Hang Tuah, Laksamana-class, LMS and Helos too

    SHAH ALAM: KD Hang Tuah, the grand dame of the Royal Malaysian Navy will be paid-off once the two DSME-designed training ships are commissioned into the fleet.

    Hang Tuah will be preserved as a floating museum though the location has not been decided.

    The first training ship, Gagah Samudera is expected to be commissioned by November while the second, Teguh Samudera is expected to receive its pennant, next year.

    KD Hang Tuah. Wiklpedia.
    KD Hang Tuah. Wiklpedia.

    RMN chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Badaruddin said the four Laksamana-class corvettes will be decommissioned – most likely one at a time – when the first four units of the Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) are commissioned, also one at a time.

    He did not specify the timeline for the decommissioning or the commissioning, however.

    RMN corvette Laksamana Muhammad Amin comes alongside USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) during CARAT in 2004.
    RMN corvette Laksamana Muhammad Amin comes alongside USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) during CARAT in 2004.

    Asked why Hang Tuah and Laksamana-class were to be retired ahead of the much-older Sandakan-based patrol craft – KD Seri Perlis and KD Seri Johor, Kamarulzaman said the five ships were chosen based on the number of days they spend at sea and the cost to maintain them.

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

    “Based on those criterias, Hang Tuah will be the first to go and the Laksamanas the next. After that it will be the MCMVs turn,” he says in an interview after presenting the keynote address at the Maritime Warfare Asia 2016 on Wednesday.

    Kamarulzaman also said that an announcement on the RMN 15-to-5 plan will be made during the presentation of the 2017 Budget, scheduled to be delivered by the Finance Minister by the end of this month.

    RMN's 15 to 5 plan, graphic posted on the service official Facebook page, TLDM
    RMN’s 15 to 5 plan, graphic posted on the service official Facebook page, TLDM

    Pressed on what will be announced, Kamarulzaman declined to comment further saying that “you will have to wait for the budget presentation.

    KD Kasturi launching an Exocet missile during Eks Angsa 2014.
    KD Kasturi launching the an Exocet missile during Eks Angsa 2014.

    Asked whether the announcement will be about RMN ordering China-made warships – corvettes or the LMS – Kamarulzaman declined to be specific although he said that the service had no objections in getting them as long it fit “RMN requirements and missions.” 

    On the LMS, Kamarulzaman confirmed that the plan was to buy 18 of these vessels. RMN, according to him, is speaking with shipyards to get their proposals for the class. He said the LMS will replaced various vessels in the navy including the MCMVs.

    A sailor from KD Gempita conducting training on a GPMG during an exercise in early 2016. RMN  picture
    A sailor from KD Gempita conducting training on a GPMG during an exercise in early 2016. RMN picture

    As for future mine hunting, Kamarulzaman said that they might used  containerised mission modules for the capabiliy. He did not specify the numbers of modules to be procured or the capability to be acquired.

    Kamarulzaman declined to outline the exact specifications of LMS apart from that it will be “70ish (metre) long”. It will be fitted for UAVs and probably USVs.

    “We want to move away from laying specifications as in the past. When we do that – when my planning officers go to exhibitions and similar events – they will come back with a lot of data and we end up with a gold plated ship.

    KD Jerong, the lead ship of the 6th Squadron FAC (G). RMN
    KD Jerong, the lead ship of the 6th Squadron FAC (G). RMN

    For the LMS our priority are the mission capabilities, that is why we called them (littoral) mission ships. It will not be our main surface combatants, that is the job of the LCS, the LMS will be used for border security, patrol and similar operations.

    A close up picture of KD Gempita bridge during operations in early 2016. RM picture
    A close up picture of KD Gempita bridge during operations in early 2016. RMN picture

    For border patrol or preventing illegal fishing, we do not need for example, jamming capabilities. However we might opt for “Fitted for but Not Equipped With” concept so we can reduce the purchase price.”

    Asked on whether missiles and guns will be fitted on the LMS, Kamarulzaman said it will be based the proposals by the shipyards.

    PNS Azmat, a China built missile boat. Wikipedia.
    PNS Azmat, a China built missile boat. Wikipedia. Used for illustration purpose only.

    He also declined to specify the cost of the LMS as envisioned by the navy apart from saying it will be 80 per cent cheaper than the LCS. Industry sources however told Malaysian Defence that the cost has been capped to RM200 million per ship inclusive of all the weapons.

    One source says only China will be able to sell such a vessel at that price.

    RMN Super Lynx helicopter fitted with 50 calibre HMG.
    RMN Super Lynx helicopter fitted with 50 calibre HMG.

    Meanwhile, Kamarulzaman said they want six newly built helicopters instead of just upgrading the six Super Lynxes already in service. For more on the ASW helicopters go here.

    “The cost of upgrading the Super Lynxes is as much as buying new ones, so might as well we buy new ones. We have learn our lessons from the Kasturi upgrade. We end up paying two-thirds of the cost of buying a new ship,” he added.

    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.

    As for the LCS, he said as off, Oct 1, the progress is up to 28 percent. It was expected that the ship will be launched by March or April, next year and Kamarulzaman said they were still targeting 2019 for its commissioning.

    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, some time back. US Navy picture

    He admitted that it was cheaper and faster to built the ships in France but the RMN accepted the government’s decision to built them locally . The decision have a great impact on the local defence industry and the community.

    — Malaysian Defence.

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