KARACHI — Chinese and Turkish companies have been fiercely vying for business at Pakistan’s bi-annual International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) arms fair in Karachi.
Cancelled due to the devastating floods in 2010, IDEAS2012, which started on Wednesday and runs through Sunday, has taken place amid tight security and an uncertain financial climate. Despite the financial climate however, there was still a reasonably strong showing of international defense companies hoping to secure orders from a country facing a constant threat of insecurity.
These ranged from German marine systems firm Atlas Elektronik, a supplier of torpedoes and sonar equipment to the Pakistan navy, to Ukrainian state-owned military import and export company UKRSPECEXPORT, which hopes to secure more Pakistan orders — especially for armored fighting vehicles. Ukraine has been instrumental in the development of Pakistan’s main battle tank, the Al-Khalid.
Absent were previous strong participants such as France’s state-owned shipbuilder DCNS and Germany’s HDW. Both had been vying for orders for submarines for Pakistan’s navy with their Scorpene/Marlin and Type-214 designs, respectively. The Pakistan Navy selected the Type-214 and in 2008 a deal for three of the submarines was close to being signed. However, Pakistan’s financial downturn squashed the deal and the absence of both companies at IDEAS2012 may indicate neither has realistic expectations of a deal despite the program not being formally cancelled.
A Pakistani industry official, who did not want to be named, told Defense News the Type-214 deal might be cut down the road — but not in the near future.
A showcase for UAVs
Despite the financial situation, domestic defense firms have showcased their products and highlighted their progress.
Domestic UAV firm Integrated Dynamics told Defense News that a prototype of one of its small UAVs was undergoing operational evaluation with the Pakistani military in the Waziristan region as part of operations against the Taliban.
Due to the prevailing hostility to the CIA’s armed UAV operations in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, the company stressed that its products are unarmed. This may perhaps be in part an effort to dispel any speculation it was part of the reported indigenous ‘Baraq’ UCAV program.
However, as the UCAV has not transpired, analysts are no longer sure if the program is still being developed or has been abandoned. No official information is available.
Pakistan has a vibrant UAV development capability, however, as the Advance Engineering and Research Organisation (AERO), which is part of the state-owned Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) conglomerate, showcased with its ‘Shahpar’ tactical canard pusher UAV.
The autonomous UAV has an endurance of seven hours and can relay data in real time out to a range of 250km.
Another company somewhat reluctant to discuss its full range of products was the Military Vehicle Defence Research Establishment (MVRDE). It showcased a variant of its Dynamic Integrated Training Simulator for Tanks.
However, a MVRDE spokesman was mum on the firm’s aircraft simulators, despite one being included in its brochure.
In 2008 MVRDE revealed it was being tasked with developing a simulator for the MFI-17 Mushak basic prop trainer aircraft, and it has been reported that this work would lead to a simulator for the JF-17 Thunder multi role combat aircraft.
A range of domestic and foreign companies are jockeying to help the Pakistani military make the switch from analogue to digital communications however, and these included the Chinese firm Hytera in partnership with long-established local firm Micro. Similarly, National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) is also part of this effort as is U.S firm Harris through its Pakistan-based presence.
Each has already successfully sold equipment to the military, but the digital switch holds out the promise of lucrative future contracts.
The big two
IDEAS2012 was notable, however, for the competition between Chinese and Turkish defense industries. After domestic defense firms, Chinese and Turkish businesses had far and away the largest presence, with each country booking a hall for their companies.
Turkish companies — such as Havelsan, a defense electronics, software and integration company; Yonca Onuk, a manufacturer of advanced composite patrol craft; and Turkish Aerospace Industries — were all hoping to secure further contracts for their equipment from the Pakistani military.
Havelsan and Yonca Onuk have both been instrumental in aspects of the Pakistani naval modernization program over the past decade. Yonca Onuk has supplied its MRTP-15 and MRTP-33 patrol/fast interception craft, and is now promoting larger more capable developments of these vessels.
According to the Havelsan representative in Pakistan, the company has secured an order for its Genesis combat management system for the Pakistan Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, PNS Alamgir — and Havelsan is pushing ahead with hopes of a very broad range of naval modernization proposals.
TAI, having previously supplied an air warfare test and training range, as well as upgrading Pakistan’s F-16A/B Block-15 fleet, is pushing its T-129 attack helicopter to fulfill Pakistan’s requirements for an AH-1F Cobra replacement.
According to a TAI spokesman, a deal was nearly signed with Pakistan for 15 T-129 helicopters, but it stalled because of financial issues. Due to the operational environments of the Pakistani and Turkish militaries being very similar in topographical and climatic terms, Bilgi is confident Pakistan will see its future attack helicopter in the T-129.
The T-129 program includes other Turkish defense firms, such as defense electronic system firm Aselsan and rocket munitions developer/manufacturer Roketsan. The Turkish defense ministry is very keen to promote the T-129 to potential foreign customers — and Pakistan and South Korea are key targets.
But it was the Chinese that appeared to have secured the bulk of Pakistani orders in the first stages of IDEAS2012.
China Shipbuilding Trading Corporation (CSTC) secured an order from the Pakistan navy for four warships. These are thought to be improved variants of the F-22P Zulfiquar class frigates, four of which have already been built for the navy, (three in China and one in Karachi).
According to a spokesman for Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, the Pakistan navy recommended a large number of modifications for the follow on batch of frigates, and these modifications have been accepted by the Chinese designers.
A spokesman for CSTC was unable to say if the eight FM-90 SAMs (Crotale copy) would be replaced by a larger number of more capable missiles housed in a VLS however. The SAM armament of the current F-22P class frigates is a noted shortcoming of the design.
Poly Group Corporation secured an order for an undisclosed number of its Type CS/VP3 MRAP vehicle. Specific details of the deal were not forthcoming, but Poly Group Corporation claim the Type CS/VP3 offers protection to STANAG 4569 3B for an 8kg TNT equivalent under hull explosion, and STANAG 4569 4A for a 16kg TNT under wheel explosion.
In contrast Pakistan’s state-owned manufacturer Heavy Industries Taxila’s (HIT) MRAP design did not manifest itself at IDEAS2012. A HIT spokeman told Defense News it was still under development.
However, HIT did sign a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese armor fighting vehicle giant NORINCO to jointly market the Pakistani Al-Khalid MBT, that is based on the NORINCO MBT-2000 tank design. The new deal will allow Pakistan to market the tank internationally as the Al-Khalid whereas the Chinese have hitherto marketed the MBT-2000 independently.
The value of the deal may perhaps be questioned as NORINCO has already further developed the MBT-2000 to the MBT-3000 with improved armor protection, engine performance, all electric turret drive and elevation, full digitization, and thermal imaging sensors.
The MBT-3000 was being promoted at IDEAS2012.