More affordable capability [ID18D3]

09 November 2018

The need for a capable naval fleet at an affordable cost is a common priority across the region, and the upgrades of a number of in-service vessels are being targeted by industry to extend the life of these fleets.

Vessels are in need of upgrade in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, with the prevalent threats within the South China Sea - and the extent of these nations' EEZs - calling for a more reliable at-sea capability.

Ultra Electronics (Hall B, Stand B019) is an experienced manufacturer of electronics including sonar and electro-optical fire control systems, but the company is also active as a prime for the refurbishment of vessels. It has previously updated the Indonesian Navy's KRI Fatahillah (361) corvette (pictured), having carried out a so-called mid-life modernisation phase 1.

Ultra says that it oversees all areas of work on these programmes so there is one point of contact for the customer, including provision of installation, training and maintenance. Alan Meredith, sales and marketing director for the company, said the cost of refurbishment is approximately one-third of that of buying a new vessel, and comes with a 15- to 20-year services guarantee. "This effectively offers a brand-new ship for a third of the price," Meredith explained.

The company has bid and is being considered for some tenders of this type in the region, and a decision is pending on certain ones soon.

BAE Systems (UK Pavilion), meanwhile, is in the process of upgrading the Bung Tomoclass corvette that Indonesia acquired from Brunei in 2013, and would use its experience on programmes such as this to pitch for further refurbishment work. The three ships were not accepted by Brunei from BAE Systems, and while they have relatively few operational hours on them, there are obsolete systems on board, including the armaments.

The corvette was supposed to receive the VL Seawolf point defence missile system, although this was never installed and is now no longer in production. MBDA is therefore positioning its Sea Ceptor as an upgrade option for the fleet, leveraging the experience the system has on the Royal Navy's Type 23 upgrade programme.

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