By Leithen Francis
SINGAPORE — Concerns over China’s growing submarine fleet are leading Asian nations to invest in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.
The Malaysian Navy uses six Westland SuperLynx helicopters for ASW, but wants ASW helicopters with more capability and plans to buy six, a senior official from the navy tells Aviation Week on the sidelines of this week’s Imdex naval defense show in Singapore. The government has included the requirement in the country’s 10th Malaysia Plan 2011-2015, he says.
The official says the navy wants medium-lift helicopters that have long range and endurance. He declines to name the helicopters in the running. But it is understood the contenders are the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R and the AgustaWestland AW159.
South Korea also uses SuperLynx helicopters for ASW missions, but it is also considering buying the MH-60R, a South Korean navy official tells Aviation Week. AgustaWestland also is in the running. Besides the AW159, AgustaWestland has the AW101, a much larger ASW helicopter powered by three engines. The AW101 is out of the Malaysia competition because it is too big for Malaysia’s ships.
In the next couple of months South Korea is expected to decide whether it will seek to buy the helicopters from overseas or go for a locally developed product, an industry executive familiar with the situation says. Industry executives anticipate a request for proposals will be issued at year’s end.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is proposing a naval variant of the Surion, the utility helicopter that KAI is developing, for the Korean army, with help from Eurocopter. The Surion is due to enter service next year. But it will be a challenge for KAI to develop a naval variant within a schedule and cost that meets the navy’s needs. The country also has a requirement for airborne mine countermeasures helicopters.
Another procurement that is in the works, but will take a few years to become a firm deal is Indonesia’s requirement for ASW helicopters. Indonesia’s navy has no ASW helicopters but wants to buy some, an Indonesian navy official says. He was unable to say when the ASW helicopters will be purchased and says it is up to the government. The navy plans to station the ASW helicopters on its Sigma 9113-class corvettes, he says. Indonesia recently took delivery of four aircraft from a Dutch shipbuilder, and a fifth is under construction in Indonesia, with more to follow.
Thailand, meanwhile, plans to purchase ASW upgrade kits for its Sikorsky S-70-7 helicopters, a Thai Navy official tells Aviation Week. Thailand bought six of the helos in the late 1990s, but to save money it never purchased the ASW kits, which include dipping sonar.
Mark Jarvis, Lockheed Martin’s director of design and production on the P-3, disclosed late last year that Singapore had issued a letter requesting information on the aircraft.
If Singapore purchases the P-3, it is likely to get former U.S. Navy P-3Cs in a similar configuration to the P-3Cs that Taiwan is getting from 2012 onward, Jarvis says. Taiwan already has S-70 ASW helicopters.
Asian countries consider boosting their ASW capabilities an urgent matter because of China’s submarine fleet and increased assertiveness.
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin