31 Desember 2013

Corvettes and OPVs: Offshore Investments in South East Asia and Oceania

31 Desember 2013


Kedah class NGPV (photo : Militaryphotos)

The question can best be understood by looking at Malaysia. To meet its New Generation Patrol vessel (NGPV) requirement the Royal Malaysian Navy selected the Blohm & Voss MEKO 100 design as the ‘Kedah’ class. They seem to be OPVs at first sight for their armament consists of a 76mm (three-inch) gun and a 30mm (one inch) gun but they feature a sophisticated combat management system, an electro-optical director, a chaff launcher and are equipped to operate surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles and an electronic warfare suite. These are not installed but it was recently revealed that Kuala Lumpur now intends adding anti-ship missile systems to them. They are rated in the naval bible, Jane’s Fighting Ships as corvettes and will be joined by DCNS ‘Gowind’ class ships ordered last year from France’s DCNS with the first example to be delivered in 2017. The French Navy operates one as an OPV but the design can be used as a corvette and Malaysia intends operating them in this role.

OFFSHORE PATROL VESSEL

OPV-type platforms can be used as corvettes for both are generally around the 1,000-2,000 tonne mark but the OPV is more a law-enforcement platform. It is designed to protect a nation’s resources within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) extending some 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from shore and also to assert national sovereignty and law while providing a search and rescue as well as an environmental protection capability with some having a hydrographic survey capability. Compared with a corvette it tends to be slower but with higher endurance often operating a helicopter while some have sophisticated command and communications systems to interact with foreign agencies, but they are generally armed with nothing larger than a 76mm gun. The corvette is a surface combatant usually optimised for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and featuring surface-to-surface missiles and consequently it has more sophisticated sensors than the OPV with higher speeds for rapid transit or manoeuvres.

The largest OPV operators in Asia are China, India and Japan, which have to secure green or blue water interests, while a number of countries such as Indonesia rely on their surface combatants in the offshore role. This can sometimes ratchet up tension in times of crisis, such as the recent confrontation off Borneo between Malaysia and Indonesia, while the OPV acts as a less threatening platform.

Brunei

Darussalam class OPV (photo : shipspotting)

Within South East Asia Brunei has three 80-metre (24-feet) ‘Darussalam’ class OPVs,.

Malaysia

Langkawi class OPV (photo : MMEA)

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has two ‘Langkawi’ class OPVs. 

Philippines


Jacinto class corvettes (photo : Manilaboy)

The Philippines Navy operates three ‘Jacinto’ class ‘corvettes’, which are actually OPVs, and has acquired two former US Coast Guard ‘Hamilton’ class High Endurance Cutters, and may acquire a third to meet a long-standing requirement for three OPVs. It is now considering installing anti-ship missiles in these vessels to make them full corvettes. 

Thailand

Krabi class OPV (photo : worldwarships)

Thailand has requirements for five OPVs of which four would be sophisticated craft, reportedly having the same design as OPVs built for Trinidad and Tobago but sold the Brazil, while one will be a more basic vessel. It operates two ‘Pattani’ class ‘corvettes’ which are also actually OPVs.

Pattani class OPV (photo : mdc.idc)

Myanmar


Anawrahta corvettes (photo : myanmar defence weapons)

Around the Indian Ocean Burma operates three ‘sheep in wolves’ clothing, ‘Anawrahta’ class ‘corvettes’ which are actually OPVs.

New Zealand


Protector class OPV (photo : stxmarine)

In the Pacific, New Zealand acquired two ‘Protector’ class OPVs which are unusual because they have ice-strengthened bows to operate in Antarctica. 

Australia


Project Sea-1180 Offshore Combat Vessel (image : RAN)

The Government has directed that Defence develop proposals to rationalise the Navy’s patrol boat, mine countermeasures, hydrographic and oceanographic forces, potentially into a single modular multi-role class or family of around 20 Offshore Combatant Vessels (OCV) combining four existing classes of vessels. The new vessels will likely be larger than the current Armidale Class patrol boats.

Australia has a plan, Project Sea 1180 for a 2,000-tonne Offshore Combat Vessel (OCV) which would meet a variety of roles including acting as an OPV. This $3.1 billion programme is unlikely to be implemented until the first half of the next decade.

CORVETTES

The demand for true corvettes has grown steadily in the past couple of decades replacing requirements for Fast Attack Craft (FAC). FACs are small platforms especially vulnerable to air attack because their surveillance radar antenna is relatively low reducing the search area and counter-measures reaction times, they cannot mount a significant air defence system which makes them vulnerable even to helicopter stand-off attack and their lack of compartments means a bomb or missile strike can inflict catastrophic damage. The corvette overcomes most of these problems making them a useful surface combatant with superior radar search area, more compartments and the introduction of damage control while bringing the prospect of better air defence protection. It is also a more versatile platform for it can be used for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) through the installation of sonars and lightweight torpedo launchers.

Indonesia

Parchim class corvettes (photo : TNI AL)

It should be noted that not all corvettes have surface-to-surface missiles, and Indonesia’s former East German ‘Parchim Is’, or ‘Kapitan Pattimura’ class, are unusual in being dedicated ASW platforms with hull-mounted sonar, augmented in some ships by variable depth sensors, armed with both anti-submarine torpedoes and mortars.

Fatahillah class corvettes (photo : Kaskus Militer)

Indonesia augments these 16 ships with seven Dutch-built vessels; three 30-year-old ‘Fatahillahs’, which also feature a strong ASW suite, and the most modern Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) ‘Diponegoro’ class which are one of Damen’s Sigma family (Sigma 9113), with their shaped hulls to reduce the radar cross section.


Sigma 90 class corvettes (photo : Kaskus Militer)

The Sigmas form the keel of a new family of corvettes (also designated ‘light frigates’) to meet the Guided Missile Escort (Perusak Kawal Rudal) 105 requirement which are being designed by DSNS and the domestic yard PT PAL under an August 2010 agreement. Based upon the Sigma 10514, these 2,400-tonne vessels will be optimised for ASW with the first of two scheduled to be laid down this year and to enter service in 2016 but it is unclear how many are required. Priority may have been given to a requirement for three submarines with work starting next year.

Malaysia


Laksamana class corvetted (photo : rankratz)

Neighbouring Malaysia’s requirements have been mentioned earlier and it should be noted that the Royal Malaysian Navy also operates six corvettes; four former Iraqi ‘Assads’ (as the ‘Laksamana’ class) and two German-built ‘Kasturis’. 


Kasturi class corvettes (photo : iv-groep)

Singapore


Victory class corvettes (photo : BQ-T)

While Singapore has six ‘Victory’ class ships based upon the L├╝rssen MGB 62 design but with an exceptionally high mast for its search radar. 

Thailand


Khamronsin class corvettes (photo : worldwarships)


Tapi class corvettes (photo : c7f)

Nearby Thailand operates seven corvettes of which the five ‘Khamronsin’ and ‘Tapi’ class are ASW vessels. There is no requirement for new vessels with Bangkok more interested in acquiring frigates and upgrading its vessels.

Vietnam


Tarantul class corvettes (photo : vntime)

By contrast Vietnam is expanding its corvette fleet steadily from the original four ‘Tarantul’ (‘Project 1241E’) class, with an ASW capability, and two domestically-built ‘Improved Pauks’ (‘Project 12418’) and is acquiring up to ten ‘Improved Tarantuls’ (‘Project 1241.8’) all of  which are pure ASuW vessels.

Molniya-Improved Tarantul class corvettes (photo : ttvnol)

In 2011 DSNS revealed they were discussing the sale of four ‘Sigma 10514s’ to Vietnam, of which two would be built domestically. Vietnam is also acquiring Russian-built frigates, two of which have been delivered, reflecting the preference of some Asian navies for larger, multi-role platforms capable of projecting power in ‘blue water’ environments.

See full article : Asian Military Review

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