Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA May 2013 Contents 28 DefenceReviewAsia | MAY 2013
enterprises and a workforce of 300,000.
A CSOC spokesman told media members that
"LIMA is very impressive and interesting" and that
his company "enjoys the opportunity to exchange
information". CSOC will certainly take part on
the next show on Langkawi in 2015, he added. A
number of countries in the region already operate
ships built by CSOC. The spokesman said that
the company is offering to its traditional overseas
customers and potential clients landing platform
docks (LPDs), frigates, fast craft and submarines,
adding that exportable versions are similar to the
baseline designs already in service with the People's
Liberation Army's Navy (PLAN).
Information available on the S20 remains scarce:
the Chinese manning their stands briefed spoke only
to invited guests. Graphics indicated that the
S20 can attack surface targets using "anti-
ship missile", lay "mines", launch "torpedoes"
(with no indication of intended targets) and release
"frogman". Nothing indicated the ability to launch the
long-range CH-SS-NX-13 ASCM or any other sort
of land-strike missiles (which might be of interest
to some potential customers, knowing that PLAN's
diesel-electric boats are land-strike capable). The
scaled model itself was relatively schematic, with no
cutaways. It indicated presence of six torpedo tubes
in the nose section and seven-blade propeller in the
tail with highly curved blades.
In appearance, the S20 bears resemblance to the
Yuan class or Type 041. The latter is believed to have
an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, most
likely employing Stirling type of engines (which, again,
might be of interest to potential customers). By US
estimates, the Yuan class possesses a lower relative
detectability than the Song. By noise characteristics,
the Yang is placed in between the Project 636
and the Type 039, according to Office of Naval
Making an exportable version of the series
produced Yang does make sense, as this promises
reduced costs, parts commonality and interoperability
with PLAN assets. Currently, China is known to have
in series production only one diesel-electric boat,
with 11 Type 041 vessels completed in 2009-2012
The potential of the local industry has allowed
PLAN to keep a steady-state force of conventional
submarine force at roughly 50 units throughout this
century. Construction rate has been about 2.2 per
year in 1995-2012 timeframe, with PLAN intake
rising to 2.8 with Russian-built Kilo class included.
Ever-growing potential of the local industry leaves
little doubt about PRC's ability to deliver obligations
before foreign customers if there will be some making
decision in favor of Chinese submarines.
Today, China is one of the established submarines
operators, along with India, Pakistan, Iran, Japan,
Taiwan, Australia and both Koreas. All of them
continue building up their submarine fleets. Countries
that recently added submarines to their assets
or have placed orders include Malaysia, Vietnam
and Indonesia. Naturally, this fact motivates other
countries in the region to consider submersible
assets for the navies of their own. "These facts give
a clear indication of ongoing arms race in the region.
We see a number of new nations coming to possess
underwater capabilities and many more considering
such a move", says Andrei Baranov who leads the
exportable diesel electric submarine operations
at Russia's Rubin submarine designer. There are
quite a few of disputed islands in the Asia-Pacific
waters. Submarines are seen as the right argument in
defending a smaller nation's claims to these islands
in the case when these are disputed by a larger
nation with far bigger naval forces. "Submarines
are the sort of weapons that can be successfully
employed in the region", Baranov insists. "There are
indications that many nations of the region are going
to buy submarines... and buy them in worthwhile
quantities", he continues. For example, Bangladesh
indicated its intent to follow the trend as well as
Thailand. The Philippines may also join in -- though all
these countries face budget constraints and
competing demands on expenditure.
South East Asia is becoming a very
lucrative market for shipbuilding companies.
Traditional suppliers of such equipment in Germany,
Russia and France hope for a big portion of orders.
But they are to meet growing competition from within
the region, notably from the Korean and Chinese
manufacturers. Viewed from this perspective, the
presence of those at IDEX and LIMA with their wares
on display makes no surprise.
The sensitivity of the situation is that, while offering
the S20 for export, China continues to import
Russian submarines. In addition to 12 Kilos - the
last batch of which was accepted in 2006 - PRC
has recently ordered from Russia four submarines
of the Amur 1650 design -- which is similar to the
S20. This fact might give a third country seeking
to procure submarines a base to believe that the
Russian design is somewhat more advanced. This,
however, will hardly produce a worthwhile affect on
the S20 target market. Its core is likely to be made
of traditional clients for Chinese military equipment,
the countries that receive help from China or in other
ways dependant on PRC and motivated/inclined to
buy "made in China" products.
Swedish-designed Australian submarines
Credit: CoA / Timothy Reczek
South Korea, India and Australia have all been acquiring the skills not only to
manufacture submarines under license, but also to develop indigenous designs.
South East Asia is becoming a very lucrative market for shipbuilding companies.
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