LUMUT: Run to the hills. Its now official, the RMN’s first of class LCS, the Maharaja Lela will not be able to make it to LIMA 19 next year as the ship is missing one vital piece of equipment. Infact Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) cannot confirm the delivery date for the ship as it is dependent on the delivery of the equipment and also the trials.
And no the equipment is not the NSM missiles or the MBDA VL MICA SAM. It is in fact the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) which among other things provides integrated monitoring and control of ship propulsion, electrical and auxiliary plant management systems. Integrating these capabilities at the platform level can optimise operational effectiveness and contribute to crewing reductions.
BNS managing director Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Nor said if the IPMS could be delivered early there was the chance that the Mahaja Lela could be handed over to the RMN by late 2019, ïf it passed all the sea trials of course. He said this during the press conference after the keel laying ceremony for the fourth LCS at BNS facility in Lumut today. Ahmad Ramli had said the ship will be at LIMA 19, last year during the keel laying ceremony of the third LCS.
He said Maharaja Lela had undergone limited harbour trials but it will not undergo further tests nor be able to make it to Langkawi for LIMA 19 until the IPMS is delivered, installed and tested.
Asked whether he could confirmed that the ship could be handed over to the navy either in 2020 or 2021 – Ahmad Ramli said they will deliver all six LCS by 2024 as per the contract with the government. BNS is contractually bound to deliver the first of class LCS by 2019.
It was supposed to deliver the first ship in 2017 but this was brought forward to 2019 under variation of the original contract first announced in 2011. Under the amended contract, it was supposed to deliver the first LCS in 2019 with one each from 2020 with the last two delivered in 2024.
Asked to explain the problems affecting the LCS project, Ahmad Nor said apart from the complexities of building a warship completely in country for the very first time, the construction was hampered by delays in getting government-furnished equipment like the IPMS and other systems (NSM and MICA) as their contracts have not been finalised even though the ship building process has started . He did not identify the make of the IPMS selected for the LCS, however.
The Kedah class was fitted with the CAE Canada IPMS though I am told that it was not the same system selected for the LCS.
Ahmad Ramli and RMN chief Adm. Kamarulzaman Badaruddin, who was present at the event, confirmed that the contract for the MICA missiles has not been signed though contracts for the launchers have been signed. Contracts for weapons must be signed through a government to government deal unlike launchers which could be signed between private companies. This was similar to the NSM deal.
Despite the current difficulties, Ahmad Ramli said he was confident that construction and delivery of the six LCS will go ahead as planned once all of the equipment ordered are received.
The delays in finalising all the sub-systems while not fatal to the whole project, clearly hampered BNS ability to adhere to its contractual commitments. Based on the delivery date of the IPMS, late this year, it is likely that the contract for it was signed in late 2016 or even later. We have seen this before with the NSM and in fact, the contract for the MICA missiles has not been signed yet.
I have been accused of being negative whenever I say that I am fearful that things or contracts for the military will not come out as planned. Honestly I prefer to be wrong but strangely I have been more than prescient in this matters. I am not celebrating as I realised that we dont have enough money to spend on defence let alone be wasteful due to indecisions or shehanigans.
Most of the fault for the delay, rest with the government (previous one) of course though BNS should share some of the blame as it promised the moon and the stars. While I understand the need to build up the local defense industry and create local jobs and economy, the needs of the Armed Forces should always come first. In the end, they will be the one to be blame of course – operating rusting buckets or flying coffins.
If only we had followed the Egypt route….
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