Its Cheaper Alright But….

KUALA LUMPUR: The story below is self-explainatory of course but Malaysian Defence begs to differ with the statement by the honourable minister. While I understand that we may lack the funds but upgrading rusting hulls will not offer us any capability nor technology.

For example, when it was decided that the old Kedah class be upgraded so it could be operational into the late 80s and until now under MMEA (renamed as Sipadan class) , most of the ships designed in the early 60s, remained incapable of fielding the latest technology and capabilities. These ships were once capable vessels but the years had eroded any chance of any integration new systems and technologies.

And btw, most of the ships in the RMN, apart from the new Kedah class and the Jebat and Lekiu are more than 25 years old. Heck, even the Lekiu is almost 20 years now.

Anyways, Malaysian Defence is wary of any plans of recapitalisation without the use of funds as hinted in paragraph 5. What ever methods proposed would cause us more money than a standard cash transaction.

RMN’s Old Assets Should Be Upgraded: Ahmad Zahid

LUMUT, May 22 (Bernama) — The Royal Malaysian Navy’s (RMN) essential assets aged over 25 years should be upgraded immediately to ensure their compatibility with the climate and current technology, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

“I think the upgrading of the old assets and equipment is vital to fine-tune RMN’s preparation in tackling various issues and future challenges,” he told reporters after visiting the RMN Lumut base, here Friday.

He said it would be better if the old assets be replaced but the current global economic uncertainty did not allow the government to do so.

However, he said the acquisition of new assets could be done without purchases but through other possible approaches that would be proposed to the government later.

“Several financial methods will be submitted to the government to enable the acquisition of new assets to be done such as a modified payment system based on Islamic bonds or sukuk or other syarie-based approach.

“The proposed financial package will not be too much a burden as we can also use the new assets at the same time,” he said.


-Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2227 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. The Lekiu and Jebat were to have been delivered in 1997 but software problems delayed their delivery into service till 1999. I cant confirm this, but I’ve been told that during sea trials in the North Sea, an opened hatch in the Bofors Mk2 led to sea water damaging the guns system on either the Lekiu or Jebat. This allegedly led to another delay. When the Vosper Kedah class coastal patrols boats were ordered from Vosper in the 1960’s, the requirement laid down by Tunku Abdul Rahman and Robert Thompson [his defence advisor] was that the class would have enough range to reach East Malaysia. Even if funding was available, the size of the Vosper Kedah class [about 300 tonnes]would have precluded any upgrades. Whilst I’m not privy to any inside information, Its my opinion the RMN has done a great job in maintaining its assets.

    Marhalim: Indeed RMN had done a great job of maintaining its assets but rusting hulls cannot be nursed forever (apart from the GRP hulls of the Mahawangsa class of course!)

  2. When the defence minister mentioned upgrades, maybe he was refering to overhauls.. who knows?
    But then over the years, most RMN ships have been sent to drydock for overhauls anyway.
    To the RMNs credit, it has been able to secure funding in the past for upgrades on the Laksamana, Handalan, Perdana, Kasturi and Mahamiru class. Apart from installing an electro-optical sight to replace the thermal inager, software upgrades to the Nautis and upgrading to Seawolf 2 in the future, I cant think of anything else at the moment to upgrade on the Lekiu class. Due to its non-modular design, replacing Seawolf would be costly and involve a lot of work.

    Marhalim: Upgrades are upgrades, overhauls are overhauls they are not the same, most of the work done on RMN ships were overhauls and not upgrades. I hoped what he meant is that the Kasturi SLEP that had been frozen due to economic crisis, would be start soon….

  3. Government should upgrade the assets ASAP. As I am an RMN personnel, I have experience personally the problems we faced. Enough of overhaul or refit. I believe overhauls are only a waste of money as they only allowed the ships to return to service without any significant improvement. I am serving on an RMN ship which had recently undergone a refit, sadly to say the condition is disappointing. I hope MINDEF will do something on this matter.

    Marhalim: Thank you for serving the country and thank you for your comments…

  4. i have a feeling this is a prelude to the introduction of the brunei’s opvs into RMN’s fleet financed by sukuk….

    Marhalim: Personally, I like the idea of having the Brunei ships as part of our fleet although some beg to differ due to different electronics and engines. To me as long as we can get all three ships together with a complete weapons fit for some RM500 million, lets go for it…..

  5. “Several financial methods will be submitted to the government to enable the acquisition of new assets to be done such as a modified payment system based on Islamic bonds or sukuk or other syarie-based approach.”

    Somehow i think the quote above do not jive. When Gov say financial method to pay, i think they should meant a barter or partial barter payment. Sukuk or conventional bonds are just a mechanic to raise cash upfront which the arms seller does not want to know.

  6. Does anyone actually think that this is anything other than a tacit admission of the failure of the government to plan, fund and execute long-lead capital projects? Every stop-start is $ and time pissed away.
    That is why Si Padang Tembak, the camp cat would do the same job for a ton less money.

  7. Just let the old rust bucket such as handalan and perdana be retired. Combatant ships should not be used too long but support ships are different story. Just upgrade the weapon system in the new kedah class. As such the combatant vessels should only be left with 2 Lekiu, 2 Kasturi, 4 Laksamana and 6 Kedah upgraded NGPV plus 3 subs

    Marhalim: actually two subs as the Agosta is not being overhauled for a few more years of service….

  8. Precisely my point Marhalim. Upgrades and overhauls are 2 different things, lets hope the defence minister actually meant upgrades in his statement. Overhauls cause less grief to the treasury as they require less funding than upgrades. Unlike the army, the RMN has managed to secure funding for upgrading its assets in recent years [the Laksamanas, Handalan, Perdana Mahamiru and Kasturi classes]. Have the army’s Skyguards and Giraffes ever been upgraded, doubt it. It will be interesting to see what MME ships will be fitted with the Vigy 15 electro-optic sight.

    Have sent an e-mail to Thales to inquire about the status of the Kasturi SLEP. In the unlikely event of receiving an answer, I will let you know. It remains to be seen if the RMN intends to replace the Schimitar jammer[export version of the Ramses which was sold to NATO vavies only] on the Kasturi and Lekir, which were the only RMN ships fitted with jammers until the arrival of the Nettuno jammers on the Laksama class.

    Marhalim: Yes, the Skyguards and Giraffes had been overhauled in the late 90s, again overhauled not upgraded……

  9. I doubt that the Nakhoda Ragams will be acquired due to a lack of cash, the current political enviroment and the RMN’s desire for something more capable than Seawolf. Then again in Malaysia, its the politicans who have the final say in determining defence buys, regardless of what MINDEF says. If cash was available perhaps it would be better spent on a part replacement of the Nuri fleet? I think the question that should be asked is where the crews to man the Nakhoda Ragams will come from… does the RMN currently have the manpower ?

    Marhalim: If funds were available for RMN, personally the Nakhoda Ragams will be the best option for the navy. The first ship could be on patrol by year end if they decide to sign off the deal. If we were to buy a new ship, we will need at least five years to get it into service if we are lucky and did not screw it up like Kedah and Jebat, Of course we can go down the upgrade route, if we are lucky, the Kasturi SLEP will be completed within six months although I doubt it, history tells us that even a modest upgrade will caused the ship to be in the docks for the next year or so….

  10. We may not have the money to buy new ships or upgrade but we still need the ships model!

    !P(PERO 2)F/T 201/2008 23 .06.09


    beserta CD

    Perolehan Sekaligus Merekabentuk, Membina, Membekal dan Menghantar Model-Model Kapal TLDM

    (Kod Bidang : 070200 atau 070299 atau 150100 atau 150199 atau 190300 atau 190399)

  11. Well if the Nakhoda Ragam is the better option, then just retire the Kasturi Perdana and handalan, let the budget from the proposed SLEP and maintenance of those 10 vessels be used as part purchase of the Nakhoda Ragam. Last time i check total cost of Nakoda Ragam’s 3 vessels is around USD 900 million, based on unconfirmed internet source

    Marhalim: its not the better option, simply faster….if the amount is correct, its way too expensive, USD300 million each, almost a billion ringgit but wait thats the cost of one Kedah!

  12. Fully armed with 76 mm super rapid, 30 mm cannon, 8 exocet and 16 Seawolf, compared to kedah class only with 76 mm super rapid and 30 mm cannon.

    Marhalim: I believe only the guns and missiles launchers are installed without the missiles so we need to buy new rounds for the three corvettes, although it would be possible to place missiles from our own stocks

  13. Based on ships monthly September 2007, the three Nakhoda Ragam estimated to cost GBP600 million or approximately USD900 million

    Marhalim: If we were to pay top dollar for three rusting hulls, we might as well commission new ships…

  14. USD 900 million sounds a bit low for the Nakhoda Ragams. I’ve been told that they were built with higher steel quality then the Lekiu class. Im not sure how much Brunei paid.
    It doesn’st make sense to retire the Kasturi class. Granted, they entered service in the early 80’s, but then so did many other combatants in the USN, RN and other navies. The key element here is a SLEP done on time, within the budget.

    Marhalim: US Navy had withdrawn the first five ships of the Tinconderoga class cruisers from service, they came into service within the same period as the Kasturi. The USN decided to retire them, rather controversially, instead of embarking on an expansive SLEP. The ships were offered to the RAN but they also feel that upgrading these ships were way too expensive for a hull that was design in the late 60s

  15. Well chilean navy seems to be fine surviving on 2nd had ships mailny from Nethelands and UK, shps were design or commission in late 70’s or early 80’s. Read about their navy and i say their armament capability is more impressive than RMN albeit most of it 2nd hand

    Marhalim: Of course second hand ships are okay as long as they fit into the navy’s own mentality….RMN due to its well-known aversion to anything gas turbine ruled itself out of many ships that were available before. Furthermore, if you noticed, the chilean navy is almost exclusively a second hand buyer, so it worked its budget and other stuff towards that kind of procurement, we on the other hand had always wanted to reinvent the wheel, no matter how much money it will cost us, furthermore National Interest is always the first priority and never the armed forces….

  16. Kamal, on paper the Chilean navy is certainly more impressive. But then, their threat perceptions are very different. Traditionally Chile’s bogey man has always been Argentina and Chile makes no secret about it. In my opinion though ,prior to procuring the Type 23s and the Jacob van Heemskercks, the Chilean navy had a less impressive order of battle than the RMN.

    Marhalim, do you recall the RMN procuring engine spares from an Indian company for KD Rahmat in the late 80’s? If I remember correctly the company was called Bumi Gajah and there were reports of either kickbacks or overpricing involved.

    I just hope the RMN is able to secure funding to equip the Kedah class. ‘Fitted for” but ‘Not With’ is a catchy phrase, a phrase the pen pushers at MINDEF and treasury adore as it does not involve allocating funds. Unfortunatly, fitting the Kedah class with anti air/ship missiles require time for delivery and integration. Should something flare up in the Spratleys or elsewhere, it would probably be over before any missiles are delivered.

    Marhalim: I cannot recalled the KD Rahmat deal but there was some fuss over the deal to replace the Hang Tuah engines, may be it was the same company or not. Rahmats turbine engine explosion was the reason RMN shied away from gas turbine. I cannot recall exactly what happened in the 80s but a RMN chief was forced to retire due to some financial controversy. He returned to the fold several years later however…..

  17. RMN should be getting a few more MPAs . A few ex US Navy refurbished P3C and and maybe 1 or 2 ex USN refurbished E2C could do the job to monitor Spratly and Ambalat in the short term. In the end, we surely dont want any war but at least we should have the capability to monitor these areas effectively

    Marhalim: It would be a very good idea, if we had done it several years ago before we end up with a fleet of CN235s and such, as of now perhaps it will be better with a Predator squadron or too….

  18. I certainly agreed with the suggestion to have nakhoda ragam for the RMN. I believe MINDEF know the situation and the advantages that there can get from it. However, the political master have more say in making a decision. we might see their way in making a decision must be related to any economic or something to national interest. A lot of example can be shared such a the procument of the laksamana class, scorpene and other procurement must have interrelated with other economic activity. It good basically. some how we need to remember that the priority for defence are over the others interest. I hope all of us can urged government and our people to really feel that defence procurement not a waste of money..but its something like an insurance policy and purpose to safeguard the nation as well as deterrence concept. To have SLEP program for Kasturi which can cause a lot of money where only a few upgrade can be taken on and the live can be extent for another 10 years. Or we can have a Nakhoda ragam which arevalready ready and fitted with for all kind of warfare (msl etc), it will last for another 20 years. Sometime upgrade a ships doest not carry any benefit compare to the amount of money spent. Its better for the ship to be downgraded to reduce cost and the money can be channel to have a new procurement.

    Marhalim: I agree with your views, however, the Kasturi cannot be relegated to the training role at this moment in time, we have too little ships….

  19. The Nakhoda Ragams look like an interesting option as they are quite close in weapons fit compared to Lekiu class. However the radar/ECM/combat management systems are significantly different. Any idea why the RBN refused acceptance, were there any know issues with integration of weapons suite/systems?
    If no issues, then with the right price these should be a good addition with almost 0 lead time from purchase to commission just like when we bought the Asad (?) class meant originally for Iraq(?).

    Marhalim: Yes apart from weapons fit most of the other systems are different from other ships in the navy but we are talking about getting new ships into service ASAP. We need hulls badly as most of the other ships have been used extensively in other ops like those in off Somalia. From my initial reading on the Brunei refusal was mostly due to the fact that the ships were too expensive in the first place and they did not have any experience personnel to run it…

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