The Dragon’s Moves

Unmanned Autonomous Marvels At IDEX-2019

Prasun K. Sengupta

The International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) 2019, held from February 14 to 16 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), hosted more than 1,200 exhibitors, while the NAVDEX 2019 naval expo that was held concurrently from February 17 to 21, played host to 20 warships from 15 countries, and 100 exhibitors from 23 countries. Both expos were held over 133,000 square metres of internal and external area, and were co-inaugurated by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Vice-President, Prime Minister of the UAE, ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and its minister of defence.

Type 08 8x8 with 8 HJ-10A Red Arrow ATGMs

The IDEX component of the expo this time showcased the growing military-industrial capabilities of UAE-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Caracal, now a subsidiary of Emirates Defence Industries Co, recently signed weapon deals with Malaysia, India and South Korea. It is also already supplying the German military with firearms, taking the group’s overseas sales to more than 25 per cent of its total. Caracal, which takes its name from a desert hunting cat, was established in 2007 and has since developed a strong reputation for producing side-arms, close-combat assault weapons and sniper rifles. Today, EDIC Caracal’s portfolio includes combat pistols, a 9mm submachine gun, three tactical rifle platforms and varying types of sniper rifles. In India, Caracel has secured an order for supplying 93,895 5.56 x 45 CAR 816 close-quarter carbines to the Indian Army.


China’s Exhibits

Several China-based OEMs displayed a wide range of weapon systems for land, air and naval warfare — all of them being targeted at potential customers located in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Chinese shipbuilder China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC) the export arm of Chinese shipbuilding group China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC), showcased 22 types of products, including diesel-electric submarines, the Type 054 AE guided-missile frigate (FFG), a 3000-tonne trimaran FFG, a 500-tonne missile gunboat, P-50S rapid intervention craft, unmanned autonomous boats, and a range of heavyweight and lightweight torpedoes.

A notable CSOC exhibit was its JARI armed but unmanned surface vessel (USV), which was first showcased at the Africa Aerospace & Defence expo last September in South Africa. The 20-tonne JARI has a length of 15 metres, breadth of 4.80 metres, draught of 1.80 metres, maximum speed of 42 Knots, and a range of 500 nautical miles. Its missions include anti-submarine, anti-surface and anti-air warfare. The modular JARI comes equipped with an optronic sensor atop a superstructure that also houses an active phased-array radar system with four antennae, plus a dipping sonar, navigation radar, and SATCOM antenna, eight small vertical launch system (VLS) cells for surface-to-air missiles (SAM), a lightweight torpedo launcher, and a forward-mounted 30mm machine gun and rocket launcher for counter-surface engagements. The JARI can be remote-controlled either from a shore-based facility, or from a mother warship. The USV is propelled by a single water-jet. CSOC’s 3,000-tonne trimaran FFG has a length of 136 metres and is crewed by a complement of 110 personnel. Its maximum speed is listed at 30 Knots, while the propulsion system comprises four diesel engines and twin water-jets. A 16-cell VLS housing SAMs is located between the bridge and the 76mm main gun. Two close-in weapon systems are installed at the rear of a helicopter hangar, while two quad-stacked anti-ship cruise missile canisters are located between the bridge and hangar superstructure.

Another modular USV to be showcased was China State Shipbuilding Trading Co’s (CSSC) XLOONG, which is reportedly capable of performing interdiction, patrol and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. The USV’s angled shape is designed to minimise radar cross-section, while its interchangeable mid-body section can be configured for housing medium-range anti-ship cruise missiles, rocket launchers or an eight-cell silo for a range of vertically launched precision-guided surface-attack missiles. In addition, eight more vertical launch cells are located within the vessel structure (four on each side). According to CSSC, the XLOONG USV incorporates a high degree of autonomy regarding both route-planning and task-planning/mission management, with multiple USVs operating together as part of a collaborative ‘swarm’. In addition to operating fully unmanned, the XLLONG can also be used in a manned mode.

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