in January 2018. An agreement was reached at Indo Defence 2018 for the installation of a 12-cell VL MICA launcher onto the first ship in the project, which covers a total of four ships.
In addition to its three KCR-40M patrol boats, Indonesia is awaiting the delivery of the fourth ship, which was launched in February 2018. Furthermore, negotiations are continuing for the second four-ship package, also to be constructed by PT Pal at a total cost of $195 million, and the first of which will be delivered in 2021. Unlike in the previous packages, the second KCR-40M package is planned to be kitted-out for low-level missions.
Similar to the navies of other countries in the region, the Indonesian Navy is also sparing no expense in keeping up with the submarine competition. The country’s first 1,400-ton Type 209/1400 submarine, constructed jointly by Daewoo and PT Pal, was commissioned in April 2017, and the second entered into service last year. The third vessel of the project – announced as the first submarine construction in Indonesia – has been launched and is expected to be commissioned in 2020. In April 2019, Indonesia announced the signing of a $1.02 billion contract with Daewoo and PT Pal for three additional submarines. In the meantime, it has been stated in the press that STM is also looking to be assigned the contract for a third group of submarines being considered for the post-2024 period.
Although there is little news in the press about Iran’s defence output, numerous indigenous products of Iran are frequently seen in military parades. News from Iran in 2018 included details of mini-submarines, destroyers and guided munitions developed within the country, especially those used in the exercises conducted in the Gulf of Iran. In 2018, Iran added the fifth of its 1,300-ton indigenous destroyers, as well as the second 600-ton Fateh submarine, which is said to be able to launch guided munitions, to its naval inventory. It would be fair to say that Iran is planning operations with an asymmetric doctrine, in which fast patrol boats will play a role, with focus on speed, number, secrecy and attack, while its production is focused on small boats, cruise missiles and mines. The most notable activity in Iran has been the launch of a guided munition from its Qadir-class submarine to the surface in February.
The 11th Soryu-class submarine was launched last October, and the 10th joined the Japanese Navy in March. Unlike other submarines with air-independent propulsion systems, these vessels use lithium-ion batteries rather than lead-acid batteries, providing them with doubled energy storage capacity. According to the Japanese defence budget for 2015, the cost of the 11th vessel in the project for the construction of 15 vessels in total was planned at $579 million.  The Soryu-class was listed among the most likely options in Australia’s tender for the supply of submarines. Moreover, it has been brought to public attention that Taiwan is interested in these vessels, and that the manufacturer of Soryu-class vessels was invited to participate in the tender of India’s 75I submarine project. Japan withdrew early from the Indian tender, with the reason reported to be that Japan is not keen on technology transfer, being worried that an attempted cyber attack against India by China may result in the stealing of know-how related to the submarine. Another news story that infiltrated the media claimed that Japan is also reluctant to enter into a comprehensive technology transfer agreement with Australia. 
On July 30, 2018, Japan launched the first of two Maya-class destroyers, known also as 27DD or 27DDG, under a project with a total value of $1.5 billion. The vessels, with a length of 169 metres and an empty weight of 8,200 tons, are similar to Atago-class destroyers but are a little larger, and are expected to be commissioned in 2020 and 2021. The vessels will be equipped with a 96-cell vertical launching system that can launch ESSM, SM-2, 3 and 6 missiles. The Maya class, its predecessor Atago class, and Atago class’ predecessor Congo class are all destroyers, and can be compared with the Arleigh Burke class of the US Navy. It is possible to say that these successive classes form a ship-class tree.
On February 27, Japan added a second 5,000-ton Ashai-class destroyer, costing some $893 million, to its naval inventory. These two Ashai-class destroyers are expected to be deployed mostly on antisubmarine warfare missions.
Japan classifies its current helicopter carrier ships as “helicopter destroyers”, and is modifying two Uzuma-class vessels for use with F-35Bs. The decks of the vessels must be recoated to withstand the hotter conditions. There are other news reports stating that Australia is also considering the possibility of carrying F-35Bs aboard its ships, and the fact that following its initial order for 42 F-35s, Japan has ordered 100 more F-35s in a second package, and that this new package includes both F-35Bs and F-35As, seems to support such claims.
Malaysia currently uses 15 different classes of ships that have been constructed in seven different countries, and is planning to restructure its naval forces to have five different classes of ship. In December, Malaysia signed a contract with China for a project covering four vessels that it refers to as Littoral Mission Ships (LMS). Originally, the plan was to construct two of the ships in Malaysia’s Boustead Shipyard, but it appears that after a cut in price was offered and there was a change in the Malaysian government, all of the 700-ton ships will now be constructed in China. 
The fourth of the Littoral Combat Ships, designed by Naval Group and built at the Boustead Shipyard, was placed on the slipway in November. The construction of the first ship in a $2.8 billion project covering six 111-metre ships (slightly longer than the original Gowinds) with a displacement of 3,000 tons started in 2016. This ship was launched in 2017 and is expected to enter into service in 2019.
Relations between Pakistan and Turkey in the defence the industry continue to expand by the day, based on the fact that the two countries complement each other’s deficiencies in various fields. The Fleet Replenishment Ship PNS Moawin joined the Pakistan Navy with a ceremony held at the Karachi Shipyard last October. Aside from STM, as the prime contractor, more than 20 Turkish companies contributed to the project. The contract for the ship, which is 158 metres in length and has a 15,600 ton displacement, was signed between STM and the Pakistan Ministry of Defence Production in January 2013. The first weld was performed in November that same year and the ship was launched in August 2016.
STM has also been awarded the project for the modernisation of Pakistan’s Agosta 90B-class submarines, outperforming its rivals.
Finally, negotiations on Pakistan’s procurement of MİLGEM corvettes were also completed and the project was initiated. It has been reported in the press that within the process that started with MİLGEM, projects for two patrol boats and one submarine rescue vessel are now also on agenda in the negotiations between Pakistan and Turkey. 
China is another country that is seeking to strengthen its strategic and economic relations with Pakistan. Indeed, for Pakistan, this means that China is the country that Turkey has to overcome in terms of economy, technology, quality and cooperation model. According to an agreement signed in June 2018 between the Pakistan Navy and China’s Shanghai Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard, the number of Type 54/A/Jiangkai II-class frigates, each with a price tag of $348 million, to be procured was increased from two to four. Deliveries of the ships, for which the first weld was performed in December, to Pakistan are expected to begin in 2021 and to end in 2025.
Aside from the Agosta 90Bs modernised by STM for Pakistan, one of Asia’s first submarine users, the two Agosta 70-class submarines in the country’s inventory are also about to expire. Aiming to replace these existing vessels, Pakistan signed a contract with China to supply eight Type 39B/Hangor-class submarines, which will be delivered between 2021 and 2028, four of which will be constructed in Pakistan.
- Asia Military Review, Dr. Collin Koh Swee Lean, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)
- Zhenhua Lu, South China Morning Post, March 21, 2019, US and China’s underwater rivalry fuels calls for submarine code of conduct to cut risk of accidents, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3002736/us-and-chinas-underwater-rivalry-fuels-calls-submarine-code
- Sputnik News, 2019, Slow Overseas Equipment Supply Cause Delays, https://sputniknews.com/military/201712221060240366-slow-supply-delays-indian-project/, Date Accessed: March 16, 2019
- The website of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the 2015 budget, http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_budget/pdf/270414.pdf
- Kartheek Bheemisetty, Mart 31, 2017, Quora, Why didn’t Japan offer Soryu Class, https://www.quora.com/Why-didnt-Japan-offer-India-Soryu-class-submarines-via-Indian-Project-75I, Date Accessed: March 20, 2019
- Ridzwan Ahmad, March 18, 2019, Jane’s 360, Malaysia revises contract for Littoral Mission Ships https://www.janes.com/article/87277/malaysia-revises-contract-for-littoral-mission-ships, Date Accessed: March 22, 2019
- Anadolu Agency, November 28, 2018, Pakistan’ın Yeni Gemi Siparişleri Yolda, https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/ekonomi/pakistanin-turkiyeden-yeni-gemi-siparisleri-yolda/1323662, Date Accessed: March 23, 2019