First Win Wins First Exports

9:07:00 PM Add Comment
MANILA, -- Chaiseri Metal and Rubber Company, the Thai developer and manufacturer of the First Win 4x4 mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle, is accumulating its first overseas sales. Next year the Philippines will take delivery of a left-hand-drive version of the 11t First Win, with this unit to be dedicated to airport security usage at Clark Airport north of Manila, Chaiseri representative Daniel Ilagan told Shephard. This left-hand-drive vehicle was exhibited at Defence & Security 2015 in Bangkok, as was a version for the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF). Although manufactured in Thailand by Chaiseri, the latter will wear a Deftech badge, with the Malaysian partner responsible for maintenance and support of the fleet. DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies (Deftech) is calling the vehicle AV4, and the rebadging appears to be an attempt to deflect adverse public reaction to Malaysia purchasing a vehicle built in neighbouring Thailand. Chaiseri modified the body of the AV4 to give it a 2+1 door configuration instead of the First Win’s usual 4+1 doors. Malaysian MRAP vehicles have a roof-mounted turret featuring a Gatling gun. The Malaysian chief of defence Gen Zulkifeli Mohammed Zin confirmed last month that the 12t AV4 will deploy to the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) area of operations, a tense area where Filipino insurgents infiltrated in 2013. While the Malaysian Army has a long-standing requirement to replace elderly Radpanzer Condor 4x4 vehicles, the AV4 will not fulfil this function, Zulkifei revealed. Although Chaiseri was not permitted to disclose details about the MAF acquisition, Shephard understands that 20 vehicles are being acquired. First deliveries will occur next year, with the last units to be handed over in 2017. Deftech will locally assemble around three quarters of the vehicles. The First Win family, which includes the slightly smaller First Win E that is being marketed as a reconnaissance or security vehicle, is continually being modified. For example, last year the original semi-leaf spring suspension was replaced with parabolic leaf springs from Germany to give a more comfortable ride and heavier-duty performance. The armour now offers a higher level of protection too, while a thermal coating reduces heat transfer in hot climates. Seats inside the cab have also been improved with better cushioning. The addition of a left-hand-drive First Win will bolster the export appeal of the MRAP to regions such as the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe that Chaiseri is targeting as potential markets alongside Southeast Asia. Exports will be extremely valuable to the First Win’s success. Chaiseri views both military and paramilitary/police as potential customers. The Royal Thai Army has ordered 21 vehicles and the Department of Special Investigation (Thailand’s equivalent of the FBI) ordered 18 First Wins for operations in the insurgency-plagued south of Thailand.

The Thailand-made Chaiseri First Win 4x4 Multi-purpose armour vehicle.

RTAF Ordered Another 2 Saab 340 ELINT & COMINT Version

7:59:00 PM Add Comment
BANGKOK, -- Royal Thai Air Force is currently flying the passenger version of Saab 340 and later bought ELINT version.

The new order will see 2 Saab 340 equipped with ELINT and COMINT.

The delivery date is yet to publicly known.

The Royal Thai Air Force Saab 340B AEW / S 100B Argus (FSR-890) Erieye.

Thailand closer to BTR-3E1 production deal with Ukraine

7:37:00 PM Add Comment
BANGKOK, -- Ukraine and Thailand are close to finalising a programme that would support a Royal Thai Army (RTA) plan to locally build the 8x8 BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carrier (APC), a senior official from Ukraine's state-owned defence exports and industry agency Ukroboronprom told IHS Jane's on 3 November.

He said the plan would feature three phases and be implemented over the long term as Thailand gradually develops local industrial capability. The programme would support future RTA programmes to procure the BTR-3E1 as well as plans to export the APC to regional countries.

The RTA ordered in 2008 and 2011 more than 220 BTR-3E1s, which are being manufactured by the Kharkov Morozov Machine Design Bureau. Deliveries have been delayed by conflict in Ukraine but Ukroboronprom expects to hand over to the RTA the last of the ordered vehicles before the end of 2015, said the official, who did not want to be identified.

This would be followed, he added, by the programme to produce BTR-3E1s in Thailand. "We hope to sign a co-operation agreement in the near future," he said.

The BTR-3E1 programme would be carried out over several years and feature various levels of training and support for RTA technicians. Private industry in Thailand would not be involved in the programme with the RTA's own production units leading the project.

The first phase would feature RTA production units assembling the BTR-3E1 from kits supplied by Ukraine. If this is deemed a success, the two countries then hope to facilitate the RTA's manufacture of components and subassemblies, leading to full production of the vehicle. Under the final stage, elements of the BTR-3E1 that would not be manufactured in Thailand include armoury and weapons and the vehicle's MTU engine, which is sourced from Germany.

In addition to the BTR-3E1s, the RTA ordered T-84-derived BM Oplot main battle tanks (MBTs) in 2011.

The Royal Thai Army 8x8 BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carrier (APC).

USS Key West fast-attack sub in Subic Bay port visit

7:26:00 PM Add Comment
MANILA - Another fast-attack submarine of the United States is on port visit status at Subic Bay in Zambales, as Washington strengthens its show of commitment to allies, specially the Philippines, to continuously conduct "freedom of navigation" sail-bys in international waters near the isles where China has conducted what observers describe as "de facto invasion" in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Key West (SSN 722) arrived in Subic Bay for a routine port visit as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific," the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement on Friday, carrying a crew of 150 sailors.

Categorized as a second-flight 688 submarine, Key West is designed to carry out a variety of roles, including anti-submarine and anti-surface ship operations, as well as intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. The 360-foot, 6,900-ton vessel is described as "one of the stealthiest, most formidable submarines in the world."

On October 27, Washington had sent its destroyer USS Lassen to cruise within about 10 kilometers off Subi (Zamora) reef, where China has destroyed coral formations and built up an artificial island.

The reef is part of the municipality of Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in Palawan.

The US challenge infuriated Beijing, which could not do anything except issue a flurry of hawkish rhetoric.

Philippine officials also issued statements supporting the US move in asserting the tenets of freedom of navigation in one of the world's main commerce sea routes that China is wanting to have control though its unilateral "one-dash line".

Aside Philippines and China, claimants of the disputed sea include Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The United States Navy USS Key West (SSN 722) Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine (SSN).

China commissions Type 072A LST

6:55:00 AM Add Comment
BEIJING, -- Chinese media has reported that the commissioning of a Type 072A Yuting II-class landing ship tank (LST) vessel, Taihanshan (982), took place on 21 October.

The LST is the second to be commissioned this year. Dabieshan (981) was commissioned on 23 May.

Nine other Type 072A LSTs are already in commission, although the most recent of these was completed in 2005. Internet sources suggest that an order for six more has been placed, with four to be built at the Wuchang shipyard in Wuhan, and two in Fujian.

The first Type 072 LSTs were introduced in the late 1970s, and the class has been developed through four variants. The latest of these, the Type 072A, is 120 m long with a full load displacement around 4,800 tonnes. Equipped with bow doors and a stern ramp, the vehicle deck runs the full length of the ship, under the bridge superstructure, and is capable of embarking up to 10 armoured vehicles. A total of 250 marines can also be carried. The ship has a flight deck for helicopter operations, although no hangar is fitted.

The latest two ships appear to be very similar to the previous Type 072A, although the twin 37 mm turret on the fo'c'sle has been replaced by a single-barrelled H/PJ-17 30 mm mounting, and a satellite communications aerial has been installed aft of the forward mast. Two cranes are positioned on the upper deck, forward of the bridge, to facilitate offloading equipment into boats alongside or a jetty.

The commissioning of the PLAN's Type 072A Yuting II-class LST Taihanshan (982) took place on 21 October.

US blocks South Korean KAI Golden Eagle export

12:17:00 AM Add Comment
SEOUL, -- The US has refused a proposed South Korean export of 12 Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) Golden Eagle light fighter/trainer aircraft to Uzbekistan, the Korean Times revealed on 26 October.

The newspaper suggested the deal, worth USD400 million, was dependent on US approval due to the integration of Lockheed Martin technology on the platform during its co-development with KAI.

However, sources close to IHS Janes have indicated that the proposed export was of the KAI FA-50, the more capable armed variant of T-50 trainer, meaning that US restrictions on lethal military equipment exports to Uzbekistan were likely the cause of its refusal to approve the deal.

The Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50 Golden Eagle light attack, multirole fighter all-weather version.

PLAN holds snap drills in South China Sea

11:56:00 PM Add Comment
BEIJING, -- China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has carried out air and naval exercises in the South China Sea: a move that may be in response to the US Navy's (USN) 27 October freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Spratly Islands.

Chinese state media reported that on 28 October, after the USS Lassen sailed within 12 n miles of Subi Reef, the PLAN sortied 10 warships from the South Sea Fleet based in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, at short notice for a series of exercises that included gun and missile live firings.

Subi Reef is one of the disputed Spratly Islands on which China has carried out extensive island-building and construction activities.

A missile is fired from a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship during a training exercise.

US approves sale of ESSM systems to Thailand

11:42:00 PM Add Comment
BANGKOK, -- The US Department of State has approved the prospective sale of RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles (ESSMs) to Thailand under a Foreign Military Sale case.

In a statement released on 29 October, the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) said that the sale, which is estimated to be valued at USD26.9 million, would cover the acquisition of 16 ESSM units (comprising 14 tactical missiles and two telemetry missiles), three Mk 25 Quad Pack canisters, and ten Mk 783 shipping containers.

The RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) Medium-range surface-to-air missile launched from USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).

Singapore Unveils Venus 16 Unmanned Surface Vehicle

11:30:00 PM Add Comment
SINGAPORE, -- The existence of a new and never before seen unmanned surface vehicle (USV) currently undergoing sea trials with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) was revealed on the service's Facebook page on 1 November.

Specifications of the indigenously developed Venus 16 USV were not disclosed, although IHS Jane's Unmanned Maritime Vehicles indicates that the vehicle has an overall length of 16.5 m and width of 5 m, displacing 26 tons at full load. Powered by a waterjet propulsion system, the vehicle is thought to be capable of attaining a maximum speed of in excess of 35 kt.

Details of the prototype USV's payload were likewise kept under wraps, but IHS Jane's understands that this vehicle has been configured for mine countermeasure (MCM) missions. A launch and recovery cradle with what appears to be a towed side-scan sonar system can be seen on its payload bay under cover.

"Our navy will be integrating more and more unmanned technology as part of the navy of the future," the service stated in its announcement. "The Venus 16 unmanned surface vessel (USV) is one of the unmanned systems currently being tested to support our maritime security operations."

"The Venus 16 USV can be configured into various roles such as the conduct of patrols as part of our navy's layered coastal defence, or to support mine countermeasure [operations] in conducting underwater scans of the seabed, while significantly improving manpower efficiency and reducing the exposure to risk for our sailors," it added.

The vehicle is the latest model in the Venus family of modular and scalable USV platforms developed by Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics, a subsidiary of state-affiliated defence prime ST Engineering.

Besides the 16.5 m platform, the company has also developed the Venus 9 (9.5 m) and Venus 11 (11.5 m) variants. ST Engineering had earlier stated that the USVs can be integrated with the Oto Melara remote weapon station for the force protection role, a Thales dipping sonar for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) persecution, a Thales Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (T-SAS) for MCM, and ECA's K-ster expendable mine disposal system (EMDS) for mine identification and neutralisation missions.

The Republic of Singapore Navy is testing a 16 m variant of the Venus unmanned surface vehicle for maritime security operations, including force protection and mine countermeasure missions.