Defending the Seas

Welcome to some of the world’s most trafficked waters. Cooperation to protect against crime at sea, such as piracy, drug smuggling and illegal fishing, have become the “new normal” for defence forces in the region of Southeast Asia. This calls for joint operations where great connection is key.

The diverse countries of Southeast Asia have a lot of territory to keep track of, on land and across the seas. Across a huge area most of the Southeast Asian countries have maritime territories. This means long coastlines and thousands of islands to monitor and to keep secure. Southeast Asia is also a critical region for maritime commerce and natural resources, and its complex waters carry vital global sea lines of navigation and trade.

The new security threats

The world has seen few major naval conflicts since the Second World War. Instead, the rise of non-traditional security threats - such as piracy and smuggling - has added a new dimension to the role of the world’s navies.

Protecting the freedom of navigation and shipping movements is becoming increasingly difficult for naval forces. Pirates exploit geographical “chokepoints”, of which there are many, to facilitate their attacks on shipping. Each year one third of the world’s shipping passes through the Strait of Malacca (between peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra) and the northern Singapore Strait. It’s no coincidence that these places have become the world’s most pirated waters.

Achieving the information advantage

The race continues to provide security forces with advanced monitoring and control capabilities, so they can stay one step ahead of their adversaries. The situation calls for the most flexible and effective use of all of the available platforms to meet a broader spectrum of situations and security threats.

Carl-Erik Leek, Executive Vice President at Saab Asia Pacific Co. Ltd explains.

“Each navy want’s a system that tracks all objects at sea, far beyond the horizon. A radar on the mast of a ship, 10 to 15 meters above sea level, has a radar horizon of less than 40 km away. By comparison an airborne early warning radar system (airborne early warning and control, AEW&C) put antennas high in the sky to extend the radar horizon much farther away. An early warning aircraft patrolling at 6 000 to 10 000 meters altitude has a radar horizon some 300 to 350 km away,” he says. “If you connect the two with a robust and secure communication system you’re creating a situation where the navy is using real time information from the air force, linked directly from an AEW&C system.  When a country has a system like this in place it suddenly has a powerful tactical and strategic capability that supports national decision-making at every level.”

The connected units in such a network centric defence system can be ground-based, out at the sea or in the air. Various systems can be combined for different tasks and this mix of systems can change and evolve over time.

“Many nations have procured various systems and equipment from different suppliers over the years and, while each component may work on its own they are not always connected and part of the total defence system,” Leek says. “This is one of Saab’s great skills, the ability to connect and integrate. Because we design and build so much of this kind of equipment ourselves we have great insight into how things fit together, for best effect. We can take many different systems and connect them into something that is bigger and better for the customer. Saab has decades of experience in taking national capabilities several leaps forward; helping customers integrate new and existing systems from a host of different suppliers. Our job is to support sovereign nations to escape the limits of assorted equipment in stand-alone configurations and move to much more modern, inter-connected and information- driving technology.”

This week we talk more about this at Defense & Security in Bangkok


News: Building Network-Centric Defence