IRAN INCREASES UNDERSEA WARFARE CAPABILITY
The Iranians appear to have launched a new class of submarine. Satellite imagery showed a 40m long submarine tied up at the Bastanu Shipyard on the Strait of Hormuz, while a 48m long shape was spied under construction at Bandar. The latter could well be the first submarine to be constructed and launched on the Caspian Sea where the littoral states are engaged in various competing boundary disputes.
Iran has been expanding its capabilities there for some years now. A 500 tonnes submarine called Fateh is known to be planned by Iran, but little to no progress appeared to have been made until April 2013 when it was announced a submarine would be unveiled in August. The new submarine marks a considerable improvement over the extant 29 metres long Gahdir Class that is speculated to be based on a North Korean design, and is larger than any indigenous North Korean type. The assumed endurance and weapon payload of the new, larger submarine will mark a considerable increase in the naval capabilities for Iran, giving the Gulf States and their Western allies food for thought.
SAUDI TO PROCURE LARGE SUB FORCE?
As if to underscore the likelihood of a submarine construction race in response to the above perceived Iranian threat, it has been reported that Saudi Arabia is examining the potential purchase of five Type 209 submarines from Germany for Euros 2.5 billion. These allegedly might be followed by an option for procuring up to 25 more in a deal potentially worth Euros 12 billion.
Despite refraining from selling naval heavy weapons in the past, the German government is believed to be sympathetic to the potential deal. ThyssenKrupp, which was named in media reports as being the builder of the submarines, denied there was such a proposal.
If it turns out to have substance the deal would be for an unusually large number of submarines, but the types in question beyond the Type 209 are unknown.
They could be a series of smaller vessels capable of operating in and around the shallow Arabian Gulf to counter Iranian midget subs. An updated variant of the Norwegian origin Ula Class submarine, called the Type-210mod, could form a flotilla of smaller submarines.
V-BOMBERS LIFE EXT GETS 2015 GREEN LIGHT
A programme to extend the service life of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) will start in 2015. It will be initiated with a deep maintenance period on the lead boat in the class, HMS Vanguard, at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth. The programme will allow the Vanguards to remain in service until replaced by the Successor SSBN. The Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed this replacement submarine in 2010, but the planned service entry has been pushed back four years to 2028 by a ‘Value for Money’ review of the deterrent programme. The latter also laid out the Vanguard life extension programme. It will include extending the life of the Trident missiles, hull, and power plant and shipboard systems. A highly detailed analysis of what it will take to enable this has been made, and work will be carried out based on the findings. This has included the Submarine Support Management Group (SSMG), and specialist contractors and equipment manufacturers, as well as taking advice from SSMG and the US Navy (regarding similar work it has undertaken with its own SSBN fleet).
CHINESE NAVY SHIPS VISIT LATIN AMERICA
Two warships of the PLAN have made a historic deployment to South American waters including the first visit of Chinese naval vessels to Argentina. The destroyer Lanzhou, frigate Liuzhou and fleet oiler Boyanghu, departed the Chinese port of Sanya in Hainan Province, in September. On their itinerary were calls at ports in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Latin America is a region that China has increasingly close relations with. This includes sales of defence equipment; Defence deals are part of the Chinese ambition. They have already secured an agreement with Argentina for co-production of the Changhe Z-11 light utility helicopter. Some sales of armoured vehicles have also been made, but to date no real, substantial naval equipment deals have been forthcoming. China has forged a working relationship with Brazil to help train fast jet pilots in carrier operations.
KOREAN VIKINGS & USN REVIVAL?
Lockheed Martin is to reactivate a number of ex-US Navy S-3 Viking Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) for South Korea. Some of the aircraft are also being proposed for Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) and air-to-air refuelling requirements with the USN. Having been retired from carrier operations with the USN in 2009, up to a hundred S-3s with years of operational life still in their airframes have been mothballed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. South Korea requires perhaps 20 aircraft to supplement its 16 P-3C/CK Orion patrol aircraft that are presently being put through an upgrade programme. The S-3 can already be equipped with sonobuoys and acoustic detection equipment, but it is uncertain if they will be fitted with torpedoes and a magnetic anomaly detector. Lockheed Martin will, however, develop and install a new mission system. South Korea intends having them in service by 2017. Converting aircraft for the USN will be rather more complicated, however, as it potentially requires considerable modifications. The USN has not yet replied to Lockheed Martin’s offer, but the company remains hopeful. Previous attempts to market the aircraft elsewhere (including to Pakistan in 2008) were not successful.
CORVETTE SAILS HOME AT LAST
After lengthy delays, the first of three Khareef Class corvettes constructed in the UK by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) has finally reached home. The corvettes were ordered by Oman under a £400 million deal in 2007. Development and construction of the vessels has allegedly been beset with a number of technical issues. Having missed the initial commissioning date of 2010 the Al-Shamikh will now commission in 2014. Her sisters, Al Rahmani and Al Rasikh, are currently undergoing sea trials and will be delivered at six-month intervals. The class is a marked improvement over the two Qahir Class corvettes, which entered service in the 1990s. Besides improved sensors and weapons systems they also have hangar facilities and can embark a medium-sized helicopter. The Khareef Class corvettes have a 21-day endurance ensuring they are well suited for patrolling Oman’s EEZ and surrounding seas.
SUBS ON THAI SHOPPING LIST
Thailand looks set to obtain a sub-surface capability. South-east Asia is currently experiencing a sustained period of growth in naval capabilities as various maritime territorial disputes lead to a naval arms race. Also included in Thailand’s plans for naval expansion is a second frigate from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to join one ordered under a US $468 million deal and to be delivered in 2018. The Thais are also investing in Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters. Previous attempts to acquire submarines by the Royal Thai Navy were thwarted by government indecision.