Recent Developments in the Far East, Middle East and Africa
Sinan TOPUZ / email@example.com
The increasing tension in the global maritime environment, from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf, and from the Eastern Mediterranean to the North Sea, has given momentum to the competition in the naval combat platforms field. The global trade potential for warships, which was $39 billion in 2017, had by 2018 reached $40 billion, and is expected to reach $45 billion in 2024. Following on from the article series published in MSI TDR last year, we again share with you the latest developments in the global warship sector. In the final part of this year’s series covering the 2019–2020 period, we analyse the Far East, Middle East and Africa fronts.
After undergoing modification, two Type 053H3 Jiangwei-Class second-hand frigates purchased by Bangladesh from China entered into service with new names and under new flags in early 2020. The ships were supplied under an agreement signed in 2018, and in September 2019 it was announced that a further agreement had been signed for two more ships. Bangladesh is also known to be in contact with Turkish shipyards with a view to adding more ships to its fleet.
It was reported in January that Indonesia had opened a tender for four patrol vessels, although the announced budget of $78.2 million was considered very low.
According to open-source information, Indonesia has allocated $730 million for the procurement of two frigates, and while it is known that the country has been in close contact with Denmark on this issue, it remains to be seen whether this contact will turn into concrete steps in the upcoming period.
In April, news was leaked that Indonesia was considering giving up the option to procure a second batch of three Type 209/1400 submarines from the Republic of Korea, and that it was currently calculating the costs it would incur should the $900 million contract not be concluded.
Indonesia is also known to be considering launching comprehensive submarine and frigate procurement projects.
In February, Thailand and the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding related to the procurement of offshore patrol vessels, specifically for the construction for both countries of BAE Systems-licensed 90-meter offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), and these are currently being built by Bangkok Dock. Thailand has built two such vessels, and it is expected that new needs will arise in the upcoming period. In 2018, the Philippines had announced a requirement for six vessels.
The first of the two 2,600-ton Jose Rizal-Class frigates, built under an agreement signed with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in 2016 for the supply of vessels at a cost of $304 million each, joined the Philippine Navy on 10 July. Port trials of the second frigate, which was launched in November 2019, are currently underway, and the vessel is expected to join the fleet in September. In November 2019, the Philippines signed a further memorandum of understanding with HHI related to the procurement of two new corvettes.
The Philippines has also taken delivery of a used Pohang-Class corvette from the Republic of Korea in August 2019. Republic of Korea has also donated corvettes of same class to Peru, Colombia and Egypt.
The Philippines has also entered into an agreement with Israel for the procurement of eight fast intervention boats, four of which will be built in Israel and the other four in the Philippines. These ships, which can carry up to 30 personnel, will replace the patrol boats purchased previously from the Republic of Korea that have now reached the end of their working life. The new boats will be mounted with a 40 mm Bofors gun and two 20 mm Vulcan Gatling guns.
Finally, the Philippines has signed an agreement with Mitsubishi for the procurement of two 94-meter coast guard vessels.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, India had announced that due to budget constraints, it would be reassessing its current contracts, with force commands having cut almost 35 percent of their planned budgets. The Indian Navy has reduced the number of mine countermeasures ships to be purchased from 12 to eight, while the numbers of both the Ka-31 Early Warning Helicopters and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft planned for procurement have been reduced from 10 to six, and the LPD project has been suspended.The Indian Navy’s plan to have 200 ships in its fleet by 2027 has been downgraded to 175. In addition, the plan to have three carrier battle groups in the same year has been expanded over a longer term.
Tensions between India and China have witnessed a recent escalation with deadly armed conflicts between the troops of both countries in the Galwan Valley line of control, for which neither of the countries is prepared to give up its demands. In this crisis environment, India may be expected to consider China to be a stronger adversary in the Indian Ocean than ever before, and this may escalate India’s arms procurement activities upwards again.
Russia signed an agreement with India in November 2018 for the sale of four Admiral Grigorovich-Class frigates (Project 11356). Since the gas turbines of these ships had previously been supplied by Ukraine, which is now refusing to supply these components after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) has taken over the duty for the delivery of the ships, two of which are currently under construction in Russia and are planned to be delivered to India in 2024.
In March, Lockheed Martin announced a $904.8 million agreement with India for the supply of 24 SEAHAWK helicopters, details of which emerged after US President Donald Trump’s visit to India in February.
The 11th Soryu-class submarine built by Kawasaki joined the Japanese Navy fleet in March as the world’s first warship to use a lithium-ion battery.
The first of the two Maya-class destroyers was commissioned in March, and the second of these vessels, with a length of 169 meters and an empty weight of 8,200 tons, is expected to be commissioned in 2021. The vessels being built under the project, which has a budget of $1.5 billion, are similar to Atago-class vessels, but slightly larger. These two vessels will be the seventh and eighth vessels in the Japanese fleet to be equipped with AEGIS.
Republic of Korea
HHI has signed a $325 million contract for the design of Ulsan Batch III class frigates. It has been announced that the ships, with a length of 129 meters and a displacement of 3,500 tons, will feature a hybrid main propulsion system, ensuring a low acoustic signature against submarine tracking.
Today, as the use of unmanned vehicles becomes more widespread, users are emphasising a need for platforms from which these vehicles can be commanded. In October 2019, HHI unveiled a concept ship with a length of 120 meters and a displacement of 3,500 tons that can serve as a mother ship for unmanned vehicles.
An announcement that HHI had been awarded a $573.5 million project was made on 10 October, 2019 for the detailed design of a second batch of ballistic missile-capable KDX-III class destroyers.
In other news, the Republic of Korea announced that for the next generation destroyer KDDX programme, the main design will be completed by 2023 by a design company that is yet to be selected, while the detailed design is expected to be completed in 2024.
The Republic of Korea has also announced that it will launch an aircraft carrier programme in response to requests of both China and Japan, expected to be a modified derivative of the Dokdo-class amphibious ship.
The first of four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) to be built by China’s Wuhan Shipyard was delivered to the Malaysian Navy on 31 December, 2019. The second ship was planned to be delivered in April, however the COVID-19 outbreak led to a postponement, and it is currently too early to predict how the programme will be affected. It is worth mentioning that there have been reports claiming that the cost per ship has decreased from $289 million to $205 million after the change in government in Malaysia.
Last year, the Pakistan Navy added PNS Yarmook to its inventory, as the first of two corvettes built by Damen in Romania. Works in various projects are continuing, including the production of four PN MİLGEM-class corvettes with ASFAT through a technology transfer agreement, submarine modernisations with STM, and the procurement of Type 54/A/Jiangkai II-class corvettes and Type 39B/Hangor-class submarines from China.
As a country that has to date been relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak, Singapore announced in early March that new platforms would be procured for the Singapore Maritime Security Task Force, although no details were provided regarding the type. The Singapore Navy took delivery of its eighth and final Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) in January.
The Sri Lankan Navy has added a Type 053H2G frigate, bought second-hand from China, to its surface fleet.
Taiwan laid down the third and fourth of its 347-ton high-speed mine layers in April.
Thailand signed an agreement with China for the procurement of a Type 71E LST (Landing Ship Tank) in September 2019.
The United States announced in November 2019 that it would be donating a Hamilton-class offshore ship of Coast Guard to Vietnam. One such vessel, which has a length of 125 meters and a displacement of 3,250 tons, is already in use in Vietnam. The United States has previously given vessels of the same class to various countries, including two to the Philippines, two to Nigeria, two to Bangladesh and one to Sri Lanka.
Middle East and Africa
In November 2019, Iran unveiled its 3,000-ton trimaran ship model, which it refers to as a destroyer.
The first of four Sa’ar 6 corvettes being built by Israel in Kiel shipyards has completed its first sea trials in the Baltic Sea. All ships are planned to be delivered to the Israeli Navy by the end of 2022.
In November 2019, Israel announced plans to replace its Sa’ar 4.5 corvettes, which have come to the end of their economic lifespan, with new design Reshef-class ships.
The final vessel in the second package of submarines ordered by Israel from Germany is currently being built by thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). This will be the sixth vessel in its class.
On 27 February, Fincantieri launched the first of the Doha-class corvettes it has built for Qatar, after which the company temporarily suspended its activities due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is thus assumed that further deliveries in the four-ship project will be delayed.
Previously procuring from France, Egypt is to purchase additional FREMM-class frigates from Italy. Italy has approved the sale of two FREMM-class frigates that were constructed for its own naval forces (as ninth and tenth ships) to Egypt in June. There have been discussions prior to the sale of the two ships, with allegations of human rights violations and concerns over the death of an Italian citizen who was being detained in Egypt. The sales price is estimated to be around $1.3 billion in total. When news of the sale broke, it was suggested in the French press that the Italians had gone behind their back in signing a deal with Egypt – as a former customer of France.
In other news, Egypt took the delivery of its third Type-1400/209 submarine in April at ceremony in Kiel that was kept low key due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The ship departed Germany on 14 April and officially joined the Egyptian Navy on 6 May.
In October 2019, Nigeria took delivery of two of the Damen 3307 patrol boats ordered by the Ministry of Interior. Nigeria plans to increase the number of patrol boats and fast intervention boats in its inventory to 41 this year with procurements from France, Malaysia and Vietnam. Damen also laid down the keel of a 1,300-ton LST for Nigeria in February.
A Multi-Purpose Amphibious Assault Ship developed for Saudi Arabia based on the LCS design will be built in the United States by Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marine.
In line with the agreement made with the French Shipyard CMN for 39 fast intervention boats, Zamil Offshore Services laid down the keel of the first boat in Saudi Arabia under an agreement that covers the construction of 21 HSI32 fast intervention boats in France and 18 in Saudi Arabia.
After establishing a joint venture company with the Saudi Arabian state company SAMI (Saudi Arabia Military Industries), and signing an agreement valued at approximately €2.3 billion for the construction of five Avante 2200-class corvettes in Saudi Arabia, Navantia has signed a further €900 million contract in September 2019 for the integration of combat systems into these ships, the first of which was launched on 22 July. According the schedule, the second ship will be launched in November, and the final ship will be delivered in 2024.