11 April 2009

Power Surge : AEW And ASW Acquisition

2 Februari 1995

With the purchase of increasing numbers of modern fighters, several more-affluent ASEAN member states want to acquire an airborne early-warning (AEW) capability. Singapore is the only South East Asian country to date to operate AEW aircraft, in the form of four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes. Regional air-defence exercises, such as the Five Power Defence Agreement's IDEX series, have clearly demonstrated to other neighboring countries the potential of AEW.

E-2C of the RSAF (photo : Airliners)

The Malaysian Government has included AEW on its defence wish list, but the requirement appears to be at a formative stage, with no indication about the types and number of aircraft required. Sufficient AEW aircraft would be needed to cover both the Malaysia peninsular and the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo. These would supplement, two long range Martello 743D radar, being supplied by GEC-Marconi.

Thailand has voiced a similar requirement for three to four AEW aircraft, and is known to be interested in the E-2C, but funding remains a perennial problem. Indonesia has a clearly defined need for an AEW platform to enhance the coverage of the 13,000-island archipelago, but also faces a shortage of cash.

One possible low-cost solution being examined for maritime surveillance is fitting the locally produced Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN) CN-235 with the Ericsson Erieye electronically scanned phased-array radar (Flight International, 13-19 December, 1995, P23). A similar system, fitted to either the Fokker 50 or Saab 340, has been proposed to Singapore to supplement its E-2Cs.

Proposals by regional navies to add submarines to their fleets has had the knock-on effect of prompting greater interest in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and maritime-patrol aircraft (MPA).

Fokker Maritime Enforcer Mk2 of the RSAF (photo : Jetphotos)

Singapore is poised to become the second country in Southeast Asia to acquire a submarine, with the announcement in September of its purchase of a 30-year-old A 12-class boat from Sweden for training. Indonesia already operates two German-built 209-type submarines, and both Malaysia and Thailand are looking to follow.

The RSAF has already acquired, five Fokker Maritime Enforcer Mk2 patrol aircraft, equipped with a Fokker/Dornier TMS-250(V) mission system, Texas Instruments APS-134 radar and GEC-Marconi forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) system. The aircraft are intended primarily for surface strike and over-the horizon targeting for the Singapore navy's Harpoon missiles, but may also be fitted with acoustic processors.

Consideration is also being given to acquiring around 12 naval helicopters in 1998, as part of a wider programme to replace the RSAF's fleet of Bell UH-1s. Singapore has already fitted one of its AS.332 Super Puma, with a dipping sonar for trials.

Further north, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has moved to upgrade its ASW capability, with the purchase of five ex-US Navy Lockheed Martin P-3As. The USN modified two of the aircraft to P-3T specification, which includes an AWG-19 HACLCS Harpoon control. The RTN has ordered six Sikorsky S-70 Seahawk helicopters for deployment aboard its new light carrier HTS Chakrinarubet in 1997. It has also purchased three AlliedSignal Bendix/King AQS-13F dipping sonars to equip two of its helicopters for ASW, with a third set kept as spare.

Malaysia recently modernised its MPA fleet with the delivery of four Beechcraft B200Ts each fitted with a Telephonics APS-143 pulse-compression radar and FSI 2000HP FLIR. The navy, in the meantime, hopes to secure funding in the next five-year plan to purchase an initial six naval helicopters to equip two new frigates. Additional helicopters will needed for its planned fleet of up to 27 offshore patrol vessels (Flight International, 13-19 December, 1995, P25).

Elsewhere in the region, Brunei has finally begun to move ahead with a longstanding plan to purchase three IPTN-built CN-235 MPAs, with its recent selection of ARGOSystems as mission integrator. The Indonesian navy, in the meantime, has taken over responsibility for its own CN-235 MPA programme from the air force. It hopes to begin the programme in 1996 with funding for three aircraft.

The Philippines, in response to Chinese moves in the nearby Spratly Islands, is pushing ahead with plans to buy six-to-eight new MPAs. It has stipulated a need for a multi-engine turboprop, equipped with a 360¡ radar, FLIR, electronic-support measures, acoustic processor and magnetic-anomaly detector. As an interim measure, the air force wants to upgrade its two Fokker F27 MPAs.

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