Asian countries eye stronger maritime surveillance capabilities

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Asian countries eye stronger maritime surveillance capabilities
SINGAPORE - FEBRUARY 18: The F-15SG fighter jet (back) and the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, perform an aerial display during the Singapore Airshow at Changi Exhibition Centre on February 18, 2016 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
A French fighter jet, the Dassault Rafale, performs an aerial display at the Singapore Airshow at the Changi exhibition centre in Singapore on February 17, 2016. French fighter jet, the Dassault Rafale soars high over it's competitors due to its versatility in performing mission operations, says its pilot from the French Air Force. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
An attendee watches a flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A French fighter jet, the Dassault Rafale, performs an aerial display at the Singapore Airshow at the Changi exhibition centre in Singapore on February 17, 2016. French fighter jet, the Dassault Rafale soars high over it's competitors due to its versatility in performing mission operations, says its pilot from the French Air Force. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Attendees watch and take photographs of a flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A static display shows a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG fighter jet during Singapore Airshow at the Changi exhibition centre in Singapore on February 16, 2016. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG fighter jet (L)and an AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter (R) fly past during the Singapore Airshow at the Changi exhibition centre in Singapore on February 16, 2016. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jet from the Royal Malaysian Air Force performs aerial display during the Singapore Airshow at Changi exhibition center in Singapore on February 16, 2016. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jet from the Royal Malaysian Air Force performs a slow fly past during the Singapore Airshow at Changi exhibition center in Singapore on February 16, 2016. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
An Airbus A400M military aircraft sits on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee sits inside a Embraer SA Phenom 300 jet at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, The air show runs through Feb. 21. Embraer expects to win new customers in Asia Pacific, a region the Brazilian planemaker says will account for a quarter of the world's demand for small passenger jets. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees walk through the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Flight controls are seen in the cockpit of a Beechcraft King Air C90GTx aircraft manufactured by Textron Aviation Inc., a unit of Textron Inc., at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Passenger seats sit aboard a Bombardier Inc. CS 100 C Series jet at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Beechcraft King Air C90GTx aircraft manufactured by Textron Aviation Inc., a unit of Textron Inc., stands on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A U.S. Navy P-8 Posedion manufactured by Boeing Co. stands on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee takes a selfie photograph in front of a display of fan blades from a Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc Trent 900 engine at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A French Air Force Rafale fighter jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA performs maneuvers during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee holds up an umbrella as the South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The South Korean Air Force Black Eagles aerobatics team perform maneuvers in South Korean T-50 jets, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) with technical support from Lockheed Martin Corp., during an aerobatic flying display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee tries out a Samsung Electronics Co. Gear VR virtual reality headset, powered by Oculus VR Inc., at Boeing Co. booth at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Models of Boeing Co. aircraft sit on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees are seen through a helicopter simulator at the Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. (ST Engineering) booth at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Viking Air Ltd. Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft stands on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee wipes the interior of a Viking Air Ltd. Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft on display at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. The air show runs through Feb. 21. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The market for spy planes and surveillance platforms is buoyant in Southeast Asia, where countries are facing off against China – and each other - in the resource-rich South China Sea, industry insiders at the Singapore Airshow said.

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam have all been seeking information from suppliers, trade sources said, as maritime patrol aircraft and intelligence gathering platforms become more of a priority.

Some of the kit is needed for traditional activities such as counter-piracy, fisheries protection or disaster response, but China's growing assertiveness in the region's seas is looming increasingly large in the thinking of defense planners.

"They did not know that China was building artificial islands," said one industry source who regularly talks to the region's navies. "They did not know that it had built a runway or put in missile launchers. They want to fix this."

China has been building runways and other infrastructure on islands it controls in the South China Sea, where it has a series of overlapping territorial claims with its neighbors.

The rising tensions in the region are fueling demand for advanced radars, sensors and other equipment known in defense jargon as "ISR" - intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

"People don't trust their neighbors, resource and territory claims require a keen knowledge of what the other guy is going, and military operations other than war demand strong situational awareness," said Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at Teal Group, a U.S.-based aerospace consultancy.

"And of course, societies, militaries, and non-state armed groups are electronically more noisy than ever, meaning countries need ISR to keep tabs on them."

LEAN BUDGETS

Manufacturers displaying their wares in Singapore included traditional players such as Airbus and Boeing, alongside newcomers from Indonesia and Japan.

Sweden's Saab unveiled its "Swordfish" maritime patrol and anti-submarine system, which can be based on a Bombardier business jet or a turboprop aircraft, at the show.

Lean defense budgets, however mean that many countries are after a lower-cost option.

Boeing offers a stripped-down version of its P-8 Poseidon - the most advanced marine spy plane on the market - called the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, which is based on a Bombardier business jet.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia, the country's state-owned aerospace firm, offers a maritime patrol version of the Casa CN235 military aircraft that is produces under license from Airbus.

Several are in service with the Indonesian navy, which is expected to acquire more, and talks have been held with Malaysia and other countries in the region.

The company is working with French firm Thales to provide maritime surveillance and anti-submarine capabilities, but it is open to countries customizing their requirements.

"We are not selling any of the equipment," said Ade Yuyu Wahuna, vice-president of business development and marketing at the company. "We are the integrators and if anyone wants to choose their own kit, we can integrate that onto the aircraft."

(Reporting By Siva Govindasamy; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Top Aircraft Showcased at Singapore Airshow
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