Defence - Issue 104 - Magazine | Monocle

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Aiming high

Indonesia — Weaponry

Indonesia has commissioned the first of two new guided-missile frigates. The 2,400-tonne ship was built by Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pal shipyard to a design drawn up by Netherlands-based Damen. Armed with anti-ship missiles, heavyweight torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles and a 76mm naval gun, it packs quite a punch. The second ship should join the fleet before the end of the year.

Land grab

Colombia — Government

The demobilisation of one of the world’s longest-running guerilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), has begun. But some worry not enough has been done to regain the areas of the country that it once controlled.

“There’s a risk of power vacuums being created,” says Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America. “We’re already hearing about other groups entering vacated areas.” The Colombian government has deployed 80,000 troops to combat crime gangs bent on controlling the land and spoils left behind by Farc. But “the government is proving far too slow to fill the gaps”, says Isacson.

Airport parking

Singapore — Training

It has been 16 years since the Royal New Zealand Air Force mothballed its Douglas A4 Skyhawks and gave up its air-combat capacity. However, the rnzaf Ohakea airbase is now set to host a squadron of f15s – Singapore’s. A study is looking into relocating the jets and 500 Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel for training purposes, in an arrangement similar to those that Singapore already has in the US, France and Australia; the crowded skies of Southeast Asia mean that space for supersonic fighter jets is hard to come by.

Contract renewal

Finland — Air defence

Finland is looking to upgrade its fleet of F/A 18 Hornets in what will amount to one of the biggest defence contracts in Europe. Lifetime costs included, the country is looking to spend more than €30bn to replace its 62 f18s with modern multipurpose fighters between 2025 and 2030. The country’s f18s are expensive to maintain and filled with technology that will be obsolete within about 13 years.

The contract will be fiercely fought over. The contenders expected to land the lucrative deal are Lockheed Martin’s f35, Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornet, Saab’s jas Gripen, bae Systems’ Eurofighter and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale.

“Finland’s specific needs and knowhow make it a very attractive buyer,” says Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “It’s one of the few countries in the world that continuously trains its pilots in air-to-air combat. Finland’s engineering knowledge has helped in improving the old f18s, which also makes it an interesting partner for aerospace companies.”

In addition to being capable of air-to-air combat, the new fighters need to be able to withstand the cold and dark Finnish winters and land on narrow strips of country road that Finland uses as ad-hoc airfields.

While there is a broad national consensus on the need to upgrade the f18s, the choice of replacement will undoubtedly have political repercussions. Were the contract to fall with Boeing or Lockheed Martin, this would anchor the Finnish defence policy to the US for decades to come. In the Trump era, however, this comes with more than a degree of uncertainty. Going for the Eurofighter would be a signal that Finland believes in the European defence co-operation and choosing the jas Gripen would further deepen Finland’s defence ties with Sweden.

Three other Finnish defence deals:

  1. The navy will acquire four new warships worth €1.2bn to replace its current fast-attack missile boats and minelayers.
  2. Land forces will acquire 48 self-propelled howitzers from South Korea worth €146m to phase out ageing Soviet-designed artillery.
  3. Land forces are considering new anti-aircraft missiles for their nasams 2 air-defence system.

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