Maritime Surveillance Aircraft 2014 – Conference Report

Maritime Surveillance Aircraft Conference & Exhibition 2014 | Indonesia  | 

Alan Warnes attended the MSA 2014 conference which was held on 3-4 November 2014 at the Grand Hyatt, Jakarta, Indonesia. 

CHAIRMAN, AIR Marshal (Rtd) Philip Sturley opened the conference with some house rules and thanking all those including the sponsors, Sikorsky, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Saab and Selex ES for their support.

Welcome Address

The Indonesian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal IB Putu Dunia was called to see the new president, President Joko Widodo so he could not attend, which meant the Assistant Chief of Staff, Air Vice Marshal  Sudipo Handoyo deputised in his absence.

AVM Sudipio spoke of the Air Force’s attempt to develop a maritime surveillance system, which he admitted was a top requirement.  With over 17,000 islands, 1.9 million square kms of land and eight million square kms of sea, the world’s second biggest coastline of 54,000 square kms and the largest archipelago in the world.  There are many transportation, industrial, energy and natural resources that are not being used as a source of Indonesia’s national development strategy.  That will change, with the new government investing much into this policy area.  This will mean coordination with other nations, sometimes between civilian and military aircraft in the form of an integrated maritime surveillance solution, with information being shared with other countries, across all borders.  After his 13 minute address, AVM Sudipo wished the conference good luck and stood with other speakers at the front of the stage.

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AVM Sudipo rises from his seat to make his Welcome Address. All photos, Alan Warnes

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AVM Sudipo addresses the conference audience at MSA 2014

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Several of the speakers with the Chairman (on left) and AVM Sudipo Handoyo (centre)
who was the first Indonesian military CASA 212 pilot

Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto an Associate Research Fellow of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) from Singapore was the next on stage and spoke of the ongoing geopolitical solution in the region.  In doing so, he set the scene as to the reasons why maritime surveillance is so important in the South China Sea.

The area occupies a central position in the Indo Pacific Sea Lines of Communications (SLOC) connecting Europe, Middle East and South Asia to South East Asia and North America.  These SLOCs are underpinning the economic attractions of the region where there is a significant amount of trade carried out by seas and ships.  The shipping density centres around the South China Sea.

EEZs are also being challenged and economic sovereignties are being ignored by China where there are several claimants to a number of areas of the South China Sea.  The claimants to areas in the South China Sea are Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.  Indonesia is a semi claimant’.

China is protecting a nine-dotted/u-shaped line which it is continually extending southwards.  The contested area includes the Paracel Islands, occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam; and the Spratley Islands disputed by the Phillippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Each claim either part or all the islands, which are believed to sit on vast mineral resources, including oil.  As the nine-dotted line pushed deeper south, Indonesia was dragged into the dispute with part of its EEZ to the north of Natuna Islands being claimed by China.

Much of this is because China is looking increasingly for more natural resources, and the northern part around the Paracel Islands doesn’t have as much oil or gas as there is further south, where there is believed to be millions of barrels of oil under the South China Sea.  This concerns Indonesia, and goes some way to understanding why it is acquiring eight AH-64Ds – [with four based on Kalimantan and four at the more traditional Achmad Yani base]

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The fight over natural resources in the South China Sea is on

To protect its new found territory, China is now asserting itself more in the region which during the summer even included a Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) SU-27 manoeuvring extremely close to a US Navy P-8.   Ristian told us that China has taken delivery of three Kilo class submarines this year, with another three expected by 2016; around 71 submarines expected to be operational by 2023.  An interesting graphic showed how far the Su-27/30s could reach with and without air to air refuelling.  It took them south of Malaysia and Singapore but just a bit north of Jakarta and not too surprising governments are getting alarmed over China’s long term intentions.


Captain David Wright, Deputy Commander – CTF 72 of 7th Fleet US Navy based in Misawa, Japan talked about the interoperability in maritime surveillance.  A P-3 pilot, he outlined the set up of CTF (Combined Task Force) -72, with six P-8As serving CTG 72.2, nine P-3Cs reporting to CTG 72-4 and two EP-3Es with CTG 72.5.  The latter are expected to be replaced by two Triton systems in 2017.

He talked of the importance of an airborne maritime surveillance capability, citing the new capabilities the P-8A Poseidon brings. He explained how interoperability with other nations in the region is a must and discussed several exercises the USN’s CTF-72 had been involved in, during recent years.

There was also a brief discussion on the J-11/P-8 incident, in which he said the Chinese fighter got very close, approximately 20 feet  from the P-8, flying airshow type manoeuvres’.

Mike Fralen, Director Business Development for Aviation Systems International Lockheed Martin discussed the harnessing of commercial solutions for airborne maritime surveillance.  As the Indonesian AF ACAS said, both civilian and military options should be looked at for maritime surveillance and Mike discussed the merits of open architecture systems with commercial interfaces capable of using Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) hardware and software.   He geared his discussion towards fixed wing airborne maritime surveillance and the use of modular architecture, installation options, third party integration, sustainment benefit of COTS.

The Seychelles is surrounded by water in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  So it was fitting to see Major Michale Popponneau CO of the Seychelles Air Force discussing anti-piracy and smuggling operations.

Seychelles is a small island developing (SID) state in the south west Indian Ocean comprising 115 islands scattered over an EEZ covering 1,374 million sq kms and a population of 91,000.  Like many areas close to Somalia, the Seychelles has suffered from pirates, with local fisherman being part of their prey.

Michael discussed the maritime security situation in the region and the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Security at Sea known as REFLECS3.  This was an initiative of the Seychelles President, His Excellency James Michel and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.  Its aim is to disrupt piracy financiers by creating a Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution Intelligence Centre (RAPIC).  Over the past couple of years the pirate issue has declined and the last known attack was on November 8, 2013 when a Danish vessel MV Torm Kansas came under an unsuccessful siege.

The Seychelles Air Force has three aircraft, a Do 228 MSA which was acquired from HAL Kanpur in India and fitted with an Israeli Elta EL/M 2022 maritime radar system. It patrols the waters off the islands.  Flying alongside is a Twin Otter fitted with a L3 Wescam MX-15 FLIR and a Y-12 used for crew training.  The Indian Government offered one Do228 and two Chetak helicopters, but with some bad experiences on the latter in the past, the small Air Force is hoping to trade in the credit for these for a second Do228.  A RDAF Challenger has also been based at Mahe Airport in the past, while a Royal New Zealand P-3K2 has done patrols when they were being swopped over in the UAE, where the RNZAF has a detachment patrolling the local waters.

A National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) was set up in August 2008, and the air force is tasked with assisting this unit as well as educating itself on drug traffickers and associates with a view to infiltrating and destroying their networks.  A total of 574 arrests were made by the NDEA in 2013 and seized 2.4kg of heroine worth SR 21 million.

Saab has big hopes to be part of the integrated maritime surveillance system in Indonesia, as was evident not just by the swedish company  being at the conference but from the large amount of features on the company in the local Jakarta Globe newspaper later in the week.  Erik Winberg as Senior Director Business Developer, AEW & Control explained the Saab systems to the audience which comprised around 150 Indonesian AF personnel.

He spoke of Saab’s solutions:

AEW&C                               Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C

MPA                                      Saab 2000MPA

Maritime Surveillance  Saab 340

Brazil, Greece, Mexico, Pakistan, Sweden, Thailand, UAE and Country X all operating the Erieye system.

They cover air surveillance, sea surveillance, Electronic Warfare and Command and Control (C2). The maritime surveillance capability now includes the detection of small targets like jet-skis and boats, ideal for requirements in the Asia Pacific region.  Looking at the graphs it would appear the radar has a range of up to 300 nautical miles.

He discussed the Erieye’s systems capabilities: identification through IFF, AIS, ADS-8 and ESM, as well as SIGINT, radar surveillance, mission handling, communication and command and control.  He also discussed the benefits of the Saab 2000MPA and Saab 340 MSA which meant he started running over his slot time, leading to the wrath of the Chairman!

Jan Kaczmarek is a retired Navy Captain of the Polish Naval Aviation, with over 4,000 hours of flying.  He talked about the Polish Navy experience in operating the M28 high performance STOL aircraft in maintaining surveillance and security.  An impressive 94 M28s have been sold worldwide to Poland (41 including 14 in the maritime and border guard configuration), USA (19 in Special Forces configuration), Venezuela (25), Colombia (1), Indonesia (4), Vietnam (2), Nepal (2)

There are three main configurations in the maritime surveillance role in Poland: Bryza IR (from 1994- Navy), Bryza Bis (from 2004, Navy),  M28SG (2006, Border Guard).

Their main areas of operation are Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea and North Sea. Missions include; national – border guard, pollution control, ISR, SAR, MPA/ASW; international – NATO and EU MPA; NATO exercises (included best in 2006 electronic warfare exercise).

It can work in a range of temperatures from -50° C to +50° C and has impressive STOL capabilities too, only needing 2,191ft (668m) to take off – FAA certified, according to Jan.

Commander Imran Ishtiaq Qureshi is the Commanding Officer of 93 Pakistan Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (PMSA) Squadron.  The MSA was formed in 1993 and has three BN-2 Defenders which patrol the seas off the Pakistan coast.  Its main role is the prevention of illegal and harmful activities at sea and safeguarding marine resources.  Working with the Pakistan Navy, it has to cover some 295,000 sq kms.  Protecting Pakistan’s waters is important because 20% of the world’s petroleum passes through the Hormuz Straits through Pakistan’s EEZ.  Piracy and illegal fishing is a real threat with some ships switching off their equipment like AIS to escape identification.

Pakistan loses Rs 8 billion (£670 million) of fish to its neighbours illegally fishing every year.  The Defenders can easily identify illegal fishing in prohibited zones, but has problems identifying fishermen using illegal methods. It does it work by systematic observation, search, identifying and tracking.

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Pakistan Navy Commander Imran of the 93 PMSA Squadron discusses the role of his unit



A panel session at 9.30am provided us with a chance to review what we had learnt the day before.  Then several questions from the floor meant a lively discussion then followed.  One question from Tony Okill of Cascade Aerospace about using COTS in military situations showed that it isnt that easy plugging civilian systems into a military one.  Robert Long, Lockheed Martin Business Development Director Lockheed Martin responded that it is an issue currently being considered.  He then discussed his Artemis open service service orientated texture’, and told us that if an air arm buys into it then we can spiral up’ the systems on broad business case by giving the customer the tools etc to do it.

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The panel discuss some of the issues from the previous day

The author asked the audience how it worked with its neighbours and what level of cooperation was there.  A Indonesian Air Force officer admitted that the borders of the EEZs it shared with other countries were blurry, and rather than enter into another countries air space, with the possible issue of a confrontation it backed off.

The Royal Thailand Air Force has during the past few years created its own AEW&C operation over land and sea.  Squadron Leader Pracha Nongnual, Senior Director of SOC 3 spoke of how the system works.

One of the RTAF’s 11 wings, 7 Wing is based at Surat Thani air base in southern Thailand which has responsibility for 701 Squadron Shark’ flying Gripen C/Ds and 702 Squadron Orca’ with four Saab 340s and two Saab 340AEWs.

The Sqn Ldr provided an overview of the RTAF’s AEW Concept of Operations.  They use the Saab340AEW as an airborne radar and not a command and control.  This means the Saab 340 will download air picture/information down to the dome ground station, which will datalink the Fighter Controllers at the Command and Control along with the operator on the Erieye.

They use the Saab 340AEW&C for several purposes:

1. A gap filler – filling in for the areas with poor signals, or where mountains or buildings block the picture.

2. Extended AEW looking into neighbouring territories whenever required.

3. Sea surveillance.  Helping to search for ships and warn the Navy of sea targets. The RTAF is now working with the Royal Thai Navy during maritime operations via a Ground Entry Station (GES) in the frigates.  This allows the vessels to receive data information from the Erieye such as target information.  The Navy can then identify, target, command anc control by themselves.

4. National defence – working with fighters during Cope Tiger 2014 and Operational Steel Challenge 2014.  During one exercise the Erieye flew a racetrack course outside the area of ops, and detected strikers coming in between 300-500ft in the mountainous areas.  Masking themselves in the mountains, where radars could not detect the fighters was once a regular tactic, now with the aid of airborne readers which can fly high over these areas that is not such a safe tactic.  In the exercise, the Erieye alerted Gripens to intercept the fighters before they can bomb targets.

At end of presentation, Son Ldr Nongnual showed the AEW system of the future, but added this was not the future in fact but what was happening now.

The Hawkeye in its earliest incarnation has been operational since 1973, as Tom Trudell, Manager International Business Development, Northrop Grumman explained.  It has evolved more than any other AEW&C aircraft, with considerable investment and growth in the systems performance according to Northrop Grumman

Since being introduced into service, there have been five further versions: the Advanced Radar Processing Subsystems (ARPS) which was in service 1977-84; the E-2C Group 0 – (Initial Operational Clearance) IOC, 1980, E-2C Hawkeye Grp II – IOC,  1992, E-2C Hawkeye 2000/E-2D – IOC, 2000 and now the Advanced Hawkeye – IOC, 2015.  The latter has a solid state Electronically Scanned Array (ESA) radar with an overland cruise missile detection capability, a tactical cockpit with a fourth operator, enhanced communications suite, enhanced performance engines with provision for future upgrades.

There have been 15 E-2Ds delivered to the US Navy so far, and a contract for 25 was signed earlier this year as part of plans for 75 aircraft which will operate up to 2040.  In early October, the first E-2D squadron, VAW-125 based at Naval Air Station Norfolk gained IOC and is expected to deploy next year with CVW-1 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.

There are presently 62 E-2Cs in service with the US Navy, while an additional 28 E-2Cs serve the Egyptian Air Force, French Navy, Japanese Navy and Taiwan Air Force.

Wing Commander David Rowling of the RNZAF’s Capability Branch, Joint Project Office discussed the upgrade of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3 MPAs.

The principle element delivering New Zealand’s aerial maritime ISR capability is the Lockheed P-2K2 Orion operating as part of the Airborne Surveillance and Response Force (ASRF). Part of its responsibilities is to cover the fourth largest 2000nm EEZ stretching to Fiji Islands, through a MoU down to Antarctica!

Originally purchased in 1966, the P-3 has been maintained through a series of structural and mission systems upgrades throughout its service life.  In 2001, the New Zealand Government identified that to maintain a future credible maritime ISR capability the Orion required a major flight deck and mission system upgrade.  L3 Systems were approved to upgrade the P-3, with work commencing in 2004 and is almost complete now.

The first upgraded P-3K2 Orion (NZ 4204) for the Royal New Zealand Air Force made its initial test flight at contractor’s L-3 Integrated Systems’ facility in Greenville, Texas in August 2009 after a three-year modification programme.  The work includes a new data management system, navigation system, L-16 communications suite, MX-20 electro optics, radar and flight deck.

This is the second time the six 40-year old aircraft have received a major modification, being upgraded from existing P-3B airframes during the 1980s.  Under Project Rigel the primary mission system was integrated in 1986 and was followed by Project Kestrel in 2000, which covered a structural upgrade.

The remainder of the six strong fleet has been upgraded at the Safe Air facility at Blenheim Airport, Marlborough in New Zealand.  The P-3K2 is operated by 5 Squadron, based at Auckland.

The P-3K2 is tasked to carry out overland and maritime surveillance, and is used regularly on deployment in the UAE on anti-piracy ops as part of European Task Force.

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Wing Commander David Rowling of the RNZAF chats to Captain David Wright,

Deputy Commander CTF -72. The subject was probably Orions – Wg Cdr Rowling

has been working on the programme to upgrade the RNZAF P-3Bs. 

Captain David Wright flew them.

Cristina Massarenti, Marketing Manager Selex ES Airborne and Space Systems Division presented an overview of the company’s products.  First was the Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance (ATOS) system.  It is geared towards the growing demand for wide area surveillance and patrolling, targeted surveillance, environmental and disaster control, integrating a wide number of sensors and subsystems in a highly modular design.

It has been selected by several nations and installed on a wide range of aircraft – Italian Guardia Di Finanza ATR 42, P166DL3; Italian Coast Guard ATR 42MP; Italian AF/Navy ATR72MLRS, Algerian AF King Air 350; Nigerian AF ATR42MP; Ecuadorian Navy CN 235, King Air 300,  Australian Customs Dash -8, Bell 412 and AS300B3 helicopters.

Cristina provided an overview of the SkyISTAR – a mission system configurable for a wide range of unmanned aerial systems.  Mini micro systems like the Spyball, Drako, Asio-8 and Crex-8 with an endurance of about 21 hours, which provide point surveillance; Falco variants for land theatre surveillance; Evo variants for maritime/littoral surveillance, MALE/HALE and small manned ISR platforms for broad area surveillance and Nibbio II for deep penetration recce.

The Chairman, Air Marshal (Retd) Philip Sturley then wrapped up another successful  conference with some of the main points that we could take from the two day event.

 Maritime Surveillance is a big requirement in Asia Pacific, and after years of talking it seems that the governments in the region are finally taking notice.  While there are many issues – such as smuggling and piracy that have needed addressing for many years, many nations have only become interested because of China’s antics in the South China Sea.