5th January 2014, 06:05 AM
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Perkembangan Militer Regional ASEAN
Corvettes and OPVs: Offshore Investments
Corvettes and OPVs: Offshore Investments in South East Asia and Oceania
In assessing the region’s capabilities in the Corvette/Offshore Patrol Vessel (C/OPV) market the most important question is what is the difference between these two platforms, and what makes these two diverse vessel types exceptional?
by Ted Hooten
The question can best be understood by looking at Malaysia. To meet its New Generation Patrol vessel (NGPV) requirement the Royal Malaysian Navy selected the Blohm & Voss MEKO 100 design as the ‘Kedah’ class. They seem to be OPVs at first sight for their armament consists of a 76mm (three-inch) gun and a 30mm (one inch) gun but they feature a sophisticated combat management system, an electro-optical director, a chaff launcher and are equipped to operate surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles and an electronic warfare suite. These are not installed but it was recently revealed that Kuala Lumpur now intends adding anti-ship missile systems to them. They are rated in the naval bible, Jane’s Fighting Ships as corvettes and will be joined by DCNS ‘Gowind’ class ships ordered last year from France’s DCNS with the first example to be delivered in 2017. The French Navy operates one as an OPV but the design can be used as a corvette and Malaysia intends operating them in this role.
OPV-type platforms can be used as corvettes for both are generally around the 1,000-2,000 tonne mark but the OPV is more a law-enforcement platform. It is designed to protect a nation’s resources within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) extending some 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from shore and also to assert national sovereignty and law while providing a search and rescue as well as an environmental protection capability with some having a hydrographic survey capability. Compared with a corvette it tends to be slower but with higher endurance often operating a helicopter while some have sophisticated command and communications systems to interact with foreign agencies, but they are generally armed with nothing larger than a 76mm gun. The corvette is a surface combatant usually optimised for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and featuring surface-to-surface missiles and consequently it has more sophisticated sensors than the OPV with higher speeds for rapid transit or manoeuvres.
The largest OPV operators in Asia are China, India and Japan, which have to secure green or blue water interests, while a number of countries such as Indonesia rely on their surface combatants in the offshore role. This can sometimes ratchet up tension in times of crisis, such as the recent confrontation off Borneo between Malaysia and Indonesia, while the OPV acts as a less threatening platform.
Most of China’s OPVs are operated by
China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) which continues to be expanded and is scheduled to receive another 36 hulls of various sizes. Both the Indian Navy and Coast Guard operate OPVs, the former operating a fleet of six vessels and the latter having about a score of hulls from 1,200 to 2,200 tons and due to receive half-a-dozen Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels with a displacement of 2,230 tons. There has been a considerable degree of cross-pollination between the services in OPV design and the navy’s latest requirement for Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPV), the 2,215-ton ‘Saryu’ class, whose first-of-class was commissioned in December 2012, is based on the Coast Guard’s ‘Sankalp’ class.
Japan’s Coast Guard has some 50 OPVs, including the biggest in Asia in the two 5,204-ton ‘Mizuho’ class. Following clashes with the CMS off the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands last year Tokyo is expanding its Coast Guard and will purchase four 1,000-ton OPVs by the end of 2014. Neighbouring South Korea has a Coast Guard which operates four OPVs of some 1,200-tons and is receiving a small expansion of some five vessels from the Hyundai yard including a 3,000-tonne OPV.
South East Asia
Within South East Asia Brunei has three 80-metre (24-feet) ‘Darussalam’ class OPVs, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has two ‘Langkawi’ class OPVs, the Philippines Navy operates three ‘Jacinto’ class ‘corvettes’, which are actually OPVs, and has acquired two former US Coast Guard ‘Hamilton’ class High Endurance Cutters, and may acquire a third to meet a long-standing requirement for three OPVs. It is now considering installing anti-ship missiles in these vessels to make them full corvettes. Thailand has requirements for five OPVs of which four would be sophisticated craft, reportedly having the same design as OPVs built for Trinidad and Tobago but sold the Brazil, while one will be a more basic vessel. It operates two ‘Pattani’ class ‘corvettes’ which are also actually OPVs.
Around the Indian Ocean Burma operates three ‘sheep in wolves’ clothing, ‘Anawrahta’ class ‘corvettes’ which are actually OPVs, while Bangladesh acquired two former Royal Navy ‘Castle’ class OPVs and the ‘Hamilton’ class cutter USCG Dallas but there is a requirement for three more OPVs. The cutter will be upgraded to a corvette with a combat system, anti-submarine torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. Sri Lanka operates a number of former Indian and US Coast Guard OPVs but might well expand the force. In the Pacific, New Zealand acquired two ‘Protector’ class OPVs which are unusual because they have ice-strengthened bows to operate in Antarctica. Australia has a plan, Project Sea 1180 for a 2,000-tonne Offshore Combat Vessel (OCV) which would meet a variety of roles including acting as an OPV. This $3.1 billion programme is unlikely to be implemented until the first half of the next decade.
The demand for true corvettes has grown steadily in the past couple of decades replacing requirements for Fast Attack Craft (FAC). FACs are small platforms especially vulnerable to air attack because their surveillance radar antenna is relatively low reducing the search area and counter-measures reaction times, they cannot mount a significant air defence system which makes them vulnerable even to helicopter stand-off attack and their lack of compartments means a bomb or missile strike can inflict catastrophic damage. The corvette overcomes most of these problems making them a useful surface combatant with superior radar search area, more compartments and the introduction of damage control while bringing the prospect of better air defence protection. It is also a more versatile platform for it can be used for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) through the installation of sonars and lightweight torpedo launchers.