Mounting concern over security of the Senkaku Islands, between Okinawa and mainland China, is driving Japan to consider acquiring shipborne vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft and 300‑km. (186-mi.)-range land-attack missiles, until recently unthinkable for the Japanese. Deployment of an F-15J fighter squadron to Okinawa, a KC-767J tanker acquisition to maintain two continuous combat air patrols over the islands and creation of an amphibious ranger regiment reflect the shift of focus in threats from Russia to China.
The navies of Japan and South Korea will join the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China by the end of March in the fight against piracy off Somalia (DTI February, p. 16). The three navies seek to raise their national prestige, showcase the utility of investments in their blue-water fleets and practice sustained operations in a relatively benign environment with a justified cause.
South Korea will start building the first of six 3,100-ton FFX-I frigates this year, a project that will move its defense industry up the value chain from shipbuilding to system integration.
The FFX-I, also called the Ulsan-I class, will be the first major South Korean warship with locally developed sensors and combat system. Together with the 570-ton PKX fast-attack craft, the first of which entered service in December, the FFX-I and follow-on FFX-II/III frigates will form the backbone of South Korea’s three regional fleets.
Japan’s 2009 defense budget has been drafted with one particular threat in mind—North Korea. Recent missile tests by the secretive communist government there have raised enough alarm among Japanese defense planners that they are mandating funds for a number of measures, from sea-based ballistic missile defense capabilities to land-based missile batteries protecting Tokyo and other major cities.
The Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol jet is taking Japan deep into the integration of complex combat systems, presenting a challenge comparable to similar U.S. and European projects.
The P-1, which is due to enter service in late 2011, will be the first all-Japanese combat aircraft since World War II in terms of its airframe, engine and combat systems being locally designed and manufactured.
Submarine designs will soon emerge in South Korea and Australia that reflect each country’s operational needs. South Korea wants submarines with vertical launchers for cruise missiles to deter North Korea. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) wants submarines with high transit speed and endurance that can operate thousands of miles from homeport.
SEOUL – South Korea will flight test its own radar-absorbing materials, even though the fate of its KFX stealth fighter project, the main beneficiary of the development, remains uncertain.
The Agency for Defense Development, a research and development body, revealed successful ground tests on radar-absorbing material on a McDonnell Douglas F-4 fighter. The timing of the announcement could be interpreted as an attempt to gain publicity for the country’s advanced aerospace efforts, helping to keep the KFX alive (Aerospace DAILY, June 3).
SEOUL – South Korea may buy surplus Boeing AH-64D Block I Apaches, which first entered service with the U.S. Army in 1999, at an estimated cost of about 1 trillion won ($970 million).
The South Korean army has had a longstanding requirement for heavy attack helicopters under the project AH-X since 1990. The project went ahead slowly, entering the candidate evaluation phase only in 2001. Contenders were the AH-64D, Bell AH-1Z and Kamov Ka-52K at that time, when parliament cancelled it.
SEOUL – South Korea’s KFX stealth fighter project faces a strong risk of being scaled down at a policy review planned for later this month.
The Agency for Defense Development, a research and development body, is lobbying hard for the project to survive at least in an exploratory development phase if the government refuses to pay for a costly prototype or technology demonstrator.
Without the KFX, the agency’s air system development division would be left with little to do.
Two main battle tanks will enter service in Japan and South Korea in the next decade, each designed for improved mobility in its country of origin. Japan’s TK-X tank will be road- and rail-transportable, while South Korea’s K2 Black Panther will be capable of deep-water fording.
The Philippines will renew its force of Alenia Aermacchi SF-260 armed trainers with 18 new-build SF-260F/PAF aircraft worth $13.8 million.
Aerotech Industries Philippines will assemble the 194-kilowatt (260 horsepower) piston-engine aircraft and deliver the first of them 12 months after contract signature. All 18 aircraft are to be delivered within 18 months from the first aircraft handover.
Japan this year will retire F-4EJ Phantoms from one of its three squadrons still operating the old McDonnell Douglas fighters, re-equipping the strike unit with Mitsubishi F-2s.
Two interceptor squadrons will continue to operate Phantoms indefinitely while Tokyo searches for a replacement, preferably the Lockheed Martin F-22, which the United States – because of congressional concern over fighter proliferation – is refusing to supply.