Visitors attend the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX) Asia 2013 in Singapore on May 14, 2013. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)
SINGAPORE — Despite the uncertain economic climate, the biennial International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) was fully booked last week.
Jimmy Lau, managing director of Experia Events, said the ninth IMDEX saw 194 companies from 29 countries.
“This represents a 14 percent increase in exhibitors from IMDEX Asia 2011,” he said.
This year’s show also attracted a record number of navy chiefs from around the world, including Adm. Jiang Weilie, commander of China’s South Sea Fleet; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the US chief of naval operations; Adm. Katusotshi Kawano, chief of staff of the Japanese navy; and Adm. George Zambellas, chief of naval staff, UK Royal Navy.
The US Navy displayed the littoral combat ship Freedom for the first time after its deployment here. It is part of a larger effort under the US Asia Pivot policy and the new Air-Sea Battle strategy.
Greenert said an invitation was given to Jiang to visit his office in the US. This is part of an overall effort by the US military to build better relations with China.
Israel's First Pavilion
Israel consolidated its companies for the first Israeli pavilion at IMDEX.
Israel and Singapore have a close defense relationship, evident by past Singapore military procurements of Israeli hardware.
At IMDEX, Rafael displayed three variants of its Typhoon naval stabilized weapon stations, including the 30mm ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster II cannon; the MLS-ER equipped with Spike-ER missile launchers and a machine gun; and the MLS-NLOS medium-range missile system equipped with the Spike-NLOS missile.
Israel Aerospace Industries’ Ramta unit is pushing two new variants of the Dvora craft: the Super Dvora multi-role fast attack craft and Mini-Dvora multi-mission fast attack craft.
Stealthy Vessels on the Prowl
BYO Marine Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company of Boustead Heavy Industries Defence Technology of Malaysia and Yonca-Onuk JV of Turkey, pushed for sales of its new Onuk MRTP34 “Kaan 34-class” fast attack craft.
The Kaan 34 has a range of 1,000 nautical miles at 30 knots, and can be armed with mission modules that include a BAE Bofors 40mm forward gun, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and short-range surface-to-air missiles. It features machinery vibration controls, a lessened magnetic signature and a reduced heat signature. In addition:
■ The US Navy opened its stealthy littoral combat ship Freedom, to IMDEX visitors. The Freedom is the first of several littoral combat ships the US Pacific Command plans to deploy to Singapore. The ship was built by Lockheed Martin, and the company provided extensive briefings on the LCS-inspired multi-mission combat ship. Lockheed is offering three variants for the regional market.
■ Though the Austal USA version of the LCS, the Independence class, was not at IMDEX, the company made a point of reminding visitors that it is offering a stealthy trimaran vessel for the regional market.
■ Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding, the Netherlands, is providing Indonesia with two stealthy SIGMA guided missile frigates to be delivered in 2017. The ships are being built according to standards of SIGMA, which stands for “ship integrated geometrical modularity approach.”
James Fisher Defence, a UK company, is pushing a variety of deep search-and-rescue (DSAR) vehicles for submarine rescues, as well as remotely operated vehicles, emergency life support stores pods and services to the region.
Frank Owen, head of business development for James Fisher, said the future is in servicing the emerging submarine market in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The company can either sell DSAR-class vehicles or provide one when there is a crisis. In 2008, the company sold the DSAR 5 to South Korea, redubbed the DSRV II, and the DSAR 6 to Singapore.
However, James Fisher can send the air-portable LR5 submersible submarine rescue vessel to the scene of a crisis if needed. The LR5 can be transported by either a C-17 or Antonov aircraft, Owen said.
Singapore Technologies Marine displayed models of two stealthy ships it is developing: the 1,150-ton littoral mission vessel (LMV), which the Singapore Navy contracted eight of earlier this year, and the 3,000-ton new generation frigate (NGF).
The LMV will undertake a wide range of maritime security operations to safeguard sea lines of communication. Its sensor suite will include a surveillance radar, navigational radar and electro-optic system. It has a rear flight deck for medium-lift helicopters.
This is the first time the NGF has been on display. The frigate has a range of 4,000 nautical miles at 18 knots. Based on the Fearless-75 hull form, the frigate is capable of landing one medium-weight helicopter while stowing another helicopter in its hangar.
ST Marine also provided additional information about its Venus family of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). These include the 16-meter Venus-16 and the 9-meter Venus-9. The Venus USVs can be integrated with four payloads: a towed synthetic aperture sonar for mine detection, expendable mine disposal systems, a remote weapon station and a dipping sonar for anti-submarine warfare missions.
The Dark Side
One journalist, Andrei Chang, editor of the Kanwa Defense Review, was roughed up by members of the Chinese military delegation. He had attempted to introduce himself to Jiang, commander of the South China Fleet, People’s Liberation Army Navy, to ask a question.
One witness described the incident as “so strange,” and Chang’s left forearm was bruised. Fluent in Mandarin, Chang is well known for his articles exposing some of China’s most sensitive military secrets.
At the International Maritime Security Conference, journalists were allowed to listen to speeches, but they were later ejected by conference officials, some under protest, before the question-and-answer period began. Show officials also were unable to explain how a three-member North Korean military delegation, wearing civilian clothes, was allowed to wander around the exhibition.
US defense officials expressed surprise after learning of their presence. One source indicated the delegation was possibly sent from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing.
One witness said the delegation attempted to mask its identity by speaking Chinese, but then lapsed into Korean. ■