South Korea Orders Two Daegu-class FFX-II Frigates Ahead of Schedule to Support Shipbuilder

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SEOUL, -- South Korea's defense procurement agency Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) placed an order with Hyundai Heavy & Industries (HHI) on Tuesday to build two Daegu-class FFX-II frigates ahead of schedule to support the ailing local shipbuilding industry.

The two FFX-II vessels will be the third and fourth in the series. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) launched the lead ship of the new Daegu-class FFX-II (also known as FFX batch II) frigate for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROK Navy) on June 2, 2016. Key updates of the Batch II over the ASW-focused Batch I include VLS and full electric propulsion system, as well as a larger hangar that can accomodate a 10-ton helicopter.

FFX-II batch II is the first South Korean warship to be fitted with DRS Hybrid Electric Drive system, coupled with Rolls-Royce MT-30 gas turbine engine for CODLAG integrated full-electric propulsion. This configuration is shared with the US Navy's LCS and Zumwalt destroyers, as well as with the Royal Navy's QE aircraft carriers and future Type 26 GCS. In terms of engine technology and acoustic reduction technology, this makes FFX-II one of the most advanced and 'reduced accoustic signature' ASW frigates among western navies.

Contacted in June by Navy Recognition, a DSME reprensentative said that first ship of the class ROKS-818, Daegu will be delivered to ROK Navy in late 2017 and will be commissioned in late 2018.

FFX-II batch II is not fitted with Mk 41 VLS buth with KVLS meaning it will deploy Korean missiles (most probably designed by LIG Nex 1 such as the Cheolmae-2 medium-range air defense missile, Hong Sang Eo anti-submarine rocket, and possibly the Hyunmoo-3 series of land attack cruise missiles).

The first FFX-II Batch II of the Republic of Korea Navy Daegu during its launch ceremony.

AgustaWestland AW101 Helicopter for Indonesia

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JAKARTA, -- The Leonardo AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter used by both military and civil operators Worldwide. It was developed in the 1980s, a joint venture between Westland Helicopter UK and Agusta, Italy in response to National requirements for a modern naval utility helicopter. The AW101 has developed into a milti role platform.

Prior to 2007, the aircraft had been marketed under designation EH101. The original designation was EH101 but a transcription error of a handwritten note changed this to EH101 and the designation stuck.

In 2000, Westland Helicpters and Agusta merged to form AgustaWestland leading to the type's re designation as AW101. The AW101 first flew in 1987, and entered into service in 1999. Since the AW101's introduction, it has replaced several older helicopter types, such as the Sikorsky S-61 performing roles such as medium-sized transport, anti Submarine Warfare, and ship-based utility operating.

The AW 101 continues to adopt and develop. The latest upgrade being to HC4 standard for the Royal Navy. This include a folding tail rotor and should enter service by 2018.

AW101 for Indonesia

C/N 50248 ZR343 for Indonesia, 1st flight with Westland 07 at the controls. Part of the Indian complement that fell through, then converted to AW101 VVIP for In house work with Westland.

The Republic of Indonesian Air Force ordered 3 AgustaWestland AW101 medium-lift transport / Utility helicopter.

China to receive first batch of Su-35s from Russia by end of 2016, says report

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BEIJING, -- China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is set to receive the first four of 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 'Flanker-E' multirole fighters before the end of 2016, Russia's TASS news agency reported on 14 December.

"The first four Sukhoi Su-35s are to fly over to China by 25 December," the state-owned media outlet quoted an unnamed source within Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) as saying.

FSMTC deputy chief Vladimir Drozhzhov had told TASS in November that Moscow had begun acting on the first phase of its contractual liabilities to China to provide the multirole fighters.

This followed an announcement made in September by Vyacheslav Shport, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, that the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO) would deliver all 24 Su-35s between 2016 and 2018.

The aircraft deal, announced in November 2015 by Russian defence conglomerate Rostec, makes China the first foreign contractor of the Su-35, which is claimed to be an upgraded and highly manoeuvrable '4++ generation' fighter with characteristics and performance close to those of upcoming 'fifth-generation' combat aircraft.

It is described by IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production as having a maximum level speed of Mach 2.25 at 11,000 m (36,089 ft), a rate of climb of 16,800 m/min at sea level, a combat payload of 8,000 kg, and a maximum range with internal fuel of 1,529 km (sea level).

The Sino-Russian agreement reportedly includes not only the sale of the 24 fighters for a total of USD2 billion (USD83 million per unit) but also the delivery of ground support equipment and spare aircraft engines.

According to IHS Jane's World Air Forces , China has been trying to acquire the Su-35 - along with its Saturn 117S jet engine - from Russia for several years. Interest in the fighter was first shown eight years ago by then PLAAF Commander General Xu Qiliang at the Airshow China 2008.

Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E Supermaneuverable Multirole fighter aircraft.


Myanmar Commissions Transport Aircraft, Helos

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NAYPYIDAW, -- The Myanmar Air Defence Force (Tatmadaw Lay) commissioned four Airbus Helicopters H120 (formerly designated EC120 B) Colibri helicopters and four Beechcraft 1900D utility transport aircraft in a ceremony to mark the service's 69th anniversary at Meiktila Air Base on 15 December, according to a posting on a Facebook website linked to Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services.

This makes the H120 Colibri the newest type of helicopter to enter service with the Tatmadaw Lay. IHS Jane's understands that the air force now has between seven and 10 Beechcraft 1900D aircraft in service.

The Myanmar Air Defence Force commissioned four H120 Colibri helicopters and four Beechcraft 1900D utility transport aircraft on 15 December.

China Agrees to Return Seized Drone, Ending Standoff, Pentagon Says

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BEIJING, — The Pentagon on Saturday said that Beijing had agreed to return an underwater drone seized by China in international waters, an indication that the two countries were moving to resolve an unusual incident that risked sharpening tensions in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

“Through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the U.U.V. to the United States,” said Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, using initials to refer to the Navy’s unmanned underwater vehicle.

Mr. Cook said the deal had been reached after the United States “registered our objection to China’s unlawful seizure of a U.S. unmanned underwater vehicle operating in international waters in the South China Sea.”

The Chinese authorities told American officials that they planned to return the drone, but the two sides were still working out where, when and precisely how the device would be handed back, said two Defense Department officials, both of whom would talk about the negotiations with China only on the condition of anonymity. One of the officials said the Pentagon expected the matter to be resolved in the coming days without further acrimony.


White House Moves to Reassure Allies With South China Sea Patrol, but Quietly OCT. 27, 2015
The Pentagon statement came hours after China warned that the highly charged episode would not be resolved easily.

In a statement late Saturday, the Chinese Defense Ministry said it was in talks with the United States but criticized Washington for what it called an “inappropriate” exaggeration of the dispute. The American reaction, it said, is “not conducive to solving the problem smoothly.”

“We hereby express regrets for that,” it said.

Although the ministry said the drone would be returned to the United States in a “proper way,” the statement stopped short of saying when or how the device, which Chinese and American analysts say was most likely used to gather intelligence about Chinese submarine activity in contested waters, would be returned, or if it would be handed back intact.

President-elect Donald J. Trump entered the fray Saturday morning, accusing China on Twitter of acting improperly. “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act,” he said.

The overseas edition of The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, said on its social media account Saturday night that the Chinese capture of the drone was legal because rules about drone activities had not been clearly written. “This is the gray area,” the newspaper said. “If the U.S. military can send the drone, surely China can seize it.”

In its statement, the Defense Ministry scolded the United States over what it called its longstanding practice of conducting “close-in reconnaissance and military surveys” in waters claimed by China. The Chinese government has often complained to senior American officials, including President Obama, that the United States repeatedly intrudes by air and ship into waters close to China. The ministry’s statement reiterated the complaint, saying “China firmly opposes it and urges the U.S. side to stop such operations.”

A Chinese naval vessel seized the drone, which had been launched on Thursday from an American ship, the Bowditch, in waters off the Philippines. The American crew was in the process of retrieving the device when a small boat dispatched from the Chinese vessel took it as the American sailors looked on.

The USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) Pathfinder-class survey ship. Bowditch is a part of a 29 ship Special Mission Ship program and operates in the South China Sea.

The incident map.

US Approved Sale of AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe Radar 3D to Philippines

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WASHINGTON, -- The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Philippines for AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe 3D Air Search Radars and related equipment, support, and training. The estimated cost is $25 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on December 12, 2016.

The Government of the Philippines has requested a possible sale of two (2) AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe 3D Air Search Radars, support services, including installation services, operator training, system operational testing, and documentation. The total estimated program cost is $25 million.

The Philippines seeks to increase its Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) capabilities in order to improve monitoring of its vast territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). An effective Philippine MDA capability strengthens its self-defense capabilities and supports regional stability and U.S. national interests. This sale is consistent with U.S. regional objectives and will further enhance interoperability with the U.S. Navy, build upon a longstanding cooperative effort with the United States, and provide an enhanced capability with a valued partner in a geographic region of critical importance to the U.S. government.

The AN/SPS-77 Air Search Radars will be used to provide an enhanced ability to detect and track air contacts. The radars will be installed on two Hamilton-class cutters acquired through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. The Philippines will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

AN SPS 77 Sea Giraffe 3D Air Search Radar.

The Philippine Navy BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15) patrol frigate.

Royal Thai Army Buys AW149 and Six AW139 helicopter

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BANGKOK, -- HeliHub can exclusively announce that Leonardo appear to have made their first AW149 sale, with an aircraft for the Royal Thai Army now being test flown. Seen in Marco Bianchi’s photo here, which he has given us permission to use, the Thai military flash is seen on the tail of this otherwise anonymous aircraft.

A large square sticker has been placed over the national roundel of Thailand. There is no information currently available on how many have been ordered.

In recent weeks, the Royal Thai Army has also taken delivery of six AW139s, with serial numbers 41520 through 41525 from the US AW139 production line. The first three of these were delivered in September, with the second batch of three following in October.

The Royal Thai Army AgustaWestland AW139 medium-lift military helicopter.

Philippine Navy First TC-90 Aircraft Leased from Japan to Arrive by Q1 of 2017

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MANILA, -- One out of the five TC-90 aircraft, earlier leased from Japan, will be arriving in the Philippines by the first quarter of 2017.

This was disclosed by Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna who added that the aircraft may arrive either in February or March at the Sangley Point air facility in Cavite.

Last November, two PN pilots and six air crews left for Japan to start training on the above-mentioned aircraft.

The Department of National Defense (DND) earlier announced that the Philippines will be re-equipping the TC-90s as Japan have stripped of some its equipment, including its surveillance systems.

The country will pay Japan USD7,000 each for the first four aircraft yearly and only USD200 for the fifth, or total of USD28,200 as stipulated in its lease agreement.

It is renewable every year. The TC-90s will come from the stocks of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and it also useful for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and maritime security.

The DND said that they are looking at the possibility of using for 20 years as it will proved very handy for the Philippines while its military is upgrading its equipment.

The TC-90, which is part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized last February 29.

The TC-90's patrol range is double those of small Philippine aircraft which only has a maximum range of 300 kilometers.

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Beechcraft TC-90 King Air fixed-wing trainer aircraft.

Royal Australian Navy Second Air Warfare Destroyer Launched in Adelaide

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CANBERRA, -- The Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) program reached a significant milestone in Adelaide today as the second of three destroyers was formally named and launched into Australian waters for the first time.

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, applauded the hard work and dedication of thousands of workers across Australia.

Minister Tehan represented the Government as the Brisbane was officially named and launched.

“I have been on-board the first destroyer, Hobart, and it is quite apparent these completed ships will become a valuable asset to the Royal Australian Navy,” Minister Tehan said.

“Australia is undertaking an unprecedented upgrade of its naval capabilities, and the additional of the Brisbane to our fleet will help ensure our ongoing national security.”

Minister Pyne said many companies came together to get the second AWD in the water.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the shipbuilder ASC, mission systems integrator Raytheon Australia, ship build manager Navantia and the Government’s representative, Defence, on this momentous occasion.

“The construction and integration work occurring here in Adelaide on the AWD program is a vital part of South Australia’s shipbuilding industry.”

Minister Payne said the Brisbane’s launch is a significant step towards the delivery of three world-leading warships to the Royal Australian Navy.

“The Air Warfare Destroyers will be one of the world’s most capable multi-purpose warships that will provide the Royal Australian Navy with air defence for accompanying ships, land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas,” Minister Payne said.

“The Brisbane will have cutting edge layered defensive and offensive resources capable of operating across of maritime operations, from providing entire task groups with air defence and escort duties, right through to law enforcement and rescue operations.”

Over the coming months, outfitting of Brisbane will continue, as will the loading of combat system equipment.

Ship 01, Hobart, will sail into waters off the coast of South Australia on sea trials early next year to undertake testing of combat and communications systems and further platform system testing.

The third destroyer will now move forward into its final position in the shipyard where it will finish being consolidated into a full ship.

The Royal Australian Navy HMAS Brisbane DDG-41 Second Air Warfare Destroyer.

US ready to confront Beijing on South China Sea -- admiral

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WASHINGTON, -- The United States is ready to confront China should it continue its overreaching maritime claims in the South China Sea, the head of the U.S. Pacific fleet said on Wednesday, comments that threaten to escalate tensions between the two global rivals.

China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The United States has called on China to respect the findings of the arbitration court in The Hague earlier this year which invalidated its vast territorial claims in the strategic waterway.

But Beijing continues to act in an "aggressive" manner, to which the United States stands ready to respond, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in a speech in Sydney.

"We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea," he said. "We will cooperate when we can but we will be ready to confront when we must."

The comments threaten to stoke tensions between the United States and China, already heightened by President-elect Donald Trump's decision to accept a telephone call from Taiwan's president on Dec. 2 that prompted a diplomatic protest from Beijing.

Asked about Harris's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the situation in the South China Sea was currently stable, thanks to the hard work of China and others in the region.

"We hope the United States can abide by its promises on not taking sides on the sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea, respect the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region and do more to promote peace and stability there," he told a daily news briefing.

The United States estimates Beijing has added more than 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land on seven features in the South China Sea over the past three years, building runways, ports, aircraft hangars and communications equipment.

In response, the United States has conducted a series of freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, the latest of which came in October.

Harris said it was a decision for the Australian government whether the U.S. ally should undertake its own freedom-of-navigation operations, but said the United States would continue with the practice.

"The U.S. fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation," said Harris. "This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight."

An F-35C of the United States Navy flies over our next generation stealth guided-missile destroyer, USS Zumwalt DDG 1000 above the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.