Asia Defense

Asia’s Largest Naval Warfare Exhibition: Focus on Subs and UVs

This year’s IMDEX conference is bigger than ever — a telling sign of an accelerating arms race in Asian waters?

Asia’s Largest Naval Warfare Exhibition: Focus on Subs and UVs

McCampbell (DDG-85) at Changi Naval Base, Singapore during IMDEX Asia 2011

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, Singapore will once more play host to Asia’s largest maritime defense trade fair, the Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX). Taking place from May 19 – 20 at Singapore’s Changi Exhibition Center, the 10th biennial IMDEX will feature military hardware from more than 180 participating companies, high-level delegations from around 40 and navy chiefs from 24 countries, along with 20 warships from 12 nations.

IMDEX 2015’s principal focus will be on unmanned vehicles (both in the skies and underwater), vessels suited for littoral waters, and underwater technology, according to the event organizers.

Defense News quotes Leck Chet Lam, IMDEX Asia’s head organizer, as saying that “unmanned vehicles will feature in several areas of IMDEX Asia 2015.”  UV exhibitors will include Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, ST Engineering, SAAB AB, Atlas Elektronik and Microflown Maritime.

Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) in particular are expected to play a larger role in future underwater warfare (see: “The End of the Submarine as We Know it?” ) and will be a topic of discussion during the 15th Asia Pacific Submarine Conference (APSC), which will be held in conjunction with IMDEX Asia.

Building on the garnering interest in UUVs,  the Swedish defense contractor Kockum Naval Solutions (a subsidiary of SAAB) will try to pitch its newest diesel-electric stealth sub, the A26, to the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and perhaps also reignite Australia’s interest in Swedish military hardware. The A26 is equipped with an air-independent propulsion system (AIP) and specifically designed for littoral operations

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The A26 specifically comes with a new Multimission Portal flexible payload lock system large “enough to allow the launch and retrieval of unmanned underwater vehicles,”according to Defense Industry Daily.

The articles further notes that UUVs “can already provide advance surveying and sensing capabilities, and their modification toward a combat role is a certainty. This will likely begin with coordinated decoying tactics, but UUVs are expected to graduate to active combat capabilities before the A26 leaves service.”

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is expected to dispatch a warship, the 4,000-ton Type 054A (Jiangkai II) frigate Yulin, to IMDEX. It’s the first time in seven years that Beijing has sent a warship to the exhibition, indicating China’s growing interest in the maritime domain.

Also, the commander of the South Sea Fleet, Rear Adm. Shen Jinlong, will speak at the International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC),  another discussion forum held in combination with IMDEX Asia 2015 that will discuss strengthening maritime cooperation in Asian waters. Various Chinese exhibitors are also expected to showcase indigenous defense technology, including offshore armed patrol boats and maritime patrol craft, to interested customers.

AMI International, a naval industrial forecast group, predicts that countries in the in the Asia Pacific region are expected to spend around $200 billion on new ships and submarines by 2031. “Technological advancement is a key factor in driving defense spending in the region as military forces modernize their aging assets and replace obsolete technology,” an IMDEX Asia press release said. “High on the procurement lists are ships, naval craft, [and] radar systems along with submarines and naval defense systems.”