China, N. Korea Spur Purchases by Neighbors
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Faced with North Korea’s nukes and China’s burgeoning defense budget, neighboring nations are buying more advanced fighters, upgrades for C4ISR systems, and radars and air defense missiles for ballistic missile defense programs.
“Japan and South Korea are both increasing ballistic missile defense cooperation with the United States because both face clear missile threats, primarily from North Korea, but also from China, and both view this as an essential move to maintain alliance cooperative capability with Washington,” said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center.
Pyongyang’s nuclear efforts are especially worrying, said Yoichiro Sato of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu.
Sato added that Tokyo is also moving to reinforce its relationship with Washington.
“Japan sees maintaining a technological edge as a factor in cementing the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Sato said. “Participation in co-development and co-production of weapon systems with the United States is driven by consideration of the assessed needs, scale-economy, the U.S.-Japan alliance and technological learning for Japanese firms.”
Both Japan and South Korea are also preparing for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region.
Seoul’s upgrades of C4ISR and ballistic missile defense systems is clearly in response to the new nuclear and ballistic missile threat from North Korea, but also due to the scheduled turnover of wartime command from the United States to the South Korean military.
“C4ISR is necessary, among other things, to ensure that the South Korean armed forces will be capable of assuming responsibility for wartime control of military forces, currently the responsibility of a U.S. four-star,” said Richard Bush, director of the The Brookings Institution’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, Washington.
Said Fisher, “Seoul is a late-comer to ballistic missile defense cooperation, due to its expense and South Korean expectations the U.S. would carry this burden — which is far less credible as the current government yields to nationalist pressures to decrease the American military presence.”
Japan, with some of the largest defense procurement programs in the region, is spending its money at home for two major indigenous programs: the C-X cargo transport and the P-X maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. It also plans to buy a new multirole fighter under its F-X program.
The Japan Defense Agency announced the P-X and C-X development programs in December 2000, and initial research-and-development funding was approved in the 2001 budget. The total development cost of both is estimated at $3 billion on the assumption that their simultaneous development could save $174 million to $261 million because 25 percent of their bodies and 75 percent of their avionics will be common. Funding for the P-X is scheduled to be requested in the 2008 budget.
The F-X project is part of the 2005-2009 Mid-Term Defense Program, approved in December 2004. The Air Staff Office will issue the request for proposals in 2007, and F-X is scheduled to be selected in 2009. F-X development costs aren’t known because they will depend on the aircraft chosen. The Japanese are considering the U.S. F-15, F/A-18, F-35 and F-22; the Eurofighter Typhoon; and an upgraded Japanese F-2.
Japan also is involved in a major ballistic missile defense procurement program that includes Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) air defense missiles, Standard Missile-3 air defense systems, and radar and C4ISR upgrades.
South Korea’s $280 billion Defense Reform 2020 initiative, launched in 2005 to modernize and streamline the military over the next 15 years, guides Seoul’s procurement decisions.
Procurements will include a new ballistic missile defense system for an estimated $150 billion and 20 new fighters under a $2.5 billion F-X program. The $1.8 billion FFX frigate program will produce six ships, and the design program for the KSS-III diesel electric submarine will begin this year.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries are working on the sub program, under which nine boats are planned. Construction is expected to begin in the 2010-15 time frame. South Korea also is planning to build six additional Type 214-class KSS-II submarines for delivery after 2012. They will join three KSS-II submarines ordered in 2000 and currently being completed at Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Army aviation is replacing its UH-1Hs under a $1.4 billion Korean Helicopter Program. In 2006, Eurocopter and Korea Aerospace Industries joined forces to build 245 replacement helicopters beginning in 2011. The helicopter must be able to carry 11 troops for up to two hours. Prototypes will be tested in 2010. A new attack helicopter program is expected to begin in 2018.
Taiwan’s defense procurement is in shambles, with plans to procure eight diesel-electric submarines for an estimated $11.7 billion, PAC-3 missiles for $3 billion and 12 P-3 Orion maritime aircraft for $1 billion derailed by politics. All three programs were part of a 2001 Bush administration offer to Taiwan that has since been politically hijacked by pro-unification and pro-China legislators.
Taiwan’s Air Force also wants to buy 60 F-16 Block 50/52 fighters for an estimated $5 billion, but the legislative branch blocked the budget in November.
Some analysts said the budget for all four programs will be passed after the 2008 presidential election, assuming that a pro-unification Chinese Nationalist Party wins the election. However, should the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party win again, the legislature is expected to continue stalling on defense procurement budgets.
Thailand’s defense procurement program also has been stalled by political wrangling since the September military coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister.
The military has passed a $34 billion budget for 2007, but it is largely for increased salaries, training and benefits for military personnel. Some of the money will buy small arms and equipment to deal with the recent increase in violence in the south.
The military still has a requirement for one new fighter squadron. Potential candidates include the U.S.-built F-16 and F/A-18, Russian Su-30, French Mirage, Swedish Gripen and Chinese J-10, said a U.S. government official in Bangkok. Costs are debatable based on program.
Australia & New Zealand
The 10-year, 2001-issued Defense Capability Plan that guides Australia’s defense procurement plans allots 54 billion Australian dollars ($41.9 billion) for 99 procurement projects and sub-phases, including:
• Project Air 6000 will buy 100 Royal Australian Air Force fighters for an estimated 15.5 billion Australian dollars. The aim is to replace 71 F/A-18A Hornets and 21 F-111C strike aircraft between 2012 and 2018 with up to 100 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.
• Project Sea 4000, for an estimated 6 billion dollars, aims to procure three Aegis-equipped destroyers for Royal Australian Navy fleet air defense, with a possible requirement in the future to field ballistic missile defense systems.
• Project Air 7000 calls for spending 6 billion dollars on six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and eight maritime patrol aircraft. The aim is to replace Australia’s AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft with a mixed fleet of UAVs — either the RQ-4 Global Hawk or MQ-9 Mariner and a new maritime patrol aircraft yet to be determined.
• Project Air 5077 for 3.5 billion dollars, will procure six Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft from Boeing, but this project is currently 26 months late.
• Project Air 5402 aims to acquire five Airbus A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transports to replace three aging Boeing 707 tankers for 1.7 billion dollars.
Contracts have been signed for Air 5402 and Air 5077.
New Zealand is pushing forward with naval procurements that include the 500 million New Zealand dollar ($340 million) Project Protector, which will add seven ships to the fleet in 2007. The ships include an 8,000-metric-ton multirole vessel, two offshore patrol vessels and four inshore patrol vessels.
Malaysia’s largest-ever defense procurement — 27 next-generation offshore patrol vessels — also became its most troublesome when the company awarded the contract failed to deliver the boats on schedule. With more than 2 billion ringgit ($571 million) spent and the first two German-built vessels rejected by the Royal Malaysian Navy for failing technical trials in late 2004, the government realized the program had run aground.
Local company PSC Naval Dockyard and the German Naval Group were selected for their Blohm+Voss Meko 100 patrol boat bid. The proposal included a plan to build two vessels in Germany and the next batch of four in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur signed a 24 billion ringgit deal in 1998 with PSC to build the vessels over a 10-year period.
After the sea trials and reports of problems emerging at PSC in 2005, Boustead Holdings Berhad, a publicly listed group controlled by the Malaysian military’s Superannuation Fund, took a 31 percent controlling stake in the shipbuilder in late 2005. Boustead promised to complete the vessels that had failed the trials, and both were inducted into service by the Navy in 2006. A Ministry of Defense source said more than 2 billion ringgit has been spent on the project so far.
This city-state’s largest recent acquisition was 12 F-15E Strike Eagles, dubbed F-15SGs, from Boeing. The cost has been estimated at about $1.7 billion, including options, and deliveries are scheduled between 2008 and 2009. Singapore also has the option to buy another eight aircraft.
India plans three major acquisitions — 126 Medium Range Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Air Force, 30 submarines for the Navy and 155mm guns for the Army’s 230 artillery regiments — are worth a total of $35 billion to $40 billion.
Of the 30 planned submarines, New Delhi thus far is buying six Scorpene conventional subs under a $3.8 billion deal with France.
A request for information for the MMRCA went out in 2004.
The $10 billion contest to supply the Army with 155mm guns has yet to begin.
Gregor Ferguson in Sydney, Nick Lee-Frampton in Wellington, Vivek Raghuvanshi in New Delhi and Jasbir Singh in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.