Mortars and Submarine Rescue

SHAH ALAM: TRAWLING the e-tender website of the Defence Ministry is a tedious affair but sometimes it has its rewards. For example, in August, there was a tender for a multi-modal transport operator (MTO) to transport “60mm mortar bomb, high explosive (HE), anti personnel and anti-material (MAPAM) for the Malaysian Army.

The result of tender has yet to be made known officially but a big question lingers. When exactly did we signed the contract to buy the MAPAM rounds? I cannot recalled off-hand any announcement or statements on the procurement though I must admit that I am not an expert on defence matters.

A soldier from 4th RAMD carries a 60mm mortar at the end of the FTX portion of Eks Haringgaroo 15.
A soldier from 4th RAMD carries a 60mm mortar at the end of the FTX portion of Eks Haringgaroo 15.

A quick Google search revealed that the MAPAM is a brand of mortar rounds manufactured by Saab. It is developed and produced by its subsidiary Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland.

According to the company “MAPAM is an advanced mortar system, available in 60mm and 81mm versions and compatible with all in-service launchers. It offers high precision (2 per cent target deviation) and is ideal for close-combat deployment, with greatly reduced risk of collateral damage and friendly-fire incidents. It also uses insensitive munition technology for increased safety of use.”

A Saab literature on the MAPAM rounds. Saab
A Saab literature on the MAPAM rounds. Saab

The Google search also revealed that Saab had sold the MAPAM rounds back in early 2013 to an undisclosed international customer. Apparently this was the only time Saab had announced the sale of the mortar ammunition. Saab regularly announced any sale or contracts of its services and products as it is a public listed company.

The release:
“Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland (SBDS) has received two delivery contracts for the latest version of its mortar anti-personnel anti-material (MAPAM) systems to an undisclosed international customer.

With a combined value of Skr11.2m ($1.73m), the contracts cover development and initial supplies of several units of 60mm extended range (ER) MAPAM with proximity fuse and 81mm standard configuration MAPAMs.

Deliveries under the contract are scheduled to take place during 2013“.

The MAPAM ammunition,
The MAPAM ammunition,

The almost perfect description of the MAPAM rounds in the MTO tender led me to believe that Malaysia is the undisclosed international customer. Although the release stated the delivery is supposed to take place in 2013, it could be limited to the 81mm version as the release above stated the contract “covers the development for 60mm ER version.”

I am aware that the Army had ordered new ordnance to replace the stocks that were expanded during Ops Daulat. But none of these contracts have been made public. Based on the date of the Saab release we have to assume that the MAPAM ammunition was ordered ahead of the Lahad Datu intrusion and is not part of the new orders.

A soldier with the 4th RAMD carrying a 60mm mortar on his back after the end of the FTX portion of Eks Haringgaroo 15.
A soldier with the 4th RAMD carrying a 60mm mortar on his back after the end of the FTX portion of Eks Haringgaroo 15.

Anyhow, most regular Army infantry units are equipped with 60mm mortars mostly for flares and similar loads. Most of these are likely the M70 60mm Commando mortar from Yugoslavia. The addition of the MAPAM rounds will be a much better fire power boost to Army units compared to the much favoured mini-guns.

M70 60mm Commando mortar from Yugoimport.
M70 60mm Commando mortar from Yugoimport.

Another tidbit I found trawling the e-tender website was for another MTO tender published on January 4, 2016. The tender calls for an MTO to transport “SUBMARINE RESCUE ESCAPE AND SURVIVALIBILITY EQUIPMENT-SHIP INTERFACE TEMPLATE SET (SITS) DI BAWAH KES FOREIGN MILITARY SALES (FMS) MF-P-GCJ DARI AMERIKA SYARIKAT KE PANGKALAN TLDM KOTA KINABALU SABAH”.

Basically they wanted an MTO to transport a Ship Interface Template Set (SITS) under the Foreign Military from the US to the Kota Kinabalu naval base.

The Ship Interface Template Set (SITS) location in a SRS system. US Navy.
The Ship Interface Template Set (SITS) location in a SRS system. US Navy.

While we understand the need for the tender, again we are left with the question when did we buy the SITS in the first place? And if there was a reason to keep it quiet, why published the MTO tender then?

Anyhow, according to my search, the SITS tender was made public in the US through the FBO website.

According to the document: “The management, fabrication, and testing of one (1) Ship Interface Template Set (SITS) on behalf of the Malaysian Government for use with the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS). The requirements for N00024-13-R-4406 would also include the delivery to Undersea Rescue Command located in San Diego, CA or direct delivery a NAVSEA representative in Malaysia for acceptance.”

SITS according to brochures online: “are an approved structural interface that facilitates rapid installation of the rescue system and distributes rescue system loading to take advantage of the Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) or dedicated rescue ship’s deck strength. Adaptive to a wide variety of VOOs, the rescue team installs the SITS in advance of the rescue system during the mobilization process. Response time to first rescue is improved by procuring SITS for forward deployment and allowing partner nations to prepare/identify a VOO.

Based on the above, it appears that RMN is working towards submarine rescue cooperation and inter-operability with the US Navy. RMN already operates a submarine rescue vessel, the MV Mega Bakti, under a 20-year PFI contract. It is not known whether the SITS will be fitted on Mega Bakti or another vessel.

Chief Engineman Bernard Paje watches as guided missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726) gets underway after being moored alongside submarine tender USS Emory S.Land (AS 39 ), at RMN Kota Kinabalu naval base on Teluk Sepanggar. US Navy.
Chief Engineman Bernard Paje watches as guided missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726) gets underway after being moored alongside submarine tender USS Emory S.Land (AS 39 ), at RMN Kota Kinabalu naval base on Teluk Sepanggar. US Navy.

Within the last two years, a number of US Navy submarines and their tenders had visited the Kota Kinabalu base for port visits. The decision to order the SITS may well be the start of a closer relationship.

— Malaysian Defence

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