The Future RMN Armada

SHAH ALAM: THE LCS and NGPV will be the backbone of the future RMN armada – if the plan proposed by the navy to have only five class of vessels in the fleet – is taken up and fully funded. The other three classes are the submarines, Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) and Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS).

RMN chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Baharuddin said the 15-to-5 fleet transformation was part of its plan to strengthen and modernise its armada and be cost effective at the same time.

“If the transformation programme is endorsed by the government the replacement process will be done in stages. We will focus on building ships from the five classes harnessing the abilities of the local industry,” he told reporters after presenting promotions to RMN officers at KD Sri Gombak yesterday.

RMN ships berthed at the Lumut naval base in early 2014, KD Kasturi, KD Lekiu (hidden) and two Kedah class.
RMN ships berthed at the Lumut naval base in early 2014, KD Kasturi, KD Lekiu (hidden) and two Kedah class.

Kamarulzaman said as the navy realised that fiscal challenges was the biggest obstacle in modernising the fleet, they want to prioritise RMN’s requirements.

KD Tun Razak during her trials in the Mediterranean prior to her commissioning in 2010.
KD Tun Razak during her trials in the Mediterranean prior to her commissioning in 2010.

“In the past, we may want the best platform available to meet our requirements but in reality we cannot afford them. So we are looking at ways to meet the challenges,” he added.

KD Sri Perlis, one of the oldest vessels in RMN today. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
KD Sri Perlis, one of the oldest vessels in RMN today. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Under the transformation plan, RMN will also retire old ships as it was too expensive to maintain them. The money saved would be used to buy new ships of the five classes. Both the LMS and the MRSS are still in conceptual stage at this stage, however.

A graphic of a China made LPD displayed at LIMA 2015. The ship was proposed for the RMN MRSS requirement.
A graphic of a China made LPD displayed at LIMA 2015. The ship was proposed for the RMN MRSS requirement.

According to Kamarulzaman, the LMS will be smaller, less capable and more importantly, less expensive than the LCS. It will be multi-mission ship capable of conducting patrols and other duties. Both the LMS and MRSS and the rest of the future armada will be locally built to reduce the procurement and maintenance costs.

KD Lekiu and KD Jebat sailed together with USS George Washington in Andaman Sea. US Navy picture
KD Lekiu and KD Jebat sailed together with USS George Washington in Andaman Sea. US Navy picture

Kamarulzaman did not explained what kind of MRSS is being envisioned by the navy. He pointed out that despite having five class of ships, the number of vessels in the future fleet will be much bigger than the present one. He did not specify numbers.

Two of the Mahameru class berthed at the Lumut naval base in January, 2014.
Two of the Mahamiru class berthed at the Lumut naval base in January, 2014.

On the LCS, Kamarulzaman declined to confirm the missiles nor the engines specified by the six-class ships being build at Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) in Lumut. Asked whether the NSM and the VL MICA had been confirmed, he said the announcement will be made when the ships are completed.

A mock-up of the VL MICA at Imdex 2015.
A mock-up of the VL MICA at Imdex 2015.

On the engines, Kamarulzaman declined to say whether it will latest propulsion system to enhance underwater acoustic signature. It is likely that the LCS will be fitted with four diesel engines in the CODAD configuration – just like the Lekiu and Kasturi classes. He also said the name of the ships and pennant numbers are still under consideration.

CODAD engine arrangement.
CODAD engine arrangement.

By the way we may operate at least several variants of the LCS if we go by the infographics blasted by the Defence Minister social media team on Wednesday.

One of the info-graphics published by the Defence Minister social media team. Its the Gowind corvette, not the LCS.
One of the info-graphics published by the Defence Minister social media team. Its the Gowind corvette, not the LCS.

When told that they had used the wrong CGIs, the handlers replied that it was just for illustration purpose only. And they will have the correct graphics once the LCS is completed!

News Analysis
If you think why the NGPV (six ships) classification is maintained, well, Kamarulzaman seemed to want more of the Kedah class. In an interview with Janes (access via paid subscription) late last year, Kamarulzaman stated that they would like to get at least 12 more of an improved version of the Kedah class.

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 me at least, the NGPV is a dead end. To improve it meant more money is needed to be invested . If money is available it should be spend on more LCS instead. It’s a newer design and any improvement to the current design will not need as much money compared to a ship which is already out of production.
As for the LMS, if the design remained as it is we might as well buy them from Singapore.
An infographic on the LMV. RSN
An infographic on the LMV. RSN

Anyhow, even if the transformation plan is green-lighted – which will cost some RM30 billion (my estimate) – it is unlikely that funding will be made available in the next few years due to the current economic headwinds. Any money available will be consumed by the LCS as the government seek to ensure its completion.

Kedah, while she was still call Business Focus One back in 2002.
Kedah, while she was still call Business Focus One back in 2002.

How they are going to save money by building warships locally is beyond me. Especially what had happened in the last decade or so especially with the NGPV and the training ships. We end up paying more, not just the direct costs of the ships but also indirect ones as older vessels are retained beyond their out-service-dates.

PCU Gagah Samudera, prior to her launch.
PCU Gagah Samudera, prior to her launch.

While they might save some money by building the hulls locally (though the steel still need to be imported as we do not produce them locally) the majority of the ship’s components still need to be imported. Furthermore we end up paying more as the shipyard will need to buy them from the middlemen. For example, for the NGPV and LCS, the only major component being sourced locally are the fire control radars.

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

And it is unlikely any local company will be able to come up with a marine engine design as good as the Germans. Unless, we followed what China did, simply copy them. Or we could just buy their ships!

Algerian Navy Adhafer corvette at berth at BCC today. www.malaysiandefence.com
Algerian Navy Adhafer corvette at berth at BCC today. www.malaysiandefence.com

Yes, China made ships (and components) are a lot cheaper than Western and even Eastern ones. The question remains do we really want our fleet to carry the Made in China tag?

— Malaysian Defence

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