Another Perspective on the LMS

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SHAH ALAM: Another Perspective on the LMS. A lot has been said about TLDM’s 15 to 5 Armada Transformation Programme that includes a new ship concept called the Littoral Mission Ship (LMS). Some points that is known about the LMS requirement by TLDM:
– 18 ships of a single class
– To be built locally
– Around 70m in length
– To replace the tasks carried out by Laksamana Corvettes, FAC (M), FAC (G), MCMV, and remaining Vosper PC (and if it is really just 5 classes, the hydrographic and fast troop vessels too)
– Carry out surveillance work, Humanitarian aid and disaster relief
– Smaller, less capable and less expensive than the LCS
– Rumored price cap of RM200 million (usd45-50 million)
The navy’s plan is for the 18 LMS to complement the planned 12 Gowinds, 18 Kedah class OPV’s and 4 Scorpenes.

LMS Concept.
LMS Concept.

The Reality (as I see it)
The LMS has to cover a multitude of diverse taskings from warfighting up to HADR in a single ship. To have all the ships to the same standard would mean either all of them are to a lower spec, or compromises to any one of the tasks that it needed to cover. Trying to cram too much capability in a single platform actually has a negative effect on the cost, as the JSF fighter programme has shown. Getting more Gowinds, OPV and Scorpenes at the same time is also very costly.

For example most of the current navy’s budget is consumed by the 6 Gowind and Scorpene refit, how in the future would you get another similar batch of Gowinds plus 12 OPV, 2 more scorpenes and not to mention the 18 LMS at the same time?

A concept OPV 50.
A concept OPV 50.

My take on the LMS concept.
In my opinion the tasks needed to be covered by the LMS is so diverse that it could not be cost effectively done by a single ship type. It would be more cost effective to split the LMS requirement and capability into 2 types of ship, a high end (LMS-A) and low end (LMS-B). Something similar is also done by South Korea for their PKX project, with PKX-A for high end and PKX-B for low end capability. My take on the LMS concept:
– Must be strictly be defined by its operating area. Malacca Straits and ESSCOM would be its main operating area, preferably under the radar coverage of coastal surveillance radars.
– To excel in asymmetric warfare with non-state actors, terrorists and pirates. To be able to engage and fight a swarm-type attack (something like 12-20 fast boats) comfortably. Not to fight submarines or large frigates. Not to be seen as a lower cost LCS/SGPV/Gowind frigate but an optimized ship concept for asymmetric warfare in littoral and near shore areas.
– Seaward Defence, to prevent non-state actors to reach Malaysian shores (preventing another Lahad Datu type of mass landings)
– Able to do sea denial (blockade, ship raiding, minelaying) and also anti-sea denial (MCM, striking fast boats and enemy FACs)
– To have specialized VBSS teams and RHIB for rapid ship boardings.
– Manned areas armored to take hits from small caliber arms (AK-47 and similar)
– High end versions capable of self defence against AShM, aircafts.
– Low end versions to be able to do multiple tasks such as logistics, HADR, SAR, Dive support, troop ferrying (subtype) and Hydrography (subtype)


LMS-A concept

The LMS A should have a similar size and capability to the Laksamana class corvettes, except for the long range AShM capability. It should have a full naval standard for survivability, with multiple waterproof compartments etc. What could be done is to copy the laksamana hull design layout, and integrate it with a more modern superstructure with centralized mission center in the bridge like the Gowind concept.

LMS A Concept
LMS A Concept

To reduce the crew size, a radical concept could be implemented, harnessing the push for Network Centric Operations (NCO). Instead of a large crew to man the CIC, a virtual CIC center could be built onshore, with teams manning the CIC in rotation for 24h coverage. The virtual CIC team is not attached to each ship, but tasked to only to the ships on operational patrol.

The VCIC would coordinate and monitor the costal surveillance radar coverage around the ship; track and identify ships and aircraft around the LMS; to contact and coordinate with other agencies on behalf of the ship; to go through and interpret radar, ESM and AIS data from the ship. The ship would not have any helicopter capability. As it is operating close to shore or around floating bases, any helicopter support would be from those places, or from Gowinds and OPV’s.

Its main sensors are in an integrated mast, similar to the Gowinds. The main situational awareness capability would be a 360˚ staring type EO system. This would be the game changer, the difference between situational awareness of previous ships and the new LMS. It would be good to have the Thales Gatekeeper system, which has a range of about 8km all around the ship. The Gatekeeper could detect and track up to 64 surface and 32 air targets simultaneously. This would enable small and fast boats to be quickly visualized, identified and tracked. This EO system complements usual radar and ESM systems as the ships eye and ears. If the Gatekeeper visual range is not enough, a vertically launched UAV, the CH-901 could be used. 4-6 CH-901 launchers could be fitted.

The latest generation MSI DS30 30mm gun complete with EO sight and remote operator console. Two similar system will be installed on each LCS.
The latest generation MSI DS30 30mm gun complete with EO sight and remote operator console. Two similar system will be installed on each LCS.

As for the armament, the main gun would be a refurbished and modernized 57mm Bofors mark 1 recycled from FAC’s. This would be supplemented by MSI Seahawk 30mm RWS on each side of the ship. Operationally the 30mm would be the main gun for shooting at speedboats, either singly or in a swarm. As for missiles, for attacking simultaneous fast targets in a swarm attack, 16 Longbow Hellfire missile fitted for vertical launch from the common helicopter launcher mounted in a gas containment box. The radar guided Hellfire is targeted using the ships radar, allowing simultaneous targeting, unlike the normal laser beam riding versions.

This has a range of about 8km, which is more than adquate for shooting at speedboats. For self defence against AShM, aircrafts and helicopters, a single 15 round FL-3000N launcher would be placed behind the bridge. At the stern of the vessel, a twin ramp for two 7m RHIB would be fitted, similar in concept to the LMV. This ramp could also be used to launch USV for MCM duties.

FL-3000 CIWS launcher.
FL-3000 CIWS launcher.

Immediately in front of the stern ramp for the RHIB, would be a multi mission area that could accept 2 TEU containers. This would be the area for the MCM modules to be fitted. There should also be a 15 ton knuckle boom crane in this area, for self loading of containers and other items.

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

This area could also be fitted with modularized AShM, for cost and commonality with my NGPV/Meko A100/Kedah batch II plan it would be the C-705 (yes I know the recent launch failure of TNI-AL, but I don’t think it is the missile’s fault. If houthi rebels with commercial grade radar can hit a UAE vessel with a Chinese missile, why can’t anyone else?).

A module of up to 16 missiles is possible. As it is FFBNW, it would be likely that most of the time no AShM would be carried.

LMS-A costs
I foresee the hull and machineries to be about US$40 million, electronics US$20 million and weapons US$20 million, for a total cost of US$80 million per ship (which is still within the “80% cheaper than the LCS/SGPV/Gowind” quote from the admiral).

LMS-A Specifications

Length : 65-70m
Width : 10m
Displacement : 6-700tonnes
Engine : 4x MTU 20,400bhp
Speed : 35-37knots
Range : 3000nm @ 12knots
Crew : 35-45 (with 12-16 dedicated VBSS personnel)
CMS : DCNS Setis, thales tacticos or similar
Radar : Thales NS100 or similar
Secondary radar : Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye LPI
EO : Thales Gatekeeper
EW : Thales Vigile LW, jammers
Sonar : obstacle and mine avoidance sonar
Decoys : SRBOC and torpedo decoys
Main gun : 1x Bofors SAK Mk1 57mm
Secondary guns : 2x MSI Seahawk DS30M mark2 30mm, 2-4x 0.50cal machine guns
Non-lethal : 2x LRAD 500x or equivalent
Missiles : 16x Longbow Hellfire ATGM, 1x FL-3000N (15 cell), 16x C-705 (FFBNW)
UAV : 4-6x CH-901
Boats : 2x 6.5-7m RHIB with stern ramp launcher
Multi mission area : for 2 TEU containers, 15T crane.

LMS-B Concept
The main selling point of the LMS is that it could also do HADR. A full fledged naval ship could probably do only a token contribution to any HADR situation. A lower spec’ed (and priced) ship based on COTS design could be used to fulfill some of the core LMS tasks and also giving a substantial HADR capability. Even this could not be a true single type multipurpose ship for all the tasks. There would be 3 sub designs for the LMS-B:
– LMS-B1 – The baseline type, for general patrol duties
– LMS-B2 – Multipurpose logistics version, with reduced bunk area to accommodate 60 person in a ferry type seating arrangement. To patrol and support the Spratly bases.
– LMS-B3 – Specialized hydrographic survey version.
All versions of the LMS-B would be based on the Damen FCS 5009 Security. It is a customized version of an oil & gas crew and supply boat. As a commercial O&G design, it has very large fuel and fresh water tanks (to supply drilling rigs, barges or platforms), Dynamic Positioning (able to stay in a designated spot by thrusters, no need to weigh anchor), good seakeeping capabilities in bad weather and a low acquisition (mass produced design) and operational cost.

LMS B1
LMS B1

All of the LMS-B versions must be able to perform patrolling tasks that is currently handled by the FAC (G) with similar performances. The long range by the big fuel tanks would enable it to remain on patrol for a long time, ideal for shadowing and stalking other ships (which is an advantage compared to current FAC’s). Its high top speed along with the large fuel tanks means that it could be rapidly redeployed to a far location without stopping to refuel (great for quick HADR response).

The main gun for all LMS-B versions would be a MSI seahawk 30mm RWS, it would seem like a downgrade from the FAC (G), but with a higher rate of fire, higher accuracy with much more modern stabilization systems and optronics, it would perform as well if not better against small fast boats.

LMS B2 concept
LMS B2 concept

Two 4x 0.50cal manned machine guns would be fitted around the ship. For VBSS, a 6.5m RHIB on a davit would be fitted on the deck (LMS-B1 only). All of the ships to have a 15T knuckle boom crane for self handling of containers, boats and other items on the cargo deck. For the LMS-B2 version, bunks for crew would be reduced, and seating area for 60 persons would be installed (compare this to the FTV, only 30 passengers and smaller cargo volume).

LMS B3 concept. This is a commercial variant of the Sea Axe patrol.
LMS B3 concept. This is a commercial variant of the Sea Axe patrol.

For the LMS-B3 version, various sonars such as side scan, multibeam echo sounders etc would be fitted on the hull. The rear deck area would be fitted with a helideck, and cabins for survey workstations would be installed under the helideck. For logistics support the LMS-B could be used to supply fuel and fresh water to remote island bases, it has its own pump to transfer fuel and fresh water. This would be useful in HADR situation, where it can supply fuel and water to places cut off by earthquake, tsunami or typhoons. The large deck could be used to carry up to 6 TEU containers – MCM modules, Diving decompression modules, torpedo and missile recovery modules, workshop modules; for HADR water desalination and bottling modules, medical modules; cargo, boats, CB90’s or whatever that fits the deck. For sea denial, these ships could also be used as a minelayer, the large decks ideal for carrying mines. The ships could also be used as emergency tugs, to rescue small ships that has broken down. It could also tow floating targets and other training instruments.

LMS-B cost
The basic LMS-B would cost US$15 million (the benchmark is the P511 Guardiao, a higher spec Damen Stan Patrol 5009 version that costs euro 10.9 million) , the LMS-B3 is US$50 million per ship due to the specialized hydrographic survey equipment fitted.

LMS-B specification
Length : 55m
Width : 10m
Engine : 4x MTU 13,800bhp
Speed : 30-32knots
Range : 3000nm @ 30knots, 5000nm @ 12knots
Fuel : 160,000L
Water : 190,000L
Crew : LMS-B1 = 8+12VBSS (accommodation for 28)
LMS-B2 = 8(accommodation for 14) + 60 passenger seatings
LMS-B3 = 8+22 survey (accommodation for 32)
Radar : Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye LPI
EO : FLIR EO turret or similar
EW : –
Sonar : commercial
Main gun : 1x MSI Seahawk DS30M mark2 30mm
Secondary guns : 2-4x 0.50cal machine guns
Non-lethal : 2x LRAD 500x or equivalent
Missiles : –
Boats : 1x 6.5m RHIB with A frame davits (LMS-B1)
Multi mission area : for 5-6 TEU containers, 15T crane.

MCM operations

The future MCM operations could be based on independent MCM teams with modular equipments, that could operate either from the shore (in a harbor, river mouth), dedicated ships (LMS) or any ships of opportunity (LPD, commercial vessels, allied ships).

Atlas Eletronik unmanned mine hunting mission system, ARCIMS.
Atlas Eletronik unmanned mine hunting mission system, ARCIMS.

There are some mature capabilities available now, like the Atlas Elektronik ARCIMS and other systems by Kongsberg and Saab. Minesweeping would be done by USV’s and minehunting by UUV and ROV’s. A MCM task force comprising of 1 MCM team with 1 LMS-A and 1 LMS-B1@2 would be the main MCM capability of the TLDM. A LMS-B3 could also be deployed to support MCM mission to take into advantage of the sonar capability of the ship.

Total cost of the LMS programme

– 9x LMS-A, each US$80 mil – US$720 mil
– 12x LMS-B1, each US$15mil – US$180 mil
– 3x LMS-B2, each US$15mil – US$45 mil
– 2x LMS-B3, each US$50mil – US$100 mil
– 4 set of containerised MCM modules -US$355 mil
Total of US$1.4 billion

Fleet distribution of the LMS

This is my take for the fleet distribution of the LMS ships (alongside the rest of the fleet) by operational area

HQ (Lumut)
2 FFG gowind
3 OPV batch I
3 LMS-A
3 LMS-B1
2 MCM team
4 MRSS

MAWILLA 1 (Kuantan)
3 OPV batch I
3 LMS-B1

MAWILLA2 (Kota Kinabalu)
3 SSK
4 FFG gowind
6 OPV batch II ASW
3 LMS-B2 (pulau layang2)
2 MCM team

MAWILLA3 (Langkawi)
3 LMS-A
3 LMS-B1

ESSCOM
3 LMS-A
3 LMS-B1

and 2 LMS-B3 at Pusat Hidrografi Port Klang

IMO my idea of fleet distribution is determined by the security level of each area (depending on how many possible threats and strategic concerns). Do note that there would also be APMM assets patrolling those same areas, so the projected numbers should be adequate for the seaward security and defence of Malaysia.

The author proposed MRSS based on Makassar class LPDs.
The author proposed MRSS based on Makassar class LPDs.

This is basically my very long 2 cents about this matter (Can be a base for a Phd study maybe LoL!). As usual, lets compare this to the real LMS that will be acquired by TLDM.

* The views presented here are of the author. All pictures supplied by author.

— Malaysian Defence

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