Options for Kedah class Batch II

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SHAH ALAM:Lately RMN chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Baharuddin has been going around on the idea of reducing the service vessel types from 15 to 5. One of the steps to be taken to achieve that goal is for RMN to aquire more NGPV (Meko A100) type corvette/OPV instead of going for a totally new model of ships.

He is said to want 12 ships of the NGPV class. Whether that is meant to be a total of 12 ships including the current ones or another 12 new ships for a total of 18, is still to be confirmed. For this article I am assuming 6 additional Batch II to complement the existing 6 Batch I NGPV’s.

Two Kedah class, KD Kelantan (175) and KD Selangor (176) berthed at Lumut jetty in early 2014. The ship on the other side is KD Mahawangsa. Malaysian Defence
Two Kedah class, KD Kelantan (175) and KD Selangor (176) berthed at Lumut jetty in early 2014. The ship on the other side is KD Mahawangsa. Malaysian Defence

For the plan to be successful and a realistic one, the Kedah Batch II must in my opinion cost less than USD 160million each and any upgrades (not including refits) of the current Kedah to something similar to Kedah Batch II must be somewhere around USD 40million for each ship.

The fighting capability of those ships should be similar to China’s Type 056 (Jingdao) class corvette, UAE’s Baynunah class corvette or Oman’s Khareef class corvette. If the Kedah Batch II ships comes out to cost as much as the previous batch (USD300 million), there is no cost advantage at all to go for commonality, and better corvettes such as the turkish MILGEM, costs less.

One of the UAE Baynunah class corvette, Al Dhafra at NAVDEX in 2015. Mztourist - Wikipedia
One of the UAE Baynunah class corvette, Al Dhafra at NAVDEX in 2015. Mztourist – Wikipedia Commons

My self imposed ceiling price of USD160 million makes it quite a challenging task to spec the ship. It could be done, as i found out.

General Design

For the Kedah Batch II, the MEKO 100RMN design would be carried forward as it is to save cost. No modifications to put a smoke stack or any other major modifications would be done to the design. This would mean there is no big design costs to be incurred, and most of the design is mature and don’t need to be tested or retested.

This would also mean a greater commonality between the new and old batch of ships. For the new build Batch II, additional equipment (sonar and torpedoes) would make it lean towards ASW operations, while the Batch I would be upgraded to Batch II standard but without ASW equipment for cost saving reasons, to concentrate on ASuW operations.

Hull and machinery
The advantage of MEKO 100 design is its modular design means there is other ships that are built to the same design. It also means that different modules can be subcontracted to cost effective shipyards (like Korea or Vietnam) and be assembled back in Malaysia.

A model of the Gawron class. The project has been cancelled as the cost to arm the ship would add another USD320 million to the project. The hull only cost USD$100 million. Source Wikipedia. Picture by Pibwl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
A model of the Gawron class. The project has been cancelled as the cost to arm the ship would add another USD320 million to the project. The hull only cost USD$100 million. Picture by Pibwl, via Wikimedia Commons

The MEKO A100 design has spawned the Kedah (MEKO 100RMN), Gawron (MEKO 100 – ED. Project cancelled as of 2016), Braunschweig (K130) and Saar 6 (K130) classes. From open source information, the Gawron hull and machinery (this is a bit bigger than Kedah, with gas turbines and diesels for power) costs around USD130 million(1) . The latest build of the small MEKO A100 design is the four Saar 6 corvettes for the Israeli Navy. The ships would cost USD120 million each(2) (3).

With proper cost control (no major redesign of hull and modules, no more TOT costs etc etc), subcontracting some (if not all) ship modules to cost effective shipyards overseas, I believe for Kedah Batch II hull and machinery could be done for USD 100 million each.

Electronics
From open source information, a corvette sized ship electronics (Combat management system, Platform management system, Radar, Fire Control, sonar, ESM, IFF, radios) would cost anywhere around USD30-40 million per ship(4) (5).

A close up of Kedah class bridge. Note the EADS 3-D radar and FCR
A close up of Kedah class bridge. Note the EADS 3-D radar and FCR

A mix of common equipment with the Kedah Batch I and new equipment, with the older Batch I to be upgraded to similar level of equipment so that all ships would have an almost common standard of electronics.

CMS : Thales Tacticos or Samsung Thales Naval Shield
Radar : EADS TRS-3D/ 16ES
Fire Control: Rheinmetall TMEO Mk2 , TMX/EO Mk2
Sonar : Thales Kingklip or Atlas Elektronik DSQS-24C. Modular Captas 1 towed sonar
ESM : Thales vigile 400
Decoy : SRBOC

Weapons
With about USD20 million left from my self imposed ceilling of USD160 million, a bit of creative decision must be made. For the main gun, I would go for the Hyundai-Wia 76mm gun. It is said that the gun is “a lot lower in cost” than the Oto-Melara version(6).

Hyundai-Wia 76mm gun. Via....
Hyundai-Wia 76mm gun. Via….

With the Oto-melara version costing around USD5million(7) we could assume that the Hyundai-Wia gun is about USD3 million a piece.

For the SAM and AshM, this is the most radical idea for the ships. As the navy has looked at equipping its ships with Chinese kits before(8) , I think that this idea would not be unthinkable as some would think it is. ( ED. It will not work as China remain a potential adversary. It is unlikely that the RMN ships fitted with China made weapons will be able to lock on PLAN ships or aircraft if it ever comes to that)

FL-3000N. via ...
FL-3000N. via …

As for the SAM, I am thinking of going for the FL-3000N system as it is similar to the RAM system the NGPV was designed for. This would also mean minimal modifications to the ship structure to install the FL-3000N as it is also non-deck penetrating design as the RAM launcher. 2x 15 round launchers would be installed, 1 in front of the bridge, and 1 on top of the hangar in place of the 30mm gun.

C705 missile. Via...
C705 missile. Via…

For the AshM, i would go for the C-705 missile (above). This is a low cost design (it is said to be cheaper than a C-802A missile, which is sold for less than half the price of an Exocet) with similar range to the MM40 missiles that TLDM are using. Two quadruple launchers of the C-705 would equip each ship.

For close in defence two MSI DS30M 30mm cannon would be installed to the rear of the bridge. ED. If the hull is not lengthened, this will not work as there is no space as can be seen from the picture of the Gawron

One of the two B515 triple torpedo launcher on KD Kasturi as seen in early 2014. These torpedo launchers were taken from the Laksamana class. Picture by Malaysian Defence.
One of the two B515 triple torpedo launcher on KD Kasturi as seen in early 2014. These torpedo launchers were taken from the Laksamana class. Picture by Malaysian Defence.

Two Eurotorp B515 324 mm triple torpedo tubes would also be installed for ASW duties. ED. If we are going for this launchers, I guess we need to buy the 76mm guns from Oto-Melara as they also manufacture these launchers. I do not think Finmeccanica will allow us to buy the torpedo launchers if we opt for the copy-cat 76mm guns

Upgrades to the Kedah Batch I ships

With a budget of USD40 million for each ship, USD15 million for Electronics, USD 20 million for weapons with US5 million for miscellaneous cost. Any normal planned repair/overhaul/refit costs to the Kedah Batch I would be additional to the upgrade costs. The electronics would see a new CMS/PMS, new ESM to commonise with the new Batch II ships. As for the weapons, it would add the FL-3000N, C-705 and MSI DS30M 30mm to the ships while the old 30mm on top of the hangar would be removed.

A graphic of the Kedah Batch II. via...
A graphic of the Kedah Batch II. via…

Conclusion
With a mix of European, Korean and Chinese equipment, built into a hull assembled in Malaysia, I think a very capable corvette in the shape of the Kedah Batch II ships would be a very credible addition to the RMN fleet. The ceiling price of USD160 million still gives a ship with a very good fighting capability, and giving BHIC a very good product for export to friendly countries. With commonisation of most hardware between Batch I and Batch II ships we should see a reduction in life-cycle and service costs that the RMN is hoping for.

References:
(1) – http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,11232357,Wojsko_do_remontu__koniec_z_Gawronem.html
(2) – http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/83608-150827-israel-sends-naval-engineers-to-germany-to-help-in-ship-deal
(3) – http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/year-2015-news/august-2015-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/3029-design-of-future-tkms-built-saar-6-meko-a100-corvettes-for-israeli-navy-unveiled.html
(4) – http://aviationweek.com/awin/it-s-official-thales-won-oman-order
(5) – https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/content/thales-supply-key-systems-new-corvettes-indonesian-navy-worth-60m-euro
(6) – http://www.janes.com/article/50055/lima-2015-hyundai-wia-positions-76-mm-guns-for-malaysian-corvette-programme
(7) – http://www.drs.com/news-and-events/in-the-news/oto-melara-pitching-76-mm-gun-as-option-for-navys-future-frigate/
(8) – http://www.janes.com/article/51011/malaysian-navy-mulls-chinese-kit-for-laksamana-class-upgrades

— Malaysian Defence

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