SHAH ALAM: Old is Gold. As the MMEA is set to get a new ship launch at any time, the RMN can look forward to the elixir of youth, turning an old ship into a new one. The ship is question is KD Perkasa, pennant number 3511. Perkasa is the second of the four strong Handalan class, bought from Sweden in 1976 and commissioned three years later.
According to RMN chief engineer, Rear Admiral Mohd Shaiful Adli Chung Abdullah, Perkasa is being fitted with a new hull under the Obsolescence Programme (OP), an initiative undertaken to allow the FAC fleet to continue in service for the next 15 years. Work on the Perkasa is being conducted at the Geliga Slipway in Kemaman, Terengganu. The initiative was undertaken to mitigate the impact of the delays with the LCS programme, he wrote in a posting in the RMN official Facebook page .
The OP is the culmination of the FAC fleet upgrade programme as it combined the two other aspects of the initiative – repowering (changing the powerpack, propellors and generators and the fitting of a mini Combat management system.
Mohd Shaiful stated that the repowering programe is on going with three FACs being fitted with the new power packs. The first ship to undergo the programme is KD Baung.
And it appears that the Perkasa and the other FACs that had undergone the SLEP programme, will have to wait for another year to be fitted with the new mini-CMS as it had been postponed to 2022 according to Mohd Shaiful. He did not say why though. It is likely this was due to budgetary reasons even though the military got RM2.3 billion for main asset maintenance (for spare sparts and services) under the 2021 budget.
This is the reason the RMN decided to upgrade the FAC fleet; funding for maintenance under the Operational Expenditure (OE) are always available, though it fluctuates every year. Getting completely new ships will need to come from the Development Expenditure (DE) which is hard to come by with the elephant in the room (LCS) in the way.
Industry sources told me that it was unclear how many FACs will be getting new hulls like the Perkasa. I was told that it depends on the survey of the hulls themselves. It is interesting to note that the Perkasa and the other three Handalan class FACs are the youngest hulls among the 14 strong FAC fleet. Both the Jerong and Perdana class are older by some ten years. Baung which was the first to undergo the repowering programme was commissioned in 1977.
It must be noted under the SLEP – apart from the hulls (unclear how many for now), power packs and mini-CMS, the FACs will retained their main guns, the Bofors Mk 1 and 2s though I am not sure whether their B guns, the Bofors 40mm L70s will be retained.
All of the navigation radars and electro optical turrets, upgraded within the last five years will be retained. Other items which are salvagable, according to Mohd Shaiful will also be retained
Anyhow, Mohd Shaiful also wrote that RMN is getting six Maritime Operations Helicopters in his posting. I checked and it appears that he is wrong, they are only getting three MOH. And yes it is the Leonardo AW139. The contract is expected to be signed soon.
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