IMDEX ASIA 2001 –– SINGAPORE –– 8 – 12 MAY 2001


New Delhi, 18 May 2001

Changing Maritime Equilibrium

The world’s maritime equilibrium has undergone a sea change in recent times. These pointers picked up at the Conference and Exhibition –– IMDEX 2001, are relevant to highlight as a preamble to this exclusive show report.

(a)     Maritime nations are shifting emphasis from land to the sea for both security and resources. Armies are being reduced and navies are witnessing expansion.

(b)     Budgets for Navies are rising and if NMD succeeds USA will have a powerful and expensive Sea based defence system. USA will continue to base its military security on technological superiority to contend with an uncertain array of threats, since it has no immediate threat.

(c)     Coast Guards and Marine Police Organisations are becoming more potent, and will compete with Navies in the littoral sphere.

(d)     Fisheries will see competition and conflict. In Asia 75% of the protein for 3 billion people in the East comes from the sea.

(e)     Ironically there will be more cooperation and conflict at sea for energy resources, as energy is deficient in the East and relies on the Middle East. Notably the Spratlys, Sakhalin, Siberian gas, Taiwan, India and Pakistan etc., have differences and undemarcated boundaries. There are seven outstanding disputes on sea boundaries in the East, though China and Russia the two big powers have secure boundaries.

(f)       Skilful diplomacy is the call of the day as small nations vie for Blue Water capability. Even Singapore has Sjoorman submarines, latest missiles on ships and aircraft (F 50) and has ordered 5 La Fayette class frigates on DCN. Malaysia is acquiring submarines. Chinese and Indian navies are expanding. Japan and Taiwan have big navies.

It was with this background that the third International Maritime Defence Exhibition organised by a private firm but supported by the Republic of Singapore Navy and Trade Development Board, was hosted at the sprawling new SINGAPORE EXPO building not far from Changi. 

Exhibition & Conference

A floor area of 3500 sq feet hosted booths from 24 Countries. The major representation was by the American, British, French, German and Russian firms in an organised manner as groups.

The Singapore Navy also threw open its spanking new Naval base at Changi and berthed 19 naval ships and it still looked empty. Earlier in the year the Naval Base which has deep water berths of upto 50 feet draught, had berthed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and French nuclear submarine Perle.

Singapore has deliberately built the base to accommodate big ships and attract USN ships, as Japanese bases may close. 140,000 ships transit the Singapore Straits annually. Singapore believes strongly that a benign US naval presence in the area would be good for stability. India can learn from Singapore and Korea, who gave away old seafronts and built new bases.

Cooperation in Maritime Endeavour

Mr. David Lim, Singapore’s Minister of State for Defence, inaugurated the show on 8 May. He went on to explain how maritime trade would grow by 5% annually. He said, “In Asia Pacific, this maritime trade is important not just to its littoral nations, but to world’s commerce. The Straits of Malacca and the Straits of Singapore are among the busiest waterways in the world. And with the projected increase in trade, the number of vessels transiting in the Straits is also expected to increase.”

“The need to safeguard the freedom and safety of navigation is, therefore, all the more compelling. The challenges we face can be divided into a number of broad categories –– natural hazards, accidents, and criminal actions. Let me take each of these challenges in turn,” he stressed.

“With more people and vessels plying the seas, natural hazards such as tsunamis or typhoons are potentially more devastating. Despite improvements in meteorological technology, we still cannot predict natural disasters accurately. Neither have we devised effective means to eliminate or even ameliorate the destructive forces of nature. But we are not entirely helpless. We can reduce the number of casualties in such situations by increasing co-operation and co-ordination among countries. We can share information and establish co-operative crisis management including search and rescue missions.”  Hence COOPERATION in the maritime field set the tone at the show.

Major Exhibitors

Nearly 200 companies look part in the show and there were 33 foreign delegations and 16 ships from 13 countries berthed at the Changi base. It would be difficult to describe the whole show, which was full of business and a high level of professionalism. Hence brief country wise summaries are presented below:

  • United Kingdom –– Britain had the largest presence with the British Naval Equipment and Defence Manufacturers Association covering all the ship builders and suppliers of weapons, radars, electronics etc. The big daddies, BAE Systems (Sir Masefield, Group Marketing Director, who has been negotiating AJTs in India was personally present), DESO, DERA, Vosper, Thornycraft, Rolls Royce, and Westland Aqusta, added glamour to what is the second largest exporter of defence goods. India’s interest was what UK can do for the Sea Harriers now aging, Seakings which need spares and equipment for the new ships namely Type 17 frigates at MDL with the LM 2500 gas turbines and the Air Defence Ship at Cochin. This is in addition to the traditional supplies for the aircraft carrier INS Viraat and the Leanders.

  • USA –– The Second largest representation of 34 companies led by giants Raytheon, United Defence (now also owners of Bofors), Lockheed, Kaman and Kollmorgen were there to cater to their clients who were at the show at Singapore. Visitors were there at their stands from SE Asia, Taiwan, Pakistan, Japan and those from the Middle East. Kollmorgen has stopped supplies for Indian submarine periscopes and the US companies were cool to Indian visitors. India’s interest was for the future when sanctions are lifted, as the Raytheon ANTPS 37 Q Fire Finder Weapon Locating Radar has been stopped and Kollmorgen cut off periscope supplies and spares for the HDW 1800 submarines. However, India is supporting NMD so a sea change could follow when sanctions are lifted.  

  • France –– France had only 18 Companies but held Center Stage. DCN has orders for 3+2 La Fayette Frigates from Singapore. Malaysia has ordered Fennec Helicopters. India is looking at building the Type 75 submarine under the Scorpene design at MDL and time is running out and if not home built then it will have to resort to imports. The Scorpene has modular construction, 21” torpedo tubes and commonality with the French nuclear submarine and India’s ATV can gain from the project as funds stand sanctioned. India also buys Matra BAe missiles, Pielstick engines, Thomson now THALES equipment including Signaal radars. The Pakistani’s have bought the Agusta and Daphne submarines from France. In short France was up front.

  • Russia –– Rosboronexport put up 23 companies in a disorganised manner and no one knew who was who. Their marketing and secrecy was beyond belief, and seemed worse than India’s. When IDC asked about the Krivacks we were told to go to India and ask, we are bound by the secrecy clause. Knowing Russian I asked why they had come to IMDEX and they smiled and offered vodka. Anyway between Admiralty Shipyard which has supplied and refitted Indian’s Kilo Class subs, Baltisky Yard which is building the INS Talwar, Trishul and Toofan and Severnoye which has helped India design the frigates including the Type 17 and Novotor which is supplying the range of Klubs and Rubin and Granit, the whole range of what Russia can export was there, but no questions were answered.

The question everybody asked at the show was what is happening to the Gorshkov. IDC learnt that the matter would be settled in June when the postponed joint Commission meets in St. Petersburg –– thanks to the Tehelka saga. However as Prof. Barnet, who was feted by the IN at the IFR had said on return to USA –– the fourth largest Navy is not sure where it is headed with its acquisitions, and the strategy is mixed up between the Russian, British and American ways –– a good Navy with friendship all round has still to come of age.

  • Germany –– Germany put up 15 stalls with HDW –– now in disrepute in India because of kickbacks and STN–ATLAS Electronik –– who have done good business with India for the submarines. There was speculation that Germany will begin to look to India for exports once the USA lifts sanctions. Defence Minister Schapring came to India on a preparatory visit in March this year. Vice Admiral Madhvendra Singh and his team of professionals spent hours at the show.

  • Others –– Spain was there under the banner of IZAR having taken over Bazaan, which has three orders for the Chilean Scorpene submarines and is launching its first F100 Ageis Destroyer later this year. Canada showcased CAE and Bombardier. Israel had only Rafael which has gained orders for India’s lightning pods and 7 Barak missile systems. Italy was there with Alenia and India has their Otobreda gun in collaboration with BHEL. With India opening 26% investment in Defence sector Israel is gung ho on its plans, as it is the biggest arms supplier after Russia and has built inroads into Indian defence. IDC will put up the list soon in its analysis on how the policy will take effect.

Naval Presence

The IMDEX 2001 Exhibition and Conference was truly exciting and educative for a professional as Singapore is very open about its Defence. It has a US$4 billion budget and every Singaporean serves in the defence forces. They push others to be open and discuss and meet and the social functions have enough food and spirits to encourage bonhommie. In any case navies have no option but to be friendly and host parties.

From India Vice Admiral Madhvendra Singh VCNS was accompanied by Cmde S Chakrovarty, DNP, Cmde Chari, DWE and Cdr Monty Khanna, all decision makers for procurement.

INS Kora was berthed at Changi and the little 1,350 ton ship built by GRSE has a punch of 16 URAN (Harpoonski) missiles, one 76 mm and 2 AK 630 30 mm guns, with the Indian Ajanta EW and IPN 10 CIC and home made Torpedo decoys. It looked menacing but the finish of the ship left a lot to be desired, when compared to the other 15 ships berthed alongside.

Pakistan was represented by their VCNS Vice Admiral Fayyaz ur Rahman and three very smart looking ships, PNS Tippu Sultan the Type 21 with the Chinese LY–60 SAM system and SBROC Chaff launchers, to meet the Indian missile threat which is huge.

Just astern of INS Kora (purposely IDC feels) was berthed PNS Moawin the Poolster supply ship and PNS Shushuk the small but agile Daphne, now aging and proudly commanded by soft spoken Cdr Sohail. The uniforms, outward confidence and appearance of the Pakistani ships was noteworthy. Another feature was the cordiality and professionalism with which they escorted us when going on board the Pakistani ships. They were open to answer questions, showed off their DA 08 Radars and Systems including the bridge, but understandably did not allow a visit to the ops Room. The mid level Pakistani officers said they had served on board the USA supplied old Gearings and one had to admit that the US Navy does train their crews professionally and maintains ships well, which augurs well for the P.N. Pakistani sailors also looked more robust and healthy.

The American ship USS Curt, an Oliver Perry class FFG and HMS Glouchester, a type 42, were open to visitors and they had their full Systems on and opened up their CICs. It was a treat to handle their radarscopes and one could once again learn how Harpoons and Standard missiles are fired and controlled and towed array Sonars operate.

But for IDC the visit to Korea’s ROKN Yangmanchoon, the 4000 tons destroyer built by Daweoo was a treat. It had 16 vertical launch Sea Sparrow SAM, 8 Harpoons, 6 MK44 Torpedo and the Goalkeeper with 2 Lynx on board. The ship was new and the welding and the finish beat all the other ships by far, including the big landing ship RSS Endurance built by Singapore Technologies.

Bangladesh sent Abu Bakhr to Singpore and the BSN is looking forward to receiving its first Korean DW 2000H frigate from Daewoo and it should be a potent ship.

All foreign countries had their yard reps on board the ships for a hard sell. India and Pakistan did not. 

Singapore went all out to show off RSN Endurance.


IDC has a beautiful set of 30 excellent photographs of the exhibits, personalities and ships that were present at Singapore, on sale for US$75 including courier charges. The media are free to use these pictures and this report with due credits to Please send us your orders by E-Mail to, delivery is assured in maximum five days from receipt of your mail.

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