Surface Forces: Mix And Match

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October 26, 2016: While Indonesia has turned to South Korea for help in establishing a local warship construction capability, they continued to rely on China for high tech weapons. South Korea has turned out to be a better bargain because there have been performance and reliability problems with some of the Chinese missiles and electronics. That’s one reason why South Korea got into the arms export business. The Chinese stuff, like the Russian designs the Chinese had long used and eventually cloned, had performance and reliability limitations. The South Korean stuff has proved to be far better value in the long run as were the ship construction techniques the South Koreans passed on.

The successful warship projects include two 11,000 ton LPD (landing platform dock) amphibious ships and, more importantly, sixteen Clurit class missile boats. These 250 ton missile boats can also double as fast patrol boats to police a country that consists of over 13,000 islands. The first Clurit entered service in 2012 and by 2014 there were eight. Now another eight are to be built at a cost of about $800,000 each. The Clurits carry a crew of 35 and have a top speed of 56 kilometers an hour. They are armed with a 30mm Chinese CIWS (Close-in weapon system) similar to the American Phalanx, two 20mm autocannon. The CIWS is mainly for missile defense but can also be turned against nearby (a few kilometers) aircraft or ships. The Chinese C-705 anti-ship missiles have proved unreliable but China insists it will fix that problem.

The Indonesians trust the simpler weapons (like CIWS and small arms) but the complex stuff is prone to be a permanent if the design is flawed and the Chinese manufacturing techniques prove inept in catching those problems and fixing them. Actually the Chinese have fewer problems with building reliable warships but that is because China has a large commercial ship building industry that competes worldwide with South Korea and Japan. Even there China stays away from the high tech ships, at least when competing against South Korean or Japanese shipyards. So the Indonesians, like many other customers for Chinese weapons, resorts to the best supplier for each component. For example it is common for countries that buy Russian or Chinese warplanes or warships to insist that these be built to accommodate “Western” (a term that includes Japanese and South Korean manufacturers) electronics and other high-tech components. The Chinese and Russians don’t like but the go along. A sale is a sale.

 


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