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