A German OPV for MMEA?

SHAH ALAM: TWO German-designs are said to be in the running for the project to replace the two 30-year-old Langkawi-class OPVs operated by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). Funding for the new OPVs was announced in the 2016 budget.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when tabling the budget stated that the government has allocated RM864 million to the MMEA for the procurement of new OPVs and patrol boats.

The two Langkawi class OPVs, KM Langkawi (ex KD Musytari) and KM Banggi (ex-KD Marikh) had been in service with MMEA since 2008. Both ships were originally commissioned into the Royal Malaysian Navy in 1987, mostly for patrols in the Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea. Both were originally armed with a 100mm main gun and a twin 30mm cannons. It is likely both no longer operate the guns.

KM Langkawi. MMEA picture.
KM Langkawi. MMEA picture.

The two ships – one built in South Korea and the other at the Malaysian Shipyard & Engineering in Johor under a technology transfer programme – were supposed to herald a new age of maritime industrialisation for the country.

However, no further ships of the same class were ordered as the government then tacked to another direction following a proposal for a tri-nation ship-building project with Australia and New Zealand.

KM Perwira, one of the two Bay class patrol boats donated to MMEA by Australia. It is likely that the Bay class was the design proposed for the tri-nation VLPV project  in the late 80s.
KM Perwira, one of the two Bay class patrol boats donated to MMEA by Australia. The Bay class was introduced into service in 1999, the same year the NGPV project started.

The proposed tri-nation project failed to materialise as the RMN could not agree to the vessel proposed by the Australians. They wanted a smaller vessel, basically a patrol vessel but RMN wanted something more capable than the OPVs (Musytari and Marikh), the so-called New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV).

After a period of economic up=and downs, the NGPV design was finally selected, the Mek0 100, from the German Naval Group which had teamed up with PSC Bhd. With the selection of the design, the ship building industry also made another turn when the contract for the NGPV was signed in late 1998.

KD Kedah while in was still undergoing fitting out in 2002.
Pahang, the second ship of the Kedah class undergoing completion in 2005.

As part of the deal, the company took over the Naval dockyard in Lumut where the NGPVs were supposed to be completed and build. The facility has since been renamed as Boustead Naval Dockyard after the Boustead group took over the NGPV project around 2005 after PSC was ran into financial difficulties.

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

The New OPV

Like the MMEA NGPC, the new OPVs are expected to be built locally – at least one – most likely at the the Labuan Shipyard which is 50 per cent owned by the Radimax Group.

A model of the Amazon class at the Radimax booth
A model of the Amazon class at the Radimax booth

At Lima 15, Malaysian Defence reported that Radimax Group “had teamed up with BAE Systems to offer the Amazon class OPV to meet the requirements of the MMEA.” However, Malaysian Defence has been told that the proposed industrial collaboration has fallen through for various reasons.

As it is, the OPV under consideration according to industry sources have now been narrowed down to two German designs, namely, the Fassmer 80m OPV and Lurssen 85m OPV. It is likely only one design would be presented for approval. The new OPVs are expected to be around 1,800 tons, equipped with a flight deck and hangar for a medium size helicopter and a top speed of more than 22 knots.

Fassmer 80M OPV

At least six of the Fassmer 80m OPVs are currently operated by the Chilean and Colombian navies with another four to be completed soon. Notably all of these vessels were built in Chile and Colombian shipyards, respectively, with the cooperation of foreign companies.

Fassmer designed the OPV to meet the requirement of the Chilean navy which subsequently marketed the design to other South American countries, Apart from Colombia, Argentina had also signed for the same OPV. However, the Argentinian project never took off, most likely due to the country’s economic difficulties.

Chilean Navy Comandante Policarpo Toro OPV. Chile Navy
Chilean Navy Comandante Policarpo Toro OPV. Chile Navy

These OPVs are armed with a 40mm main gun with HMG mountings, aft and a flight deck and hangar for a medium-size helicopter like the Airbus Helicopters Dauphin. The latest Chilean OPV is armed with a 76mm main gun though and had a strengthened hull for operations in the Antarctic.

Lurssen 85 metre OPV

As the MMEA requirement calls for a flight deck and hangar for a medium size helicopter, Lurssen’s 85m OPV design is expected to be offered for the programme.

A CGI of the Lurssen 85 metre OPV
A CGI of the Lurssen 85 metre OPV

The design is a variant of the Darussalam class OPV of the Royal Brunei Navy, which has a flight deck for a medium-size helicopter but no hangar.

KD Darussalam, the first of the four OPVs built by Lurssen for the Royal Brunei Navy.
KD Darussalam, the first of the four OPVs built by Lurssen for the Royal Brunei Navy.
.

Compared to the Chilean and Colombian OPVs, the Brunei ships despite their designation are considered main combat vessels and therefore are armed more heavily. The four Darussalam class OPVs are fitted with Exocet SSMs while three are armed with a 57mm main gun and two 20mm guns. The fourth OPV, KD Darultaqwa is equipped with a 27mm main gun and twin 20mm guns.

The stern RHIB launcher of KD Darussalam.
The stern RHIB launcher of KD Darussalam.
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Guns and other things

It is unlikely that the new MMEA OPV will be equipped with missiles though a 57mm gun – similar to the RMN’s new LCS – could still be chosen as the main armament. MMEA is likely to opt for a 30mm gun as the OPV main gun like its NGPC of which six are being built. MMEA could also opt for fitted for but not equipped for the OPV when it comes to the armaments suite if need be.

Apart from the embarked helicopter, it is likely that the OPV will also operate with a UAV though it is unclear whether the builder will be the one which decide on the air vehicle to be chosen.

A Scan Eagle launches from a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher on the flight deck aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan. US Navy picture.
A Scan Eagle launches from a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher on the flight deck aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan. US Navy picture.

Analysis

On paper, the Lurssen design which is likely to be fitted with MTU engines must be the odds-on favourite to win the contract. MMEA like the RMN has long term maintenance and support contract with MTU Services (M) Sdn Bhd, one of the main factors in the selection of any ship’s entry into both fleet. Even the two ex-Bay class patrol boats are fitted with MTU engines as did the proposed ex-US Navy Mark V boats.

However, as all of the Darussalam class were built in Germany (as shown by the picture below), building the new variant – even just one- locally will add complexity and costs to the project.

If the Lurssen design, is chosen, it will be a second coming for the German shipyard in Malaysia. The RMN still operates nine ships built at the former Hong Leong Lurssen shipyard, seven Jerong class FACs and the two hydrographic ships. Many of the patrol boats (ex-Marine police) operated by MMEA, were also build at the same shipyard.

Meanwhile, the Fassmer OPV has better potential for local collaboration as it had been built in two different shipyards in South America. As the MMEA OPVs are to be built locally, the track record of the Fassmer design cannot be taken lightly.

That said it will probably be cheaper and faster for the two new OPVs to be built either at the Chilean or Colombian shipyards which are already building the same design.

Chilean Navy OPV Comandante Policarpo Toro (82) waiting to be launched at the Asmar shipyard, Chile. Along side her is the third OPV under construction.
Chilean Navy OPV Comandante Policarpo Toro (82) waiting to be launched at the Asmar shipyard, Chile. Along side her is the third OPV under construction. Internet

One thing that may work against the Fassmer design is the engines. The current batch of Chilean and Colombian vessels are fitted with Wartsila diesels. If the Fassmer design is selected, MTU diesels will probably be the engines of choice due to the reason mentioned above. The NGPC, which is also a Fassmer design, is also to be fitted with MTU engines.

— Malaysian Defence

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20 Comments

  1. Better with fassmer design. Good thing is we need all those hulls to safeguards our coastline. Hopefully the numbers of hulls of both ngpc and ngpv will be increased. So i guess they will use either the aw139 or the dauphin on these vessels?

    Reply
    Dauphin is more likely though in emergencies the AW139s could also land and take off from the platforms

  2. Even us coast guard are operating 50+ years old WMEC cutters that are the same size as the langkawi class opv’s as one of their main patrolling assets. Is the langkawi class opv’s to be sold off? Or still to be operated alongside the new opv’s?

    Reply
    Not sure about that

  3. The fassmer opv is a very good and affordable (costs quoted around Usd 38mil each) design. Basically it could perform a role that the current kedah sgpv (in the current not fitted with missiles) performs.

    Would this type of opv’s better be operated under tldm (named after states as per the old patrol boats, as the real addition to the sgpv’s seeing the gowinds are really frigates?) or be under the Mmea?

    Reply
    Yes I think which ever design chosen would probably be good for RMN as a replacement for the PCs and FACs still in service and also the Kedah class

  4. Salam Tuan,

    Why our country always like this ? Why not we use same base model , for example the Teguh Samudera than modified according to our needs. Later when we have enough knowledge then we can offer @ sell to other nation.

    Why not Teguh Samudera or Kedah Class ? Please enlighten me…

    I’m so envy ST Marine, when we gonna learn.

  5. Have to agree with Mohd Wafi, another totally new design, for how many? Only 2 unit.

    We have previously acquire the design for Kedah, Teguh Samudera & Gowind. Why can’t we use the above as the base design for new class of ships regardless for RMN or APMM.

    Even Gowind started from OPV base design, L’Adroit.

  6. @ mohd wafi

    A great suggestion by you.

    The samudra’s cost about the same as the fassmer opv’s. The meko100 design could in theory be built at cheaper cost as their design is already owned by malaysia (a modified meko100 design for Israel built by Germany costs about 100mil each. If we strive hard enough probably we could build one, without all those expensive electronics of the kedah class for 60-70mil?)

    As for exports, look at korea (bought the 209 submarine design and exported to Indonesia) and Indonesia (bought the makassar lpd design from korea and exporting them to Philippines) no issues of exporting, even competing with the original design companies. I really believe that malaysia could become something like them, and we could export meko100 opv and gowind frigates. Saudi Arabia is looking to upgrade its naval fleet; Australia and the UK are looking at new ships too. I believe we could export naval ships, especially those based in the gowind frigates as in my opinion it is one of the best light frigate design to date.

  7. I will go with fassmer design. No need to be built in Malaysia coz only 2 unit ma…. Used the balance to buy some drone or uav with be more beneficial.

  8. Malaysia is already in the list once we sent our C-130s to the Arab Peninsular in mid this year. The key question and answer is “should be involve with combat operation or not? – NOT”.

  9. Since Brunei is already using Lurssen’s design, better go Fassmer’s design to avoid awkward encounters. The 6 PC are using Fassmaer’s design plus the hangar is a plus.

  10. I am just speculating here..the reason the MEKO 100 design not considered is because Boustead (The IP Holder) already got job for the LCS thus in the spirit of appeasing other players, Boustead would not get it.

    The IP Holder of the Teguh Samudera last i checked is still under receivership thus would be almost impossible to award them any contract.

    Reply
    If given the chance BNS will want the OPV project also but I was told that they have their own problems too.

    I don’t think the original builder of the training ships paid for the IP rights, there was never any mentioned about it AFAIK.

  11. Our Meko 100 design was without funnel, and MMEA looks like they favour a proven design with a funnel, NGPC have a funnel, rite?

    BTW this is mere crazy observation, funny our gomen loves number 2 and 6 for new big vsl. 2 FFG, 2 SSK, 6 PV, 6 ” LCS”, 2 Training Vsl, 6 NGPC and now this 2 NOPV.

    I welcome MMEA patrol vessels acquisition, but why in small quantities? Anyway 2 and 6 is better than Zero.

  12. Actually there ar lots of cheap n proven design that is affordable….indon shipyard is a good example…they can actually buy from indonesia to have cheaper products..quantity plus quality.so does singapore shipyard they built n design.why must we buy from western countries when money is little to spread around..infact we could buy x2 the numbers if we go for asian product…there is no more time for big EGOS….we malaysia dont buy from asian countries..when the fact is we got not much monies for defence n all of the maf forces need more platforms to make our presence regionally….

  13. Nimitz,

    don’t forget 2 subs. Gomen always put that number since its most affordable in every way (including maintenance cost). Not mention, 2 and 6 is a lucky number for them!

  14. Milspec,

    I did not forget the subs. 2 SSK was listed. With that kind of number (2&6) availability number too can be expected to be not that good. Forgive me, i do not know the figure for the best availability rate.

    NGPC will be AOR in SCS and rather than add more NGPC, why go for 2 OPV? I speculate that they need OPV so as to befit a senior flag. Laksamana MMEA like it better for his flag on a OPV compared to a PC 😂

  15. Milspec.

    The number 8 also bring goodluck la bro. 88 skyhawk. 28 hawk. 8 hornets. 18 migs. 18 sukhoi. Then throw away 18 migs. Buy another 18 (dreaming) brand new mrca. We never seem to add the number of assets. Always maintain. Downsize is acceptable but never add la bro.

  16. Instead of getting new frigate sized OPV, the APMM should be getting the RMN Kedah class. The main problem is among law enforcement agency is redundancies. Everybody wants the job, even at the sea neither on the land. The RMN wants Patrol Craft, the Marine Police want it too, and be sure APMM too. Every agency trying to get their own asset to gain operational budget, not include yet the back writer money story here. So we got 3 agency with three same operational requirement and needs. Actually they should agree with the agreement before where APMM take over the law enforcement role at sea, and RMN should focus on war readiness, training and high intensity conflict (no need for PC or OPV, a corvette or frigate sized vsl only). The most important is the Marine Police asset should be transfer all to APMM, last time they transfer nearly sink PC to APMM but keep their newer PC. Should our country review back its policies about this thing, or we will never grow up!

  17. @nimitz

    A class is usually built in minimum of sixes because of the economies of scale derived from batch production.

    A class is usually purchased in minimum of twos because of naval tactics: one to fix, one to flank; one as a sword, one as a shield; one to drive the prey towards an intended direction, one to wait in ambush.

    Aircraft fleet purchases are driven by availability rates. If it is 75% and you want to have 12 operational aircraft then you purchase 16 units. It it is 66% and you want to have 12 available operational then you purchase 18.

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