RMN and Upgrades

Laksamana upgrade envisioned by ,,,

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SHAH ALAM: AS the RMN is set to celebrate its 81st anniversary on April 27, it appears that the service is in a full blown upgrade mode.

At a conference in Singapore earlier in the week, a staff officer gave the full details on the proposed SLEP of the Laksamana class – which envisioned replacing everything apart from the hulls and the associated machineries and upgrade path for the Kedah class – four to be fitted for ASW while two for surface warfare.

At the same time, the staff officer also revealed the service procurement plans, three MRSS, four light frigates, six ASW helicopters, a single hydro-graphic ship and six gun-armed FACs.

Interestingly for the briefing slide of the procurement plans, images of a Mistral class ship (a LHD), a Holland class OPV and an AW159 Wildcat were used.

KD Lekiu launching a Sea Wolf SAM in an exercise in 2014. TLDM picture.
KD Lekiu launching a Sea Wolf SAM in an exercise in 2014. TLDM picture.

Perhaps the images were used as reference only but one may infer RMN’s preference on the matter. I understand the choice of the images of the LHD (as the original MRSS concept call for it) and the Wildcat, but a completely new light frigate design?

Before we all go ga-ga, one must consider that the above are RMN’s plans only as the government has yet to finalise the funding.

Apart from Laksamana and Kedah classes, RMN is also proposing the Lekiu class SLEP and not to forget the refit of the two Perdana Menteri class submarines. Apart from these major programmes, other RMN ships will also have to undergo periodic refits during the next five years.

To me it is unlikely all of the above will be funded within RMK11. With the RMN set to spend around RM1 billion a year for the next eight years (at least) to fund the construction of the LCS, I doubt there will be extra funds to cover all of the planned upgrades.

Based on what had happened to the Army during the last few years with the production of the AV8, RMN will not have its cakes and able to eat it too.

Two Laksamanas undergoing refit in Lumut in 2010.
Two Laksamanas undergoing refit in Lumut in 2010.

To me, the refit of the submarines looked safe but the rest of the upgrades looked pretty shaky to say the least with the Laksamanas looking the most vulnerable.

If it was up to me, I will ditch the plans to upgrade the Lekiu and Laksamana classes. I will instead order six more LCS and 15 more 75 or 85 metre FACs or corvettes. I know it will be cheaper to upgrade the Lekiu and Laksamanas but to what end? At least the new built hulls could last up to 2050 while we need to start looking for replacements the two classes by 2025.

Anyhow if the funds are not available to upgrade the Lekiu and Laksamanas within the next five years, the government will have to fund their replacements starting from 2020.

The Kedah class are relatively new though. They will be able to continue with their duties even without the upgrades though their usefulness will diminish the longer the upgrades are delayed.

As for the procurement plans, I believed the ASW helicopters and hydrographic ship are a shoe-in for RMK11 while the light frigates looked unreachable unless they turned it into another order for the LCS.

What about the MRSS and FACs then? I believe it will be funded not due to RMN’s requirements but mainly for political reasons.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

29 Comments

  1. Well. The MRSS if procured woyld satisfy a real need. This is because our logistic crafts are old n in need of repkacement. Its about time too for them to be replaced. Imagine the utility in logistics between the peninsular n borneo. Further more it can move a brigade of men at one go. So wuick reinforcement. If we procure the medium heli to go eith it , these ships will pack a punch. With china on the rise n the security situation in the Philippines, there is an urgent need for the MRSS. Also the fast patrol crafts ate required urgently too for straits eork, sulu sea n inshore protection

  2. My assumption

    The mrss and fac(g) would be Chinese in design and manufacture.

    The light frigate could be Korean, Chinese or Dutch design. FYI the Holland class is more of a long range, long endurance patrol ship/cutter than a fighting frigate.

    6 more lcs? Really? The price of the 6 ship lcs programme could comfortably fund all the ships/sleps/refit/upgrades in the latest navy wishlist with millions to spare…

    Reply
    Ok, lets upgrade all of the ships then.

  3. TLDM brass for the past 2 years are “quite vocal” in their requirement and future asset plans. They made known types of gears they need.

    Reply
    They have been like that behind closed doors all this while…

  4. – The ideal situation would be for the Lekiu SLEP to proceed as not only do the pair still have a lot of years left but until the entry into service of the LCS, they will be the service’s principal assets.

    – On paper the upgrade plan for the Kedah is sound but will not be cheap. Upgrading COSYS and other stuff won’t cost an arm and leg but stuff like putting them into dry dock to install a bow sonar – to replace the obstacle avoidance sonar – will involve cutting the hull and will take time and money. If the RMN is really serious about converting 4 into ASW ships, what will really make the difference will be having organic helos with a dipping sonar. No 2 ways about it.

    – The Laksamanas. Given the age of the ships and the amount of systems that have to be replaced; subjecting then to a full SLEP will be silly as the cash could be better spent elsewhere. The original plan was to rectify hull issues, fit a low cost FCS, new directors and used them for patrol duties armed only with a main gun and GPMGs.

    – The helos. The S-70, for which the RMN has reportedly shown interest in, has better range and endurance compared to the Wildcat but might not fit in the hangars of the Lekiu and Kedah class. From a commonality viewpoint, the WildCat would be perfect but as an ASW configured helo, the availability of adequate power supply and cabin space is an issue.

    Lee,

    The Indera Sakti class are not in urgent need of replacement and still have at least a decade left in service. The problem is there’s only 2 of them and they no longer meet our current requirements.

  5. If the MRSS and the FAC (G) are funded outside of the RMK plan and not canablising RMN’s allocated funds, all the better.

    RMN is probably being prudent to ask for funds for the Lekiu SLEP now than later. In any case, the Seawolfs would be EOL in the near future. Being the principal surface combatants of RMN until the LCS is commissioned, there is value, especially in the event that the LCS is delayed.

  6. Thanks for the reply..so from what i understand..the DSME corvettes is the FAC that is stated in the procurement plan?I though the DSME corvettes is already given the go ahead? The corvettes is stated in SIPRI 2014.

    Reply
    SIPRI has always jump the gun on Malaysia procurement. That said I also stated that the project was bound to happen and I stand by it. No, the FAC in the procurement is a FAC equipped guns only, the DSME entry is full blown corvette, although it could be easily downgraded to a FAC (G) using the Fitted for But Not Paid For concept.

  7. I don’t believe this will happen. The upgrade will be complete after the LCS enters service. RMN won’t be getting ASW hulls any sooner.

    Secondly, we have a patrol hull crunch. As Azlan said, installing a bow sonar will take time in dry dock. Similarly, upgrading the Laksamana corvettes will also deprive us of patrol hulls temporarily.

    Btw, if the Laksamanas are said to be in poor condition, then it begs the question of whether the RMN killed it by starving it of maintenance funds, the same way the USAF did with the A-10. And whether the suppliers of new hulls had any influence in the decision, the same way people wish the F-35 to replace the A-10.

  8. Lee – ” Imagine the utility in logistics between the peninsular n borneo.”

    Very true but lets keep in mind that even if we had 4 LPDs, 2 LSTs and the 2 Indera Saktis and even if by some divine miracle all were available at one particular time; we would still utilise commercial assets if ever there was an urgent need to rapidly move large numbers of men and gear to East Malaysia. It’s not as if we are landing on a hot or contested beachead; places we would be headed to would be Bintulu, Labuan and Sepanggar, all of which are fully equipped for the purpose.

    Even the U.S. uses commercial assets to haul stuff around the globe. In 1991 Maersk was contracted to move Patriot batteries to Dahran, I know this because the 1st Mate on one of the ships was Malaysian. Sure, commercial ships are unarmed and are ill suited to delivering stuff to a beach but when it comes to delivering stuff to a port or a place where there’s a jetty, they can do it just as well as an LPD or LST. If we were ever faced with a scenario where state actors were interdicting our SLOC with East Malaysia, then this is when an LPD or LST would come in handy but even then, it would require X number of escorts.

  9. AM – ”Btw, if the Laksamanas are said to be in poor condition, then it begs the question of whether the RMN killed it by starving it of maintenance funds, the same way the USAF did with the A-10. ”

    For one, all 4 were delivered as they were, with hardly any modifications. Secondy, all were fitted out for Iraqi requirements and had less than desirable seakeeping. Ask anyone who has served on one and they will say that they had more confidence in the Oto Melara than the Aspide when it comes to dealing with aerial targets. All routinely entered dry dock for refits but by the mid-2000’s were already old and fitted out with various systems that badly needed replacing and systems that couldn’t be supported anymore. Constrast this with the Kasturis which were slightly older but gave better service. As for hulls, all steel has a finite life and some last longer than others but over time, the steel in hulls will weaken and corrode. After an exercise in the Philippines, a Laksamana’s departure for home had to be delayed due to a rosak A/C.

    We actually spent quite a bit on the Laksamana: RM54.7 million in 2002 to upgrade the CMS on KD Hang Nadim and KD Tun Abdul Jamil and millions more on the RQN-5C ESM and a Nettuno-4100 jammer. Not to mention the millions spent on refits, preventive maintenance and spares [RM53 million in 2007 for Otomat and Aspide spares and support]. We also spent cash making sure the Alenia TG2 data link on the Super Lynx worked with the Otomat: a live firing was done in 2008 with OTH via the Super Lynx.

  10. Don’t fret.

    M’sis is not the only ones having budget problems. We Aussies also have issues, falling iron ore prices and a budget black hole. The Collins need to be replaced and the plan is for 10 subs, probably the Japanese Soryu….not to mention replacement for the Anzac class frigates.

    All of this on top of the extra cash needed to fight terrorism and IS.

  11. At least the navy’s plan is based on realistic threats and missions that they are likely to encounter and excecute in the near future. From their list, their future priorities are:

    1) asw warfare
    2) amphibious support of the army
    3) protecting narrow bodies of water from external threats trying to infiltrate malaysia (sulu seas, straits of melacca)

    Would like to see something similar from the tudm top brass

  12. Rosly Dhoby,

    What made malaysia unique is we a country with two land separated by a vast sea (South China Sea) which made defense task difficult

    If you give the Chakri Naruebet to RMN, we will have much useful use of it compared to the Thailand transporting between west and east malaysia. Heck, if you even give it major island nations like Indonesia and Philippines, it will more useful compared to sitting on dockside

    anyway, we will definitely not getting the fullsize mistral 210 unless somehow france offer us the russian’s vessel for dirt cheap price. If not, we most probably will go with Mistral 140/160. The news now is for 3 MRSS, could be 1 LHD (dokdo/mistral) and 2 LDP (enforcer/type 071)

  13. I’ve been watching the words dokdo or mistral being played for a quite long time. Why must we go for dokdo or mistral when we dont have marines or even enough heli to operate from them. Just get a plain makassar or type 071. Hell what are they thinking. Even a naruebet for tldm ? For what ? Aerial air power. Which air asset can be used ? Nil

  14. Alext89 – ”If you give the Chakri Naruebet to RMN, we will have much useful use of it compared to the Thailand transporting between west and east malaysia.”

    She’s not very useful for transporting gear or people, although this is a role she can off course perform. Her main purpose was to project power; hence the designation ”Offshore Patrol Helicopter Carrier” or to use her air wing to support disaster relief. The Thais have a problem; there are no more Harriers/Matadors,AV-8s in the market and they can’t afford the F-35; so they have a flat top with no fix wing aircraft.

    Alext89 – ”anyway, we will definitely not getting the fullsize mistral 210 unless somehow france offer us the russian’s vessel for dirt cheap price. ”

    Even assuming we can afford to buy and run them and have a need for a design with so much deck space; it’s unlikely that we would want to offend the Russians by taking ships originally intended for them.

  15. Streuth TomTom,

    Budget cuts all round, not only here..at the same time a good govt plans for the future. This planning thing is rather difficult it seems.

    wot with all the variables present..one small miss-allocation either done unwittingly or due to other reasons, will have repercussions for years to come.

    still,..makes a good debate to have..wots to have,wots to have not, whose to blame if things go south

  16. Australia’s LAND 400 is interesting It will have STANAG Level 4 which will make it heavy but also highly survivable. In fact, apart from Israel’s Namer and Achzarit, I can’t think of any other non MBT armoured vehicle as well protected. The question is whether the places the LAND 400 vehicles are expected to deploy has the infrastructure to take the weight but I suppose this is where adequate engineering support comes in.

    At least in Australia there is non-partisan, constructive and open debate on defence matters, involving academics, the press and politicos. Australia has made certain sound decisions regarding defence but unfortunately also has it share of cockups for which the Seasprites, converting the ex-USN Newports and integrating Popeye to the F-111s (took years and millions) come to mind.

  17. “…also revealed the service procurement plans, three MRSS, four light frigates, six ASW helicopters, a single hydro-graphic ship and six gun-armed FACs.”

    Assuming these 14-vessel built locally by BNS, it will have its hand full beyond 2020. Good for their business and the naval shipbuilding workforce. MRSS last time they say need 4 now down to 3. This light frigate thing is quite confusing, why go for a frigate-lite not for a corvette or patrol vessel? Ahhh I believe this is “intentional to confuse us all” like the one on LCS, “die-die” thought it is in between of a corvette and a frigate but then at the end of the day becomes FFG which is heavier and more capable than FFG Lekiu.

    Reply
    Not all will be at BNS although they like it to be so. The more the merrier…

  18. I just wonder, why the government is hesitate to armed all the Kedah class to the teeth? I mean fully converted to Corvette..

    Reply
    No idea why

  19. I agree with consolidating the ship-types in service by forgoing extensive upgrades to the Lekiu-Laksamana class, but is it really wise to add another batch of the Gowind LCS before the 1st batch is even in service and tested out?
    With France looking set to cancel the Vladivostok-class LHD to Russia and even in the unlikely scenario the French are willing to let them go for a cheaper price, but does Malayisia has the need/budget to operate such a ship?
    Btw, what is the RMN Gowind ship classified as? Light frigates or corvettes? Seems like they has a larger displacement than the Lekiu-class which is considered light frigates.

    Reply
    RMN designated the LCS and the Lekiu as frigates. Foreign magazines termed them as corvettes

  20. Why is there is so much confusion regarding the LCS programme?

    At 1st it is supposed to be just a follow on to the ngpv, designated the sgpv programme. This is separate to a proper frigate programme which entails building 2 more lekiu frigates locally.

    In the end the frigate programme is cancelled. But the navy managed to ask for the highest specs for the allocated budget for the sgpv, turning what is supposed to be a corvette into a full blown frigate, which is more than what they have bargained for. Of course they don’t want to highlight it to the public too soon before they got their ships…

  21. It’s irrelevant whether our new ships are called “frigates’, light frigates” or “corvettes” as the distinction has become increasingly blurred and one man’s “frigate” can be another man’s “corvette”. If we really look at the traditional roles a “corvette” or “sloop” were intended to do, our “corvettes” are doing stuff that is slightly different. BTW, the only ships we have that are officially designated “corvettes” are the Kasturis (previously “light frigates”) and Laksamanas. What’s more important than worrying about designations is that new ships are delivered on time and on specification.

    Lkick,

    Cash, cash and cash and the need to prioritise. The Kedahs haven’t been fully armed because of cash and also because was felt that under the present climate, all 6 can do their assigned peacetime roles as they are, without missiles. Thus, the cash was used on areas which were considered more of a priority.

    Kerberos,

    Define ‘intensive”. If the intention is to ensure the Lekius do not lose their capabilities then the SLEP won’t be intensive but necessary and can’t be avoided. In addition to replacing Seawolf, the MM-40s and perhaps upgrading or even replacing NAUTIS, old stuff like the directors will have to replaced : the bare minimum.

  22. @Azlan,
    Since the RMN shotage of surface combatant to cover vast area of EEZ + Spartly + issue with james shoal etc. I think this is the right time to armed the Kedah class to the teeth..

  23. Lkick,

    Not at all. The whole idea of having ships in the Spratlys is to maintain a presence there and to demonstrate our sovereignty by confronting intrusions by other claimants. This the Kedahs can do without missiles. Sure, the primary purpose of the RMN is to defend our maritime intrests against state actors but at present, our main challenge is having enough hulls to maintain our vast, day to day peacetime tasks; not having enough hulls to engage in combat.

    Whether the Kedahs are armed or not will not deter Chinese ships from entering our EEZ – even if we had a 7,000 tonne frigate with a 32 cell VLS and 16 Exocets on station there, the Chinese will still enter! It should be noted that the majority of Chinese ships entering our EEZ are not PLAN ships but coast guard or fisheries protection vessels. I’m all for arming the Kedahs but it will have next to no impact for peacetime duties.

  24. does it mean we need more surface combatant instead armed the kedah class? i would vote for both but that’s up to government eh when it come to decision .

  25. Fir95,

    It’s plainly obvious. The RMN needs extra hulls to fulfil it’s peacetime operational requirements and to arm the Kedahs to compensate for the degrading of the combat capabilities of the Laksamanas and FACs.

    D.W,

    Top on the priority list are new directors (for the guns) and a fire control system (much cheaper than upgrading or going for a new CMS). Both of which not only the Chinese can deliver but also Samsung Thales; which would be a better option as it already supplied both for the training ships.

  26. I thought last time the role of fac/small craft(close to shore type) was given to mmea, while the rmn will operate corvette and above

    Reply
    FACs remained relevant to the RMN due to AOR like the Layang-Layang and Sulu Sea where even the Kedah class is too big.

  27. For the laksamana class upgrades, I think the navy is open to all options right now. Going Chinese will surely be the least costly option. Other than the obsolete cms/directors on the ships, the Sam and ashm missiles are expired too. Chinese Sam system like the FL-3000N and ashm like the c-705 would be ideal for the laksamanas

    The FL-3000N Sam system with its ram-like launcher would also be ideal for the kedah class ships, if intergration to the ships cms of the largely stand alone Sam system is doable

  28. – ”For the laksamana class upgrades, I think the navy is open to all options right now. ”

    Depends entirely on the scope of the SLEP. If the plan remains to just spend minimal cash in order for the class to perform patrol duties, then a fire director and fire control system [all that is needed to get the guns functioning again] can be sourced from a number of sources. Ideally, both would be similar to what has go on the training ships.

    If – however unlikely and silly – the plan is to fully restore the class’s combat capabilities then ideally, the best solution would be to go back to the Italians. Not the cheapest of options but the most practical and logical. A much cheaper alternative would be to go to the Chinese but then whatever systems that are still operational [like the ESM, jammer and radar] won’t be compatible with stuff sourced from China. Even if we went for a stand alone SAM we would still need to ensure that other stuff are integrated with whatever we source from China; which goes back to my main point: if we intend on fitting new radars, a CMS, missiles, sonar, torps and other needed stuff on hulls that are close to 30 years old, we might as well buy a new ship. A full SLEP will also entail work on the hull to check for integrity and corosion; as well as work on the ventilation system, the A/C, comms and so on : all will add to the overall cost.

    The RMN has to decide what it wants to do based on the budget it gets; then weight that on how many years the ships can still be operated and how cost effective this whole exercise will be. IMO, the RMN should do the bare minimal [as was the original plan] for the class to perform patrol duties and better utilise the cash on platforms which are newer, in better condition, have better sea keeping, range, endurance and which have caused less headaches.

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