KUALA LUMPUR: IT appears with the LCS/Laksamana class programme underway (sort of), the RMN is pushing for the upgrades to the Kedah class ships for the second part of RMK10.
RMN chief Tan Sri Aziz Jaafar made clear the priority during an interview ahead of the 79th anniversary of the service at the ministry today (Apr 15, 2013). Due to the GE13, the celebrations this year will be a low key affair.
He said the main priority of the upgrades wil be to the EADS 3D radar and the fitting of a surface-to-surface missile (SSM). The SSM is expected but upgrades to the radar is somewhat puzzling as when queried he said it was a good radar.
According to him one of the Kedah class ships (probably KD Perak) tracked the Chinese amohibious ships which sailed as far as James shoal late last month. Perhaps as I had reported before the navy had problems with the 3D radar (too many modes as sugggested by Azlan) but it appears that RMN wants a major software/hardware update or even a completely new radar.
As for the SSM, the chatter at LIMA was that since the LCS/Laksamana class will be fitted with the Exocet Mk 3, the Kedah class will be fitted with the Kongsberg NSM, the RMN preferred solution going forward.
Asked whether the upgrades will include SAM, the Chief said yes, they would like them as well as long as funds were available as the main priorities were the radar and SSMs. Since the Armed Forces is allergic to anything MBDA, RAM remained the most probable way to go on this route.
BTW, it appears that the Chief has lost some enthusiasm to take over the Oliver Hazard Perry frigates to be decommissioned by the US Navy this year. Last year at the same interview, he was more enthusiastic about it. This time around, although a team had been set-up to oversee the project, Abdul Aziz also said that another team was tasked to oversee the main engines of the frigates. He noted that RMN had not had recent experience with gas turbines and this was something they had to consider before finalising the deal.
Although he did not say it loudly, I am assuming that unless the Government forced the RMN to buy the frigates and even an LPD, it will quietly ignore the issue altogether.
Perhaps if the US Navy decide to cut lose its LCS, perhaps RMN will be interested again. The RMN also hopes that funds will be released to recapitalise its FAC fleet. The new ships should be between 50 to 75 metres for better endurance and seakeeping. A more heavily armed version of the Samudera training ships is the preferred solution though the RMN is open to any options.
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