Asian Naval Warfare 2014 – Conference Report

ASIAN NAVAL WARFARE CONFERENCE POINTS WAYS AHEAD FOR THE REGION  |  

The Royal Malaysian Navy supported Conference on Asian Naval Warfare, presented by Tangent Link in Kuala Lumpur in September, followed a number of highly successful events addressing individual elements of warfare.

This broader consideration of Naval issues attracted 23 nations to consider an area which is both vital to trade for international economies, while at the same time the scene of conflicting views on sovereign waters and access to natural resources.

The event was headlined by two outstanding speakers, Vice Admiral Dato’ Seri Panglima Ahmad Kamarulzaman, Deputy Chief of Navy, Malaysia and Vice Admiral Richard L Thomas USN Commander of the United States 7th Fleet. Each in turn reviewed relationships in the region and had a common view with regard to tensions over sea area claims, especially those fuelled by Chinese statements and actions.  Admiral Kamarul stressed the management of perceptions, while Admiral Thomas highlighted the importance of free access to the maritime commons’ and the deterrent effect of presence; capable interoperable regional forces acting cooperatively have a key role to play, however issues should be resolved through diplomatic channels.

Two prestigious academic speakers contributed to this debate.  Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India spoke on China’s Maritime Strategy in Asia-Pacific, deducing from political statements, supported by periodic NPC Laws, their reliance on access through the sea routes to their energy and mineral supplies, their desire to project Maritime Power and to Counter the USN presence in the region.  Chris Rahman from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, built upon the Global Maritime Network (arising from the 1000 ship navy concept) which, though technology, is becoming an increasing reality. Commodore Faisal Rasul Lodhi SI(M) of the Pakistan Navy gave a comprehensive case history of his Navy’s part in Multi- National Operations. All three presentations merit careful study.

The more practical aspects of Asian Naval Warfare were supported by linking presentations.

Captain Ong Thiam Hock contributed with the Royal Malaysian Naval view of High Intensity Conflict versus Asymmetric Warfare.  Amartya De of the analysts Frost & Sullivan showed that the shipbuilding market in the region is largely immune to the global austerity measures, with foreign companies seeking access to local markets and Frigates becoming the primary military vessels. OPV/CPVs also proliferate and Marc Delorme, Thales Under Water Systems and a Conference Sponsor articulated the case for modern ASW capabilities to be mounted on these vessels, hitherto considered utility rather than specialist assets.  Mark Merrifield of Ultra contributed with an advance in Submarine detection through Pervasive Sound’. Commodore (Retd) A. Jai Singh, Indian Maritime Foundation, India and a hugely experienced submarine operator, highlighted the force multiplier provided by submarines for small nations and the proliferation of their procurement in regional navies.

Anti Submarine Warfare was therefore a significant consideration and the replacement of current air platforms a high priority. Captain Roslan, former head of the Malaysian Naval Air Wing articulated the RMN requirement while Colonel Jonas R Lumawag Head of the Philippine Navy Air Arm, presented an upbeat commitment by his nation to fund the protection of their extensive archipelagic waters from underwater intrusion. The Royal Australian Fleet Air Arm alone has satisfied its procurement requirement and Commodore Vincenzo Di Pietro, its Commander, introduced their newest acquisition, the MH-60R Seahawk.

Sikorsky, the Host Sponsor for the Conference and manufacturer of this most effective ASW and Multi Role platform joined an informative Panel Session, represented by Christopher Clapperton, Director of Strategy for the company in the region. Together with Commodore Pietro and Lieutenant Commanders Sham (Chief Instructor) and Adief (Taco) of the RMN Air Wing, to discuss the considerations in the procurement of a new Rotary Wing platform. From a Concept leading to an Operational Requirement, Cost and Effectiveness are inseparable, with Training packages and Material support essential. There are great benefits to be seen in benefitting from the mutual support of a major operator such as the USN and a club’ of regional operators with offsets possible through a group of nations hosting local support facilities.

Additional presentations completing the various aspects of naval warfare included Captain Jon Finderup RNZN, hugely experienced in procurement, speaking on the Modernisation of the Royal New Zealand Fleet; Commander Nico Vasseur from the NATO Mine Warfare Centre of Excellence in Belgium on a much neglected aspect of Naval Warfare; and Major General David Hook, RM UK on the Utility and Benefits of a Marine Capability being absorbed into the RMN – in considering this the host Nation has some key perceptions to manage.

A theme introduced at the beginning of this stimulating Conference by the Deputy Chief of Navy, Admiral Kamarul, was the broadening of this event to Asian Maritime Warfare, drawing in other Services with their complementary contribution to operations in the sea areas of Malaysia and her neighbours.  Feedback from the attendees for this event was most positive as was support for the Admiral’s proposal which will be taken forward, potentially for 2016. Tangent Link is grateful for the support of Speakers, Sponsors, Exhibitors and Delegates alike and invites you to remain in touch at tangentlink.com/events.

Rear Admiral Terry Loughran CB FRAeS    

Conference Chairman

19 September 2014