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Reprinted with permission from AMI HOT NEWS, an internet publication AMI International, PO Box 30, Bremerton, Washington, 98337.

From the August 2005 Issue

CHINA-Future of Naval Aviation

In early August 2005, photos from Dalian Shipyard revealed the ex-Russian aircraft carrier VARYAG was sporting a new coat of paint on the hull after a two-month long dry-docking period. The paint scheme is in standard Peoples Liberation Anny-Navy (PLAN) colors and may indicate that China cold be moving toward introducing its first aircraft carrier into service.

At the time of sale to the Chong Lot Tourist and Amusement Agency in 200 I, the carrier was reportedly destined to become a floating casino in the then Portuguese colony of Macau. However, it was later learned that the Macanese authorities (now under Chinese control although a special economic zone (SEZ) did not receive or has yet to receive a request for a casino on an aircraft carrier within the SEZ. Likewise, the waters surrounding Macau are far too shallow to accommodate a vessel the size of VARY AG. Additionally, investigators in Hong Kong revealed that two of Chong Lot’s directors were actually PLAN officers.

In July 2004, the People’s Liberation Anny-Air Force (PLAAF) ordered an additional forty-eight Su-30MKK2 carrier capable aircraft from Russia. Currently the PLAAF operates thirty-two of the carrier capable aircraft and have been conducting short take-off and landing (STOL) operations at bases near Shanghai, presumably in preparation of near-term carrier operations.

PLAN naval engineers have studied the ex-Russian carrier extensively and have even purchased the blueprints, according to sources in Hong Kong, as well as hosting numerous visits from Russian carrier design and operations experts.

On the outside it appears that the PLAN is attempting to put its first aircraft carrier to sea in the very near future., and the VARY AG appears to be the candidate. In the case of the VARY AG, like with the Russian Navy in the 1970s, China seems to be taking the evolutionary step in developing a sea-based aviation force that could eventually lead to a full fledged aircraft carrier capability. AMI has been receiving information over the past several years indicating China’s intention on building an aircraft carrier, and if in fact the VARY AG puts to sea, would confirm the PLAN’s interest in moving forward with its power projection plans as a regional power and possibly a global naval power through the use of sea-based aviation forces.

The VARY AG would simply act as the training carrier while the PLAN moves forward with plans to construct its own first generation aircraft carrier.


On 26 July 2005, the Spanish Government announced that it had selected Lockheed Martin as the supplier of the combat management system (CMS) for the S80 submarine program. Although the deal is not expected to be completed until the end of the 2005, Lockheed Martin and its Spanish partner Navantia Faba Sistemas will develop the new CMS. The CMS is based on a Spanish industry design with Lockheed Martin collaborating on command and control equipment, weapons control and sonar part.

Navantia Faba Sistemas will be the prime contractor with 55% of the work share and Lockheed Martin with the remaining 45%. The Lockheed portion is estimated to be worth around €200M (US$245.3M). The intensive competition for the 880 CMSW included Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Thales, Kongsberg and Atlas Elektronik.

The decision to select Lockheed Martin over its European counterparts was expected as the Spanish Navy utilizes many US-supplied combat systems and interoperability within the Spanish Navy as well as with the US Navy being a prime consideration. In addition, politics may have had a central role as the US and Spanish Governments have been attempting to mend a rift between the two nations that developed over the Iraq War. However, it appears that the relationship has been improving and the Lockheed Martin selection may be yet another sign of the improving atmosphere between the two countries.

The S80 program could include up to eight submarines in two batches. The first unit of Batch I began construction in 2004 at Navantia’s Cartegena yard and is scheduled for commissioning in 2008 and will be followed by three additional units through 2011. A second batch could begin by 2014 if the Spanish Navy decides to maintain a force of eight units over the long-term and is satisfied with the performance of the S80 design.



This special edition of Naval Forum UK includes our annual review of the future of the United Kingdom’s naval shipbuilding programmes, along with projections for future orders and construction.

A lack of recent significant successes in the military export markets, with small prospect of that changing, means that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Royal Navy are now the sole major customer for warships and auxiliary ships constructed in UK shipyards.

The ships and submarines procured by the MoD tend to be large, sophisticated and expensive, with limited export potential. The designs can realistically be built by only a small number of specialist shipyards that have adapted themselves to meeting the MoD’s high standards and demands. The focus of this review is thus unavoidably on the few, but often very high value projects grouped into the defence Procurement Agency’s (DPA) ‘Maritime and Shipbuilding Cluster’.

Just two years ago, the government and the MoD were concerned that the UK’s naval shipbuilding industrial base lacked the capacity to deal with the expected/east ofMoD orders that was anticipated by 2008, particularly in connection with the Future Aircraft Carrier project. It thus commissioned several studies by the RAND Corporation to look into these problems. The reports were only delivered to the MoD last year, but have already been partially overtaken by the fact that many of the projects considered have since been delayed, cut back, or effectively cancelled. RAND’s work has informed an attempt by the MoD and Department of Trade and Industry to develop, in consultation with industry, a Maritime Industrial Strategy (MIS), which is part of the MoD’s broader Defence Industrial Strategy. It’s hoped that the MIS will provide a degree of coherency and consistency into the MoD’s warship shipbuilding programmes. However, its development has become a very long drawn out exercise, which may be completed by the end of this year. Also, initial enthusiasm for industry consolidation and joint ventures has been dissipated by economic realities and an inability by the MoD to make the long-term commitments needed to guarantee the commercial viability of proposed new companies. However, emphasis remains very much on establishing partnerships and alliances for managing and delivering large projects.

This year the MoD awarded the first warship order since 2001, which was for one patrol vessel that will be leased. Unfortunately, UK naval shipyard over-capacity rather than under-capacity has become a serious problem-aggravated by continuing uncertainty as to the timetable and size of future orders. For example, Swan Hunter Ltd faces a particularly difficult battle to survive, lacking any orders to replace the two Bay-class landing ships whose much troubled build process has undoubtedly disadvantaged the yard in regards to tendering for new work. MoD officials and Swan Hunter managers are scheduled to hold talks about the future of the Wallsend shipyard. However, there are serious fears that the recently launched RFA Lyme Bay may be the last ship ever built there.

ORDERED Astute-class Submarine

The Astute-class of nuclear attack submarines (SSN) is the replacement for the Swift sure and Trafalgar-classes. Although intended as a relatively low risk low-cost approach to providing a next generation nuclear submarine for the Royal Navy, the prime contractor, BAE Systems, has encountered serious delays and problems. Estimated total costs for the first three boats have increased by nearly a billion pounds from the original £2.5 billion, and that excludes a contribution by BAE Systems of £250 million announced in 2003.

However, good progress has been made in the last year, and a recent programme highlight was the third unit-HMS ARTFUL being ceremonially laid down by BAE Systems Submarines at its Barrow facility on 11 March 2005.

Looking forward, the lead boat HMS ASTUTE, is now expected to begin sea trials in March 2008 and be delivered by November 2008. The ASTUTE should become fully operational in 2009-about four years later than fore casted when the initial order was placed.

Contracts worth £ 70 million in long-lead items for a fourth boat have already been placed and it’s expected that it will be finely ordered in 2006. Additionally, it is possible that one or two additional units will also be ordered at the same time.

Until last year it had been expected that nine of the 7,800 tonnes (dived) Astutes would eventually be ordered and enter service by 2022, but that has now been cut to no more than eight and some officers are quietly predicting an eventual force total of just six or seven units.

A modified and enlarged variant of the Astute design seems increasingly likely to eventually replace the Vanguard-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). Studies are believed to be currently underway as part of the work of the secretive Maritime Underwater Future Capability (MUFC) project. The Astute design can apparently be readily altered to incorporate a vertical-launch missile system-either sixteen small tubes sized for the launch of Tomahawk equivalent cruise missiles, or alternatively, a smaller number of large tubes for Trident 05 ballistic missiles or possibly a new Submarine Launched Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (SLIRBM). The studies are currently at an early stage, but some key and expensive decisions on the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent will have to be made before the end of the decade in order to meet the required in-service date of 2024. Four or five modified-Astutes would seem to be needed, however, if costs can be controlled there are capability advantages associated with introducing the new variant at the earliest possible stage in the Astute build programme

From the September 2005 Issue

SINGAPORE-More Swedish Submarines

In late September 2005, press reporting indicated that the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) made the decision to procure Sweden’s final two Vaster got land (Al7) class submarines for US$128.3M. Commissioned in the late 1980s, the two submarines (VASTERGOTLAND and HALSINGLAND) could be decommissioned and transferred as early as 2006.

These two submarines will supplement the RSN’s four Challenger class (former Swedish Sjoormen -Al2) that we procured from Sweden in the late 1990s (a fifth unit was procured but used for spare parts only).

The final two A-17s (VASTERGOTLAND and HALSINGLAND) are being decommissioned from the Swedish Navy in order to meet the reduced Submarine Force level prescribed in Defense Resolution of 2004. The submarines are expected to be overhauled and modernized in Sweden prior to delivery to Singapore, very similar to the transfer process that took place with the four Sjoonnen class when they were transferred to Singapore beginning in the late 1990s.

Singapore apparently has been very satisfied with the Sjoormen class since the master plan for the RSN was to operate used submarines first on a trial basis and only if successful, would it consider procuring the next generation submarine and maintain a Submarine Force. With the decision to acquire two more submarines, it is clear that the RSN has decided that submarines are now an integral part of the fleet. Furthermore, with six total active units, the RSN could operate its force in the standard rotation of having two vessels operational, with two in the maintenance cycle and two in the training cycle. This procurement also deepens Singapore’s ties with Sweden and improves the chances for Singaporian collaboration in the Nordic Viking project.


On 13 September 2005, the Chilean Navy received its first of two new construction Scorpene class submarines from the DCN shipyard in Cherbourg, France. The O’HIGGINS is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2005.

INDIA-Scorpene Deal Done

On 08 September 2005, the Indian Government formally approved the purchase of six Scorpene class submarines from France’s Armaris. The transaction valued at US$1.8B involves the construction of six submarines at India’ s Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL). The approval follows delays that began following the November 2002 announcement that the Scorpene design had been chosen.

Construction will probably begin on the first unit by mid-2006 with commissioning expected by 20 IO. Units two through six will probably begin at one-year intervals with the sixth unit of the batch being commissioned by 2015.

The Scorpene program calls for options for up to 24 additional units although the Indian Navy will probably only build 12 of the optional units for a total class of 18. Indian naval requirements call for up to 24 conventionally-powered attack submarines (SS) and five nuclear submarines. The nuclear-powered submarines will be satisfied by the Advanced Technology Vessel (A TV) Program and the SS requirements with 18 units of the Scorpene class as well as six units of the Amur class (Project 78 -SS/SSG), which could begin in the next decade.

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