Sunday, July 24, 2011
Brunei and Singapore Conduct Pelican Exercises
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) conducted the bilateral Exercise Pelican from July 10-13 in Brunei waters.
The RSN participated with a Formidable-class stealth frigate (RSS Stalwart), while the RBN joined the exercise with a new Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel (KDB 07 Darulehsan) and two Itjihad-class corvettes (KDB 19 Syafaat and KDB 17 Itjihad).
Brunei took delivery of three new German-built Lurssen Werft Darussalam-class vessels this year. Each are armed with a Bofors 57mm in the 'A' position along with four Exocet MM40 anti-ship missiles.
Brunei also took delivery of four Lurssen Werft-built Itjihad-class corvettes in 2010. They are armed with a single Rheinmetall MLG 27 Gun in the 'A' position.
The RSN's anti-terrorist Accompanying Sea Security Team (ASSeT), responsible for safeguarding chemical and gas tankers, also took part in the exercise and conducted joint boarding training with personnel from RBN.
ASSeT members are trained in close quarter combat and Hapkido, a Korean marital art. In addition, both navies carried out joint discussions on naval helicopter operations and warfare tactics.
Hosted by Brunei, Exercise Pelican 2011 is the 31st in this series of bilateral exercises held since 1979. The exercise underscores the close defense ties between RSN and RBN.
The two navies also engage in a wide range of bilateral exercises and professional exchanges, which have enhanced the professionalism and strengthened ties between them.
Brunei just concluded its third Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX) from July 6-9. Organized by the Royal Brunei Technical Services, BRIDEX 2011 showcased the latest regional and international defense technologies and equipment in land, sea, air and security systems.
If F-16 Deal Rejected, Taiwan May Build Jets
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — If the U.S. rejects Taiwan’s request for new F-16 fighter jets, it will not leave Taipei without options. Local defense analysts and officials say Taiwan could build its own fighters without U.S. government approval.
The state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) has produced two prototypes of the new F-CK-1C/D Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF). AIDC spent roughly $230 million from 2001 to 2007 under the Hsiang Sheng (Soaring Upgrade) program to develop a new fighter based on the IDF A/Bs built during the 1990s.
Since October 2006, the C/Ds have completed 400 flight tests. The fighters are outfitted with two conformal fuel tanks that enhance combat radius and endurance, a digital glass cockpit, and an enhanced Golden Dragon 53 multimode radar, based on the Lockheed Martin AN/APG-67 radar.
The C/Ds can carry 771 kilograms more fuel and payload than the A/Bs. AIDC strengthened the structure of the landing gear and incorporated a digital anti-skid system to prevent accidents during takeoff and landing, an AIDC official said.
The C/D doubles the load of Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword) air-to-air missiles to four, and modifications allow it to carry the new Tien Chien-2A anti-radiation missile and the Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cluster bomb, both in development by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.
Taiwan’s Air Force initially rejected the C/D option in favor of pushing for new F-16s. However, AIDC was able to persuade the service in 2009 to go forward with a midlife upgrade package for 71 of the 126 IDF A/Bs. Minus conformal fuel tanks, the upgraded IDFs include many of the same improvements of the C/D variant. The first six upgraded IDF A/Bs were handed over to the Air Force on June 30.
An AIDC official said upgrades for the remaining 55 IDF A/Bs and fullrate production of the C/Ds might be approved if the U.S. fails to release the F-16s.
Taiwan and its supporters in Washington are raising pressure on the White House to release 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters and a midlife upgrade package for Taiwan’s remaining 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters.
The entire package could be worth $13 billion and 16,000 U.S. jobs. With Lockheed Martin cutting 1,500 employees due to the economy, pressure is mounting on the White House to ignore Chinese threats and move forward on the deal. China has successfully blocked the F-16C/D and A/B midlife upgrade sale since 2006 and 2009, respectively.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is threatening to block the confirmation of William Burns as deputy secretary of state unless the White House approves the deal. And a group of Taiwan legislators is visiting Washington this week to push the C/D release, but some members have suggested the release of the F-16A/B midlife upgrade would be satisfactory if the proposed C/D sale encounters more problems. Production of the F-16, built by Lockheed, will end in 2013.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Reports of Taiwan Sub Missile Test False: Experts
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Recent local media reports that Taiwan test-fired an anti-ship Hsiung Feng 2 (Brave Wind) missile from a Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) submarine during an exercise in late June now appear to be false.
On July 7, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported the missile test, which was picked up by an English-language media service in Taipei without confirmation. The Liberty Times is closely linked to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which opposes unification with China.
Taiwan's Hai Lung's have "absolutely no capability" of launching anti-ship missiles from their torpedo tubes, said a former Taiwan Navy official who worked with ordnance used on the submarines. "This is common sense since they still have problems with just launching torpedoes with the old fire control system."
A former U.S. defense official agreed the fire control system was antiquated.
"This technology is believed to require significant and costly annual care and maintenance," he said.
Taiwan has only two combat operational diesel submarines acquired in the 1980s from the Netherlands and midlife upgrades on both are on hold until the Navy can secure the funds. Taiwan also has two World War II-era Guppy submarines used for training. In 2001, the U.S. offered to sell Taiwan eight diesel submarines, but political and technical problems haunted the program from the beginning.
The U.S. released a $200 million package for 32 UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in 2008, but the Navy has not gone forward with the order due to submarine upgrade delays and other budgeting issues.
"One of the optimal solutions is to replace the existing fire control system with a new one that would have Harpoon processing and also the existing torpedo launch capability embedded in it - the upgraded or new fire control system also would be able to handle future torpedoes," the former U.S. official source said.
However, the Taiwan Navy appears to favor a stand-alone processing and control system with links to the Harpoon or Hsiung Feng missile. This creates problems because all interaction between the torpedo and the missile would have to be "manual and not automated - meaning more time, weight, efficiency; not to mention the missile would be fired with less accurate data," he said.
Taiwan's Air Force and Navy have been using Harpoon anti-ship missiles since the 1990s on fighter aircraft and surface ships, not submarines, and recent sales demonstrate a continued reliance on the U.S. system. On July 7, the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales Program awarded Boeing a $27 million contract for the procurement of two Lot 86 Harpoon missile bodies, two exercise Grade B canister All Up Round (AUR) and eight anti-submarine rocket AURs for Taiwan.
Taiwan's military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) does have an indigenous anti-ship missile program. The Hsiung Feng family includes three variants and CSIST is now working on a land-attack cruise missile, the HF-2E, capable of hitting targets in China.
Brunei Kicks Off 3rd BRIDEX Defense Show
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - The third Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX) is quickly taking its rightful place among regional exhibitions as one of the top defense and security events in Southeast Asia.
Organized by the Royal Brunei Technical Services, BRIDEX 2011 will showcase the latest regional and international defense technologies and equipment in land, sea, air and security systems from July 6-9.
U.S. companies vying for market space include BBA Aviation, General Dynamics, Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Piper Aircraft and Raytheon. European defense exhibitors include BAE Systems, Defense Conseil International, QinetiQ, Renault, Rosoboronexport and Saab. A number of competitive helicopter manufacturers will also be exhibiting, including AugustaWestland, Bell Helicopters, Eurocopter and Sikorsky.
Asia-Pacific exhibitors include Australia's Prism Defence, China's Hubei Hudiequan Plastic Products Co., Pakistan Ordnance, Singapore Technologies Engineering and Taiwan's Smart Team Technology.
BRIDEX officials said there would be land-based and waterborne demonstrations of defense and security equipment and systems. The new BRIDEX Exhibition and Convention Centre in Jerudong is located next to the waterfront.
"BRIDEX also provides an excellent platform for building vital alliances, forging partnerships and capturing new business opportunities in a fast growing South East Asian region, as well as for networking, sharing ideas and knowledge, discussing technology advancements and industry developments," said a BRIDEX press release.
BRIDEX 2011 coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. This year about 300 exhibitors and 500 VIP delegates are expected to participate. In 2007, 108 exhibitors representing 16 countries participated, including more than 60 delegates from 17 countries. In 2009, the number of exhibitors jumped to 200 from 26 countries, along with 300 delegates from 40 countries.
Singapore's Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen will also attend. Ng is also visiting Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer cadets undergoing jungle confidence and survival training in Brunei. The SAF will be displaying a F-16 fighter aircraft, a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, a Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle and a Formidable-class frigate, the RSS Stalwart, at BRIDEX. Ng will be accompanied by Singapore's Permanent Secretary for Defence Chiang Chie Foo, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong and Chief of Air Force Major-General Ng Chee Meng.
BRIDEX will also host a conference, "Mapping Future Security and Technological Challenges," on July 5. Presenters include Kim Taeyoung, former South Korean defense minister, now a senior adviser for the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses; Ambassador Barry Desker, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore; and Lt. Gen. Prakash Menon, military adviser for India's National Security Council Secretariat.
In a statement issued by Yang Mulia Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa, Deputy Minister of Defense of Brunei Darussalem, the military has gone through organizational changes since BRIDEX 2009, "most notably the merging of the Directorate of Operations with the Joint Force Headquarters to enhance Joint Operations."
The military also formed a new department in 2010, the Centre of Science and Technology Research and Development, "that will form a synergy with the Directorate of Capability Development to focus on acquiring capability solutions required by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces."
The military is awaiting the soon-to-be released 2011 Defense White Paper, which will identify key areas for future development, such as the integration of the Joint Force with the military's C4ISR system, he said.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Taiwan AF Receives Upgraded Indigenous Fighters
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAICHUNG, Taiwan - Taiwan's Air Force took delivery of the first six upgraded F-CK-1 A/B Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) in a ceremony presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou at the state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) here June 30.
AIDC began the $590 million Hsiang Chan Project in 2009 to conduct midlife upgrades on 71 of the 126 IDFs still in operation. All of the upgrades are scheduled for completion and delivery by the end of 2012, said Kang Shiah, AIDC senior vice president.
The Air Force has an option to upgrade the remaining 55 IDFs if budgeting allows, he said. AIDC built 130 IDFs in the 1990s to replace aging F-104 Starfighters.
The upgrades include a new glass cockpit, flight-control computer and multifunction display, and doubles the fighter's load of Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword) air-to-air missiles to four. "We solved the DMS [digital map system] problem," Kang said.
The upgrades will also allow the IDF to carry the Tien Chien 2A anti-radiation missile and the Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cluster bomb. The Tien Chien missile family was developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, which assisted in the IDF's new upgrades and systems integration.
The 1st, 3rd and 9th Tactical Fighter Groups under the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Tainan Air Base will deploy the upgraded IDFs.
A second wing, the 427th TFW at CCK Air Base, Taichung, will continue to operate the remaining 55 IDFs until a decision is made on whether to continue the Hsiang Chan Project upgrades.
Local defense analysts said a decision to continue the program hinges on whether the U.S. releases new F-16C/D fighters, now on hold since 2006. Taiwan's fighter fleet includes 126 IDFs, 56 Mirage 2000s, 146 F-16A/Bs and about 60 F-5E/Fs. There are plans to retire the F-5 and Mirage fighters in the next five to 10 years, respectively.
A CALL FOR NEW JET TRAINERS
During the ceremony, Ma called on the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Economic Affairs and AIDC to collaborate to replace aging AT-3 Tzu Chiang jet trainers. AIDC built 61 AT-3s during the 1980s to replace T-33A Shooting Star jet trainers.
The AT-3s are based at Taiwan's Air Force Academy, Kangshan Air Base, Kaohsiung, and are capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including anti-ship missiles, during a conflict. One AT-3 (0862) operated by the Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team was on display at the ceremony.
In 2000, AIDC began a program that extends the life of the AT-3 until 2017, and the Air Force has begun looking for an advanced jet trainer to replace it. Taiwan military officials have made inquiries in South Korea about acquiring the T-50 Golden Eagle, built in a collaborative effort by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin, but Seoul's close relationship with China makes any sale unlikely.
AIDC has tinkered with an AT-3 upgrade variant known as the AT-5, but the program failed to gain Air Force support because of a lack of advanced jet trainer capabilities.
Also on display at the ceremony was a two-seat prototype of the IDF Goshawk. AIDC manufactured two C/D Goshawks but has no plans to mass-produce the fighter until the Air Force finds the budget to buy it, Kang said. Local analysts said the Goshawk build program could go forward if the U.S. fails to release new F-16s.
The U.S. is also holding a $4.5 billion upgrade program for Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs along with an F-16 fighter training program at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
Lockheed Report Touts Taiwan F-16 Sale as Boost to U.S. Economy
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — With the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, the economy needs new jobs and tax revenue from the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, according to a report issued by the Perryman Group, a Texas-based economic and financial analysis firm. The report, commissioned by Lockheed Martin, said the sale could generate $8.7 billion in gross revenue.
Taiwan’s request for 66 F-16C/D fighters and an upgrade package for 146 aging F-16A/B fighters has been on hold since 2007 and 2009, respectively. According to defense industry sources, the total price tag could be as high as $13.2 billion, if the $4.5 billion A/B upgrade is also approved.
The report said the “production of these aircraft (like any economic activity) generates multiplier or ripple effects through the economy.” As the U.S. presidential election draws near, the economic argument is part of a new strategy by pro-Taiwan lobby groups to pressure the White House to release the F-16s.
The report estimates that Taiwan’s F-16 program would generate more than 16,000 annual jobs over the life of the program and yield almost $768 million in U.S. federal tax revenue, as well as $593 million to state and local governments in 44 states. And much of that revenue would go to election battlegrounds in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
“These states all stand to benefit significantly in employment and revenue terms,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. “In Ohio, an important battleground state in the 2012 election, the Perryman Group’s research shows a total economic impact over the program life of $1.7 billion, and total state and local tax revenue of over $61 million,” he said.
The report, “An Assessment of the Potential Impact of the Lockheed Martin Taiwan F-16 Program on Business Activity in Affected States and Congressional Districts,” is being widely distributed by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.
The Perryman report makes no mention of the impact the U.S. economy might face from a potential economic backlash from China, which has declared the F-16 sale a “red line.” Following arms deals totaling $13 billion in 2008 and 2010, China ended military-tomilitary dialogue with the U.S. and threatened economic retaliation.
The report includes summary measures of the total anticipated impact of Taiwan’s F-16 program on business activity by individual states and U.S. congressional districts.
“Once the direct input values were determined, the present study was conducted within the context of the U.S. Multi-Regional Impact Assessment System,” using estimates of spending for Taiwan’s F-16 program provided by Lockheed at the ZIP code level, the report said. “These amounts were then aggregated into congressional districts and states.”
The failure to release F-16s could have negative consequences for other customers seeking an alternative to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), if cost overruns and production delays continue to haunt the JSF. Should the Taiwan sale fail to materialize, the F-16 production line will end in 2013, Hammond-Chambers said.
Taiwan has 126 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), 56 Mirage 2000-5s, 146 F-16A/Bs and about 60 F-5E/Fs. The F-5s are scheduled for retirement within the next five years. The Mirages suffer from serious maintenance and logistics problems and will be retired within the next 10 years. Taiwan’s state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. is upgrading 71 IDFs, with delivery scheduled by 2014.
Europe is blocked by China from selling arms to Taiwan, and the island has no other options beyond F-16s in the interceptor role. Some within Taiwan’s defense community have pushed the U.S. to release AV-8 Harrier attack jets, but the aircraft are subsonic and lack the firepower and maneuverability to counter China’s expanding fighter advancements.
Taiwan has a daunting task either way. China unveiled its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20, in December. And sea trials are expected to begin for China’s first aircraft carrier in July.
China has been replacing older fighters with newer Su-27/J-11, Su-30 and J-10 fighters over the past 10 years, as well as upgrading its ground-based air defense networks. Ground-based air defense missile systems in China can now shoot down Taiwan aircraft over the northwestern part of the island.
U.S. Blocks Taiwan's F-16 Request Again
By WENDELL MINNICK
Taipei - A U.S. defense industry source said that Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), was preparing to submit its fourth LoR for price-and-availability data for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). But it was told by AIT that the LoR would not be accepted. AIT declined to comment.
"AIT is not opposed to the sale," the source said. "This is a State Department and National Security Council issue."
The issue has become a Catch-22 for Taiwan, in which TECRO cannot submit an LoR to AIT because it is under State Department orders to deny it, and then TECRO is told by the State Department that the LoR cannot be processed because it was not received, he said.
Taiwan's requests for F-16C/Ds and an upgrade package for 146 aging F-16A/B fighters have been on hold since 2006 and 2009, respectively. The U.S. government blocked three earlier LoR attempts for C/Ds made between 2006 and 2007.
Pro-Taiwan groups in Washington are urging Taiwan to formally request the right to resubmit the LoR before the opportunity passes.
"They need to [resubmit] if they're going to take advantage of this window," said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. "If they do nothing, the moment will pass."
Support for an F-16 sale has gained momentum over the past month as members of the U.S. Congress, Lockheed and pro-Taiwan lobby groups have been working in concert to push the White House to release the fighters.
"They have submitted an LoR on three occasions and had it rejected," said Mark Stokes, a former U.S. defense official, now with the Project 2049 Institute. He said this is one reason the U.S. and Taiwan should bring back the annual arms sales talks held between 1982 and 2001.
"At least Taiwan could make its requests formally" to the U.S. government, he said.
After 2001, the arms talks were replaced with a policy that allowed for LoRs to be submitted when ready to AIT, instead of holding them until the next round of talks with the Pentagon.
The clock is running out for Taiwan. Lockheed indicates that unless there are new orders, the F-16 production line will end in 2013. Taiwan has already begun preparing for the worst.
In 2009, it began a $588 million, four-year upgrade program for 71 Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), allowing them to handle greater payloads at longer ranges.
Taiwan has 126 IDFs produced by the state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. during the 1990s. On June 30, the first batch of upgraded IDFs will be handed over to the Taiwan Air Force in an official ceremony in Taichung. If additional F-16s are not released, the Air Force has the option of upgrading the rest of the IDF fleet.
However, new F-16C/Ds are needed to replace older F-5 and Mirage 2000 fighters scheduled for retirement within the next five to 10 years. Upgrading additional IDFs will not fill the fighter gap Taiwan is facing against China's fighter modernization efforts.
In December, China unveiled its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20. Sea trials are expected in July of China's first aircraft carrier. And China has been replacing older fighters with newer Su-27/J-11, Su-30 and J-10 fighters over the past 10 years.