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IDEX: China Shipbuilder Calls for Greater Cooperation with U.S. Firms

Feb. 17, 2013 - 04:00PM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
Lockheed Martin's 85-meter corvette is derived from its Littoral Combat Ship design.
Lockheed Martin's 85-meter corvette is derived from its Littoral Combat Ship design. (Chris Cavas / Defense News)
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ABU DHABI — China and the U.S. are missing opportunities for joint military sales, one shipbuilding representative said Sunday, urging greater cooperation rather than competition between the two countries.

“We want to cooperate with U.S. firms,” said Bo Li, a project manager with China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co. (CSOC), a major shipbuilding group that builds a range of naval and commercial ships for domestic and foreign customers.

“We want to talk with them, with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, but they won’t talk with us,” Bo said.

Pointing to a number of models on display here during the opening day of the International Defense Exposition (IDEX), one of the Gulf region’s key defense trade shows, Bo said China has a growing number of naval customers who would benefit from Chinese-built ships outfitted with U.S. systems.

“Bangladesh, for example, might want a frigate with a Mark 41 vertical launch system made by Lockheed, but with a Chinese combat system,” Bo said. “We want to connect those seamlessly. But they resist talking with us.”

He acknowledged the competition between the two nations.

“There is not one single reason China and the U.S. should fight each other,” he said. “We are losing opportunities for both of us.”

While the large Chinese displays at IDEX showcased various frigate, corvette and patrol ship designs, CSOC also displayed a model of a large LPD amphibious dock ship, similar in configuration to the French Mistral class.

It was the second time the model had been shown internationally, Bo said, having made its debut late last year in Thailand, which is considering the purchase of such a ship.

LOCKHEED CORVETTE FEATURED

Lockheed Martin at IDEX is prominently displaying a smaller derivative of its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), dubbed the Multi-Mission Combat Ship (MMCS), aimed at several potential customers.

The 85-meter-long MMCS can be configured in a variety of ways, explained Joe North, Lockheed’s LCS director. Powered by diesels rather than the combined gas turbine-and-diesel power plant of the LCS, the MMCS still features water jets rather than conventional propellers. North claimed the hangar can accommodate two H-60-sized helicopters — with one stowed tightly — and the ship retains reconfigurable mission zones, with two instead of the LCS’s three spaces.

The ship can carry a 76mm or 57mm main gun and an eight-cell vertical launch system, and the model on display – fitted with many options, North said – was topped by an Australian CEAFAR active phased-array radar. Depending on the customer’s requirements, the ship can be manned by crews of between 50 and 100 sailors, North said.

“It’s a flexible design, using a proven hull form,” he said, “but with fixed systems, not the mission package approach of the LCS.”

While declining to name a specific potential buyer, North said Lockheed had at least four potential customers for the ships.

NEW UAE MISSILE BOAT

Nearby at the waterborne displays of the associated Naval Defense Exposition (NAVDEX), the small missile boat Al Bazam lay as an example of the UAE’s growing shipbuilding capabilities.

The vessel, the second unit of a planned 12 ships of the Ghannatha phase two program, is so new it has yet to be delivered, said Oscar Correa, program manager for Abu Dhabi Systems Integration, which is handling the combat systems for the ships.

The hulls for the first three units are built at Swedeship Marine in Sweden and shipped to Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding’s Mussafah shipyard for combat system installation, Correa said, while the rest of the class will be built entirely at Mussafah.

With diesel propulsion, the Ghannatha-class ships hit speeds in the upper 40-knot region – Correa said the ships had touched 49 knots on trials. They are fitted with an automatic 27mm gun and Marte Mark 2 anti-ship missiles.

Abu Dhabi also is in the market for a new class of offshore patrol vessel, Correa said, and is in talks with Australia’s Austal Shipbuilding about their MPV 80 design. Still to be determined, he said, is the combat system, which could come from Selex, Thales or Saab.

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