IMDEX Asia Promotes Cooperation;
USS Freedom is Center of Attention
By EDWARD LUNDQUIST, Special Correspondent
Security cooperation was the focus of the Ninth International Maritime Defence Exhibition &
Conference (IMDEX) Asia 2013, which drew senior
naval officers from Asia and around the world to
Singapore May 14-16. A record number of 61 delegations from 48 countries and 194 exhibitors took part in
the conference and trade expo, which also featured the
presence of 16 warships from nine countries at the
Republic of Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.
Garnering a lion’s share of the attention was the U.S.
Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) on
its first deployment to the region.
“Commitment to internationally accepted norms and
legal frameworks provide the only viable and peaceful
way to build trust and prevent conflicts when differences
in views arise. In disputes, all sides should exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalating tensions or precipitating confrontations,” Singapore Minister of Defence Dr.
Ng Eng Hen said in welcoming the delegates.
With the presence of senior leadership and operating units, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) hosted the Maritime Information-Sharing Exercise 2013
and the Fourth Western Pacific Naval Symposium
Multilateral Sea Exercise at the Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre. The purpose of the exercises was to strengthen the information-sharing process
and enhance the interoperability among the participating navies and maritime agencies.
“The Republic of Singapore’s Navy has done a magnificent job with providing us a forum to get together
with the various heads of navy and heads of coast
guard — we even have heads of air forces and agencies
here,” said Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, U.S. Navy
chief of naval operations (CNO).
The inaugural International Naval Engineering
Conference was held as part of IMDEX 2013. Chan
Yeng Kit, Singapore’s permanent secretary for Defence
Development, opened the conference, which focused
on the importance of technology as a force multiplier
in transforming naval capabilities to meet future chal-
lenges. The theme was “Transforming Naval Capability
— Riding the Next Technology Wave.” But, what is the
“next technology wave?”
“Defense planners will need to holistically address
the twin challenges posed by a long gestation period
and a shortened life cycle of individual component sys-
tems,” Chan said. “Major ship acquisition programs
typically take about a decade or so from inception to
the ship becoming fully operational. At the same time,
the greater use of commercial, off-the-shelf technology
results in shortened life cycles of components. Rapid
obsolescence of such subsystems necessitates periodic
technology refresh, system upgrades and capability
insertions, so that the fighting platforms remain supportable and effective. The design must make up-front
provisions for upgrading and expansion.
“We may have to quickly assimilate promising technologies even if these are not fully mature,” he said.
“Conversely, we have to be wary of technologies that
Open for Business
IMDEX also served as a forum for defense professionals to exchange views and enhance cooperation in the
maritime domain. It also coincided with the RSN’s
open house at Changi, attended first by organized
groups from schools around Singapore, followed by
the general public over the next two days.
The open house included demonstrations and tours,
such as the opportunity to come aboard the visiting
warships. The media, visiting military delegations,
crews from the various ships and the public were fascinated with USS Freedom.
Freedom’s Gold Crew commanding officer, Cmdr.
Tim Wilkie, said his crew has been fantastic, and he
and his crew welcome the attention.
“You feel the eyes on you. The crew understands it,”
Freedom also hosted U.S. Ambassador David Adelman
and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus just prior to IMDEX.
“This ship, LCS, is tailor-made for these engagements
and for myriad other tasks it will be called upon to perform. She’s fast, agile, modular and has a shallow draft.
These ships allow us to work in many different ways
with our partners. The weapons systems on LCS can be
traded out to fit whatever missions it is given. Those
same systems can be upgraded as technology changes
without having to build a new ship or changing anything
out but that particular weapon system,” Mabus said.
Greenert said the U.S. Navy is “rebalancing to the
Asian Pacific region” in several key ways. “The Navy’s
going to get bigger [in the Asia Pacific],” he said.