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In Asia, C4ISR Market Is Growing

Nov. 12, 2012 - 12:11PM   |  
By WENDELL MINNICK   |   Comments
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TAIPEI — Maritime territorial disputes and security problems have caused the Asian market for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to continue expanding.

China’s aggressive behavior in the East China and South China seas over the past two years has rattled the region. And continued concerns over piracy and other security issues in the Malacca Strait and Singapore Strait feed Singapore’s quest for “sense-making” by the military, say regional defense industry sources.

“Everyone wants to know what’s going on in the South China Sea,” said one Singapore-based defense industry source. “Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines want to know what’s going on in that battle space,” he said. “And you need C4 [command, control, communications and computers] to process the ISR.”

Nations in the region are looking at procuring maritime patrol aircraft, UAVs, beacon location systems for ships, anti-submarine warfare systems, coastal surveillance systems and land-based surveillance, including high-frequency surface wave radar and locatable over-the-horizon radar.

“The key thing is to detect activity and classify the contact as either fishing, combatant, pirate, commercial [or] pleasure boating in order to determine if there is a violation of territoriality,” the Singapore source said.

Much of the ISR procurement drive is focused on the South China Sea, but renewed unrest in the East China Sea over the Diaoyutai/ Senkaku islands among China, Japan and Taiwan is raising fears of war.

South Korea and Japan are also arguing over the South Korea-controlled Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean) in the Sea of Japan.

Japan’s response has been to enhance its land-based radar, electronic intelligence and signal intelligence facilities on a chain of islands along the Ryukyu Arc that stretches from Japan to Taiwan.

In Japan, C4ISR has emerged as the highest space and missile defense priority over the past few years because of continuing concerns about North Korean and Chinese missile programs, and also because of sustained U.S. pressure, which crystallized during April’s 2+2 Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee. The meeting pushed topics such as investment, cooperation and interoperability of C4ISR, cybersecurity and improved space situational awareness high on the agenda.

Accordingly, in its budget request for next financial year, beginning in April, Japan is beefing up all of its C4ISR assets, including asking for 44.5 billion yen ($554 million) for two P-1 maritime patrol craft and 10 billion yen to upgrade electronic warfare and make other improvements to four E-767 airborne early warning and control aircraft.

In terms of its island radar chains, the military is asking for 4.5 billion yen to upgrade its FPS-20 general surveillance radar in Kyushu Island, southern Japan, to an FPS-7. The upgraded version has a search altitude of 100,000 feet and a range of 270 miles, while the existing version has a range of 200 miles. It is also asking for 6.2 billion yen for an early warning and surveillance system on Japan’s far easterly Yonaguni Island to monitor the air and sea corridor in the area. Yonaguni is just a few hundred kilometers from Taiwan.

Taiwan also places C4ISR high on its list of future acquisitions. A senior Taiwan defense official said the military needs ISR aircraft and UAVs to patrol offshore islands and sea lines of communication and monitor fishing areas. This includes the possible procurement of aerostats for offshore islands in the South China Sea.

“ISR is not only for military operations but also for disaster relief, commercial fishing surveillance, command and control, anti-terrorism, and search and rescue,” the official said.

South Korea has unique C4ISR requirements as it faces a hardened and defiant North Korea determined to develop nuclear weapons. So to bolster its surveillance and reconnaissance against North Korea, South Korea is pushing ahead with plans to develop UAVs.

On Oct. 29, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced it will locally develop a corps-level UAV peer of the U.S. MQ-1 Predator with a budget of about 107 billion won ($98 million).

Korea Aerospace Industries was selected to lead development of the C-UAV. LIG Nex1 is to provide the ground-control and synthetic aperture radar systems for the new UAV, while Samsung Thales will develop data-link systems, according to DAPA.

The South Korean military plans to develop the C-UAV into an unmanned combat air vehicle by 2030.

South Korea is also trying to buy the Global Hawk since it is developing a low-tier ballistic missile defense network to be supported by U.S. ISR assets, and plans to spend about $160 million to introduce unmanned border surveillance systems by 2015.

Installing scientific border surveillance has gained attention here following an incident last month when a North Korean soldier defected to the South after scaling three barbed-wire fences along the Military Demarcation Line and reached a South Korean barracks without being detected.

Paul Kallender-Umezu in Tokyo and Jung Sung-ki in Seoul contributed to this report.

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