On Budget and Schedule

Third LMS prior to her launch. RMN

SHAH ALAM: On budget and schedule, that was the message by TS Kamarulzaman Badaruddin on the Littoral Mission Ship (LMS) project, that was conceived and contracted during his tenure as the RMN chief. The retired admiral contacted Malaysian Defence the other day- unprompted-following news that the third LMS had been launched in China. Asked whether I could share it to the public, he said yes.

Third LMS after her launch. RMN

“Alhamdullilah. Project on time (except for the three or four months delay due to crew recalled home because of COVID) and most importantly on budget! (despite a number of VO (variation orders). The LMS only cost 20 per cent of the LCS but can fulfill 80 per cent of the LCS role. Cost to operate is expected 20 per cent of LCS. Concept of “fit for purpose and 1st Government-to-Government programme (no third party or middle man involvement). Some people ask about capability – as I said its “fit for purpose” and easily can be upgraded based on the design “FBNW – fitted for but now with” for SSM and other special roles with containerized capability fit.”

Kamarulzaman (in uniform) when he visited the Wuchang shipyard in 2018. courtesy of TS Kamarulzaman

Asked to explain further, Kamarulzaman said he was proud of the project

“because I proposed different approach – G to G and FIXED costs – must be on time to protect China’s image and pride! (that’s why now all 4 LMS progress very well – I’m so happy and proud as this project was my Baby!!”

Sundang at its launch ceremony in July, 2019. RMN

He added :

“Chinese shipyards no longer what people think of it before. I visited our LMS program at Wuchang. Their work culture and tech is way ahead of us and even western. 1st time I saw they introduce fully automatic robots to weld piping works!! it can do 24/7 and perfect weld and no wastage!”

KD Keris

Kamarul also said the decision to have all four LMS manufactured in China was a blessing in disguise.

“They could hv build our LMS faster and a lot cheaper if all build there…… thats why the change of contract by new government wanting to save 10 per cent costs they can still deliver and even faster there. A blessing in disguise…… imagine if we follow the contract requirement to have the third and fourth LMS in Boustead Naval Shipyard!! OMG….. with the COVID19 and political challenges and Boustead Heavy Engineering Corportaion (BHIC) cash flow problems….. we will never know when and if we even get the ships delivered….. for now all good for the last 2 to delivered by next year…”

KD Keris arriving at the Sepanggar naval base jetty for the welcoming ceremony

I know many of Malaysian Defence readers are critical of the project, the only thing I can ask is that, please be civil.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2191 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. If the ships are on budget and schedule, credit should go where it should be. Also, quality-wise, I think we know the Chinese shipyards have improved massively; the issues would probably be (1) interoperability with Western equipment, and (2) whether it’s wise to get mission critical equipment from a country that consistently breach our sovereignty

  2. China certainly can deliver in term of cost, schedule, tech and quality. But the issues is more of security and secrecy of the product as we are in a dispute with China at SCS currently.

    IMO, we shall consider South Korea shipyards and hardwares for new MRSS, NGPV upgrade and Laksamana upgrade. As alternative to Boustead, of course. A little bit of competition may be the medicine we need.

  3. Thank you tan sri for allowing Marhalim to share your views on the LMS here. Thank you also for having the vision to have the 15 to 5 plan for the navy.

    I understand that the LMS is fit for the purpose if the main purpose is just for peacetime EEZ patrols.

    There is a few questions/concerns on this from me.

    1. How do you calculate that the LMS can fulfil 80% of the LCS role? The LCS can do ASW, ASuW, destroy other frigates and submarines with missiles and torpedoes, able to shoot down aircrafts and also embark helicopters. Can the LMS do 80% of that?

    2. Yes, it is great that it is on budget. But can there be an explanation on why a 68m 600 ton ship with a single 30mm RCWS build in china be more expensive than a 83m 1890 ton ship (practically 3 times bigger) also armed with a single 30mm RCWS designed in Netherlands and build locally in Selangor? Is the LMS price that we pay for reasonable for a chinese build ship? For example Nigeria got a 1800 ton OPV (P18N) with a 76mm gun and helicopter hangar also build in the same Wuchang shipyard for USD42 million.


    Yes it is a ship fit for purpose. But is it a ship fit for the price?

    3. Is using the LMS to intercept and shadow chinese navy and coast guard ships in our EEZ something that would be okay with the Chinese government?

  4. As long as we’re willing to pay integration/certification costs then Chinese gear from that perspective is not an issue.

    There is another issue however; buying Chinese gear – on top of the Western gear we already have – adds to our support/maintenance footprint. Requires the stocking of parts with zero commonality to what we already have and the training of people to operate and maintain the gear.

    On the issue if QC/build quality thus is an issue that should be put to rest. Yes Chinese yards have come a long way and like buying from anyone else; what a customer specifies and what he’s willing to pay plays a big part. If a for example a customer specifies a certain grade is steel and high DC standards (‘x’ number watertight compartments and parts of the ship able to withstand ‘x’ level of damage: Chinese yards can oblige and deliver.

  5. Wan,

    Sorry but I fail to see how there would be any issues using a Chinese ship (with Chinese sensors and other systems) to detect and intercept Chinese ‘maritime agency” ships in a peacetime environment. It’s not as if we’re using Chinese sourced gear with niche capabilities and cutting edge capabilities for the job.

  6. IMHO it does sound like the idea for LMS with modularity is born from the ex-admiral rather than something pushed by the then Government onto his service (something many readers seem to think so). Since he is retired, there is no benefit for him to defend the project anymore (unless he is still involved in some other ways lah. Usually there is some disclaimer about these).

    But if “no third party or middle man involvement”, then what was BNS original involvement? Purely contracted to build the 3rd & 4th?

    No BNS was supposed to be the recipient of the TOT part of the project where it was supposed to build two more of the LMS. It wasn’t involved in choosing the design and other stuff, it just received the project lock, stock and barrel as the government mandated contractor

  7. Marhalim, what’s the report recently about problems with the sensors of the LMS?

    Yes mostly about the location of the sensors and other things, not really sure whether it’s a deal breaker

  8. Like many navies (some of which have adopted the concept and some which are convinced it doesn’t suit their needs- the RMN has been weighting it’s options with regards to modular payloads for a while now. As far back as the late 1990’s or the early 2000’s the RMN publicly announced it was looking at modular MCM payloads which could be installed on trawlers.

    The inclusion of modular payloads in the 5/15 was primarily the efforts of the same people which came up with the 5/15: based on the realisation that funding for the foreseeable future will remain highly elusive and insufficient; thus certain compromises will have to be made.

    Like everything else in the 5/15 whether or not the RMN actually goes down this route remains to be seen. Failure to resolve the LCS issue or the failure of the programme to deliver all 6 ships will have widespread implications; affecting various other things.

  9. Well its not built for but not equiped with anymore. The NGPVs have become just built for but not ever to be equiped with. I cant trust all these built for but not equiped with as it will never become equiped with

  10. @ azlan

    Everything in life is a compromise. Yes compromises need to be made and decided upon. But is the chinese built LMS a good compromise considering its expensive price?

    The price of each LMS as it is right now is RM262.5 million, compared to the MMEA DAMEN OPV1800 of RM246.6 million.


    I am completely fine if the price of the LMS is around RM100-150 million each, but i cannot understand when the price is much more higher than a much larger and heavier OPV build locally (which is said to be much more expensive than building in China).

    If China can build its brand new 165m 10,700 ton OPV for just USD97 million, why is our 68m 600 ton PV (which is what the LMS is basically) is so expensive?





    As for modular MCM payloads, I am all for it. But I don’t see the current LMS68 a good platform to do MCM from. It would be better to deploy MCM modules from a much more spacious oil and gas OSV with proper cranes, moonpool, etc. rather than from the LMS68. Getting a few used OSV for TLDM auxiliary fleet would be a good compromise. A good platform for MCM tasks, long endurance for patrols, large accommodation for extra personnels and can be used for resupplying our offshore stations.

    New Zealand navy HMNZS Manawanui (secondhand ex Edda Fonn)

    French Navy ship Champlain (B2M, new but based on the design of OSV)

  11. … – “Everything in life is a compromise. But is the chinese built LMS a good compromise considering its expensive price“

    Thanks for pointing that out. Yes life entails ‘compromises” (as you saw the need to mention) but the level of ‘compromise” is driven by varying factors on top of willing intent.

    Getting back; my reference to “compromise” was in relation to the 15/5 and the inclusion of several things including modular payloads. I was making it a point to emphasise why the RMN under the previous leadership did what it did.

    My post had zero reference to the actual price of the LMS (in comparison to others) or whether I think we got our money’s worth … (which BTW I don’t…).

    … – “As for modular MCM payloads, I am all for it”

    As for modular payloads in general; I’m “all for it” if we take the right approach with it and if we find it suits our requirements. As I’m fond of saying : “some navies have embraced the approach (because it suits their particular requirements/circumstances and some haven’t ;because it doesn’t) …

  12. I really hope (echoing everyone here) that the LCS saga is resolved ASAP. Failure to do that or the RMN not getting all 6 will have wide implications; various things will be affected. More cash spent to salvage the programme will mean less cash for other things.

    Never mind the ASW helos approved (in principle) under the next Malaysia Plan but subject to delay depending on the LCSs. The FACs and Laksamanas are long overdue for retirement – both despite being maintenance intensive are good for a few years more but both are only armed with guns. Another issue is that various things will reach the end of their shelf lives soon.

    Unfortunately it won’t

  13. @Azlan

    I hope that the procurement of 6 ASW hellos will be funded on next RMK as planned even the LCS is not completed yet. The ASW heli * hoping for AW159 for our Navy can be deployed with Kedah class to improve our patrol abilities in our EEZ or if the gov has second options, they can spend more on MD500 heli as we can get more on our fleet as the price is clearly cheaper than ASW and of-course with limited capabilities.


    true, rumour is circulating as the LMS ship per unit price is clearly expensive than our MMEA OPV. The Wuchang Shipyard may delivered the ship faster in par with the schedule however they are many defects detected by our Navy-personnel and it is not worthy the price after-all.

  14. I agree with Lee Yoke Meng, We should do away with FBNW – fitted for but not with. The ships should be armed appropriately to avoid having to pay more in the future. A good example is the Kedah classwhich is a good hull but we never upgraded with ASM/SAM. Our gomen seems to have a weird policy when it comes to contracting defence equipments. If you read defence news off late, there were more bad articles than good one about about us.

  15. alipz

    Doubt very much any more Little Birds will be coming our way; apart from the 6 ordered. They are useful as a quick reaction asset; supporting SF units and fire support but nothing beyond that.

    I could be wrong but I doubt the ASW helo capability will proceed until the LCS issue is resolved and even then I doubt 6 will actually be funded for. At present the requirement has been registered and approved for but no actual funding has been allocated and even then things could change.

    No there is no argument that what was paid the LMSs reflects what we’re getting. On defects it’s common for defects to be discovered irrespective of where a ship is made – that’s what yard trials are for: to discover defects before the ship is handed over. Even after a ship is handed over (depending on the clause inserted in the contract) there will be a period of warranty.

    The question is what nature of defects : minor ones which can easily be resolved or major ones requiring major work?

  16. Shahren – “Our gomen seems to have a weird policy when it comes to contracting defence equipments”

    It’s not a ‘weird” policy.

    It’s a disastrous, ludicrous and self defeating policy heavily driven by political imperatives (benefiting the local industry, improving bilateral ties, improving other sectors via ToTs/off sets, etc) which has resulted in us being where we are at present – all this has been discussed extensively in other threads.

    On top of that is the mindset that defence is something we should only really spend on when times are good.

    Shahren – “ there were more bad articles than good one about about us.”

    I don’t know about the “bad/good” part but those articles reflect the reality : the armed services having to struggle because various things have been put on hold or slashed due to funding difficulties.

  17. @Shahren
    There are good news, not to say there aren’t any. There’s the TLDM FIC tender award, the LMS progression on schedule despite being at Covid Ground Zero, tender for UNFIL APCs going ahead, the MPA conversions going ahead despite delays due to travel restriction, the awarding of 8units MMEA FICs, TDM getting a boost in Sabah, perhaps more that I missed. And the great job so far by our guys at the frontlines under Ops Benteng.

    Not everything is bad news, but bad news naturally attracts more interest. When things goes smoothly nobody cares.

  18. @joe, I do see there’s good amongst the more popular bad local defence news. It’s just that the LCS fiasco is just monumental, and a tragic repeat of earlier mistakes. I sincerely hope that DS Ismail Sabri can work a small miracle somewhat at MinDef and kick some 3 or 4 starr-ed arses along the way to change the way things are done … Amiin.

  19. @Taib
    No point to hope on a single Minister to do magic when they should find out the real root cause and table it to Cabinet/ Parliament for discussion and a way to move forward. First step is to ‘save’ the project by reviving it with fresh cash injection and simultaneously setup PAC or send the Auditor General to audit the project thoroughly. Sitting on it won’t do anything.

    Again we could have a hundred good news but it takes one major bad news to spoil everything. Right or wrong its a matter of perception.

  20. Recently the Philippines armed forces clashed at sea (sulu sea) with abu sayaf insurgents.


    The philippines navy MPAC was hit by fire from the abu sayaf.


    Crew of the MPAC was protected by the armoured glass fitted to the MPAC.

    The operation was done using MPAC and AW109 gunship of the philippines air force.


    Takes from this.

    1) Our CB90 replacement and future LMS need to have armoured protection.

    2) AW109LOH can be armed and be used as gunships. We dont really need another platform in the shape of the MD530G actually.

  21. … – “1) Our CB90 replacement and future LMS need to have armoured protection.”

    I’ve long pointed out that FICs and similar stuff should have lightweight ballistic panels because their occupants run the risk of being exposed to direct fire. The RN has done this with its rigid raiders and other assault craft. Its ships also have panels to provide some level of protection for operators of deck mounted pintle weapons.

    Higher up the chain; frigates and other surface units can also have ballistic protection fitted at vulnerable places such as magazines, hangers, etc. At least up to 7.62mm AP and against splinters. The SAN has done this with its Mekos.

    … – “H can be armed and be used as gunships. We dont really need another platform in the shape of the MD530G actually”

    Yes you’ve mentioned before.

    The fact remains that we only have 10 A-109s and of that less than a handful are in Sabah and not all are operational at any given time. We’re getting the Little Birds; thus we should and will use them for roles such as SF support, fire support; as a quick reaction support – notwithstanding their limited range and internal volume.

    I’m not looking at it from the angle of us not needing it because we have A-109s but us finding use for it since we’re getting them …

  22. For decades the PAF’s main means of dealing with non state actors has been UH-1s, Little Birds and Broncos. Most of its armed assets are based south but you do see the odd UH-1 flying over Manila.

    Flying out of Manila airport one also gets a good view of the PAF’s hangars – has a base next to NAIA and shares faculties with the airport. I’ve seen the F/A-50s flying around Pampanga (the province where Clark is). They look impressive.

  23. @ azlan

    ” I’m not looking at it from the angle of us not needing it because we have A-109s but us finding use for it since we’re getting them ”

    Unfortunately yes we are getting them MD530Gs.

    Why isn’t the AG asking questions on this instead of the Guardians? There is no open tender for this and other fishy stuff.

    Anyway we need to get them ASAP, as we have paid for them, but should we induct it? can we just flog them off, or swap them for used blackhawks?

    Instead of the MD530G, we should have gotten additional AW109 and be done with it. If the wheeled undercarriage is undesirable, now there is a skid option too


    ” I’ve seen the F/A-50s flying around Pampanga (the province where Clark is). They look impressive ”

    I really hope that we can see them in TUDM colours soon…

    @ marhalim

    I am still having problem with captcha

  24. It’s not only the issue of the landing gear but other issues as well which are inherent with the type. The army has no desire or need for anymore A-109s or for a another platform in the same weight/size category. I pointed this out a couple of times during a discussion we had previously.

    The army didn’t even issue a requirement for the Little Birds. They fact that they were ordered and that it made it through the system – despite any objections and the end user not issuing a requirement – was because the highly flawed system/policy we have enabled it to. On top of that a local agent appeared out of nowhere and made a mark up despite offering no added value. Our highly screwed system enabled it to happen.

    I personally wouldn’t have gotten them but the fact remains they have a role to play within ESSCOM; doing what they’re designed to do : as a quick reaction platform to support SF units and fire support.

  25. Back to the KD Keris.

    It is a beautiful ship. It would be a nice patrol boat, a spriritual successor to the FAC(G) and the Vospers.

    But i dont think the ship is to the spirit of what a LMS should be. And if the navy really wants to buy more of them, it is a good ship but just not at that price.

    If the navy wants a bigger ship like what the RLMS model is (with helicopter landing pad and what not), IMO just don’t, and better just let MMEA buy more of their OPVs.

    Anyway this is 2020, and not 1970. a patrol boat by any name should be something operated by the MMEA, not TLDM. TLDM should have a warfighting littoral vessel, that can be an overmatch to any insurgents or non-state actors that wants to take the fight at sea.

    TLDM can be a benchmark to create truly a ship that would be the insurgents and non-state actors nightmare, or it can just buy another expensive patrol boat with a fancy acronym tagged on it. Up to the current leaders of the navy and government to decide.

  26. We are indeed a maritime nation.

    A little bit problems here and there will not stop us from getting or building more ships as needed.

    Again, TLDM and APMM needs more ships.

  27. ZekMR – “A little bit problems here and there will not stop us from getting or building more ships as needed.”

    “ A little bit of problems” have led to the present situation where the RMN is not only very overstretched but also doesn’t have what it needs for the job.

    Currently and in the future it can also led to us not getting ships in time, not in the right quantity and not equipped as they should be …

  28. Is good thing china shipbuilders deliver on time and maintain the cost. China has grow rapidly in technology & economy. It is about time we ditch all the expensive overrated western equipments. We have to be creative

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