LIMA 2015: Malaysia looks to naval constraints
13th March 2015 - 9:07 by Dzirhan Mahadzir in Kuala Lumpur
LIMA 2015: Malaysia looks to naval constraints
Since the 2013 incursion by Sulu militants, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has had to focus on both blue water and brown water operations simultaneously. However, the need to procure small craft for operations in maintaining security for Eastern Sabah to prevent a repeat of the 2013 budget has not impacted the navyís blue-water procurement plans as funding for operations in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone comes out of a special allocation rather than the navyís allocation under the defence budget.
As in other areas financial considerations are effecting the RMNís plans. This includeds cancelling two batch 2 Lekiu class frigates in 2009 though the RMN was compensated by the subsequent go-ahead for the six Littoral Combat Ships being built by Boustead Heavy Industry Corporation (BHIC) with technical assistance by Franceís DCNS.
At the same time, the procurement of a multi-role support ship still remains outstanding despite the loss of the LST KD Sri Inderpura in 2009 to a ship fire, which took away much of the RMNís amphibious operational capability. Even plans to buy second hands ships have been scuttled due to lack of funds, prior to their acquisition by Indonesia, the RMN had been keen to purchase the three Nakhoda Ragam class OPVs but were unable to persuade the government to release funds for them.
Given the situation it remains to be seen whether the RMNís request under the 11th Malaysia Plan of 2016-2020 will be fulfilled. The RMN has requested funding for some 36 programmes estimated to cost a total of RM10.181 billion. A full list of the programmes requested has not been publicly revealed but the Chief of the RMN, Adm Abdul Aziz Jaafar stated in his New Year address to the RMN on 7 January that among the programmes were: the procurement of eight missile corvettes and six anti-submarine helicopters; the service life extension and upgrade of the four Laksamana class; the procurement of small craft; and the replacement of obsolete missile and torpedo systems on existing RMN ships.
While it was unstated which missile and torpedo systems would be replaced, it is known that the obsolete Otomat anti-ship missile and Aspide surface to air systems on the Laksamanas are no longer in operation and these are likely to be replaced as part of the SLEP and upgrade of the Laksamana.
In addition it is likely that the RMN would also seek upgrades to its two Lekiu class frigates, that entered service in 1999 particularly the combat systems and the Sea Wolf missile system, given the UK plans to phase out the Sea Wolf in 2018, though the RMN could extend the service of the Sea Wolf if it draws on the RNís phased out stocks. The Laksamana class SLEP is likely to be approved given that it will be done locally, most likely with BHIC, which completed the SLEP for the Kasturi class corvettes.
On the eight missile corvettes, it would be difficult to see funding being approved given the costs, particularly with the ships specifications of being 75-100m in length and armed with anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare capabilities though there is the possibility that the Malaysian government may approve a lesser number to be built.
Additionally, the RMN is planning eight corvettes to replace its four Handalan and four Perdana Fast Attack Craft (Missile), all of which entered service in the 1970s. Koreaís DSME appears to be positioning itself for this requirement, having signed a contract on 24 November with Malaysiaís NMEL to provide six corvettes to the RMN subject to Malaysia initiating a purchase.
Interestingly the DSME/NMEL tie in only provides for six ships in contrast to the RMN request for eight, indicating that the companies expect the RMN to not get funding for the number of ships it is requesting for the programme.
Sources have stated that the RMN is considering China as a possible builder for the ships though this is likely to be controversial, given that it would be difficult to integrate the Chinese systems with the Western systems of the current RMN fleet though there is talk that the shipís hull and structure would be built in China with later installation of Western equipment in a Malaysian shipyard, while another alternative is having segments built in China and then constructed fully in a Malaysian shipyard.
While not being asked for under the RMNís 11th Plan funding requests, the Multi-Purpose Support Ship is being asked for as a part of an overall Malaysian Armed Forces request for funding given the tri-service nature of the ship, which would be carrying army troops and operating helicopters from the army and the RMAF though the cost of the programme again makes it open to question. DSME and DCNS have been offering Malaysia a scaled down version of their Dokdo and Mistral designs respectively.
LIMA 2015: Malaysia selects NSM, VL Mica for littoral combat ships
Dzirhan Mahadzir, Kuala Lumpur - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
19 March 2015
The Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship missile and MBDA VL Mica point defence missile system will equip Malaysia's Second Generation Patrol Vessel - Littoral Combat Ship (SGPV-LCS), Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) sources have told IHS Jane's , although the selection of both systems is awaiting final confirmation by the Malaysian government.
Malaysia has selected the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM), seen here being launched from the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) in 2014, for its Second Generation Patrol Vessel - Littoral Combat Ship. (US Navy)
The choice of the two systems reflects a compromise between the RMN and the Malaysian government, which had been sparring over the choice of guided weapon systems for the SGPV-LCS programme since 2012.
Following receipt of a letter of award (LoA) in December 2011, Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Malaysia's BHIC group, was in July 2014 awarded a MYR9 billion (USD2.4 billion) contract for the design and construction of the six SGPV-LCS vessels.
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Malaysia plans to upgrade four Kedah-class corvettes for ASW role
Ridzwan Rahmat, Singapore - IHS Jane's Navy International
23 April 2015
A Kedah-class corvette, KD Pahang, pictured during sea trials. Source: PSC-ND
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) plans to upgrade four of its Kedah (Meko 100 RMN)-class corvettes for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, an RMN official has confirmed.
The RMN operates six Kedah-class vessels, which were commissioned between June 2006 and December 2010. The vessels are based on the Blohm+Voss MEKO 100 design and were built by local prime contractor Penang Shipbuilding & Construction (now Boustead Naval Shipyard) in partnership with a German naval consortium.
To achieve the ASW upgrade, the RMN is proposing to equip the four vessels with torpedo launchers, towed array and hull-mounted sonars, and equipment to support the operation of an ASW helicopter, the official told the annual OPVs & Corvettes Asia Pacific conference in Singapore.
The other two vessels-in-class will be upgraded for anti-surface warfare (ASuW) operations. The RMN has said that it plans to equip the ships with an organic helicopter and surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles.
However, the service declined to give further details on systems being considered for both the ASW and ASuW upgrades. "We have given our recommendations on the type of equipment that the vessels need, but approval will depend on funding and other requirements from the headquarters," said the official.
According to IHS Jane's Fighting Ships , the Kedah-class is currently armed with an Otobreda 76 mm main gun, one 30 mm gun, and two 12.7 mm machine guns. The RMN has not indicated which ships will be upgraded for the ASW and ASuW roles.
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UDT Asia: Malaysia endures submarine unavailability
11th January 2017 - 12:00
by Dzirhan Mahadzir in Kuala Lumpur
The Royal Malaysian Navy is due to start the overhaul of its second Scorpene-class submarine KD Tun Razak in June.
This means that the RMN will only be operating one submarine until the end of 2019, which shows the limitation of having a fleet of just two submarines.
The overhaul will begin after the first boat, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, which entered its unavailability stage in November 2015, returns to active operations with the fleet later this year after its own overhaul, allowing Tun Razak to go into port.
Under the programme one boat is overhauled before work commences on the other, thus ensuring that the RMN has at least one submarine available for operations. Given that the time period for each submarine’s unavailability is roughly 19 months, this means that for three years the RMN will only have one submarine available for operations, at best.
In November 2015 the RMN signed a dual contract valued at $187 million and $102 million respectively to Boustead DCNS Naval Corporation, for this work. The latter is a joint subsidiary set up by Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation and DCNS to provide support for Malaysia’s two submarines.
Submarines remain an important asset, however. The RMN’s ‘15-to-5’ fleet plan released in 2016 aims to streamline the RMN’s main ship classes down to five types, and submarines are listed as one of these classes.
Additionally, the fleet plan postulated an extra two submarines to give the RMN a total of four boats. However, it has to be borne in mind that the ‘15-to-5’ plan represents the navy’s goal rather than a firm plan with a set timeframe and budgetary allocation.
Given the financial limitations facing Malaysia, the continuing depreciation of the national currency and the cost of submarines, such an ideal fleet of four submarines is unlikely to be achieved anytime soon. Furthermore, until the end of 2019 the RMN will be constrained by having only a single submarine available.
Malaysian naval power suffers budget woes
By: Mike Yeo, March 17, 2017 (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Commonwealth of Australia)
This is the second of a two-part special series on Malaysia’s air and naval requirements and ongoing procurement programs in the lead up to the country's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, which will be held on the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi on March 21-25, 2017.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Malaysia’s centerpiece plan for the restructure and recapitalization of its Navy has also been adversely affected by the country’s budget woes, leaving most of it underfunded or unfunded altogether.
The so-called 15-to-5 plan, unveiled in 2015, calls for a reduction of the Royal Malaysian Navy order of battle from 15 to five classes of ships and submarines, which it hopes will trim sustainment costs by retiring older ships and reducing the number of ship classes operated by the RMN by 2030.
The five ship classes will ideally consist of 12 French-designed*littoral combat ships, 18 Kedah-class offshore patrol vessels, 18 Chinese-designed littoral mission ships, three multirole support ships of an as-yet undetermined design and four submarines.
Of these, only six lightly-armed Kedah-class offshore patrol vessels are already in service together with two French Scorpene diesel-electric submarines. Malaysia has also ordered six littoral combat ships based on the French Gowind 2500 design under a $2 billion contract signed in 2011, with two ships in various stages of construction at Malaysia’s Boustead Naval Shipyard.
The 3,000-ton ships will be armed with the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile and MBDA’s vertical launch MICA for anti-ship and anti-aircraft work respectively, along with 57mm and 30mm guns as well as torpedo tubes. The first ship is expected to be delivered to the RMN in late 2019 or early 2020.
Malaysia is also pressing forward with its Littoral Mission Ship program, signing a contract in early November 2016 with China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense for an initial four ships with two built by Boustead and the other two in China.
Neither the design of the ship nor the contract value has been disclosed, although it is known that the ships only will be equipped with guns; they will also be fitted for additional weapons and sensors, but budget constraints may affect their equipping. Under the 15-to-5 plan, these ships will replace a number of vessel classes currently in the RMN including the RMN’s Laksamana-class corvettes.
However, Malaysian defense analyst Dzirhan Mahadzir told Defense News that the RMN’s priority should still be the introduction of multirole support ships or MRSS, citing the strategic sealift capability gap left by the loss of the former U.S. Navy Newport News-class landing ship tank KD Sri Inderapura following an onboard fire in 2009.
Mahadzir noted that the MRSS also “will allow the RMN to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations more effectively and also move troops and equipment in large quantity where airlift is not possible or available."
Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL signed a memorandum of understanding with Boustead in late 2016 to collaborate on Malaysia's MRSS program, which will be based on the Maksassar-class design used by the navies of Indonesia and the Philippines.
To sum up, it must be noted that Malaysia’s most immediate and pressing security challenges are in the maritime domain. In addition to the spillover of lawlessness and banditry from the southern Philippines into its eastern states, Malaysia*—*like neighboring Indonesia and Singapore*—*has had to grapple with piracy off its coastline in both the Malacca Straits and South China Sea.
This is on top of the need to patrol the offshore oil and gas fields that form a significant part of the country’s revenue stream, and to enforce its claims to the disputed islands and features of the South China Sea. With no end to its budgetary squeeze in sight, the RMN may find itself forced to sustain a shrinking pool of elderly vessels, casting further doubt on Malaysia’s ability to secure its own waters.
LIMA 2017: Malaysian ASW helicopters depend on budget
20th March 2017 - 6:00
by Dzirhan Mahadzir in Kuala Lumpur
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN)'s future acquisition of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters remains subject to government affordability, said the Chief of the RMN, Adm Ahmad Kamarulzaman.
Speaking at a press conference on 7 March, and in reply to a question by Shephard as to the status of the requirement, he said, 'It is in the plan, as we have always said, but obviously the plan is based on the affordability of the government in regard to implementing the programme.'
The RMN has a long-term requirement for at least six ASW helicopters, although no formal programme or tender has emerged yet.
Additionally, when asked about the RMN's plans for the Sea Skua missile following the Royal Navy's withdrawal of its own missiles, the navy chief stated that the RMN will eventually have to retire the Sea Skuas it currently uses on its Super Lynx helicopters.
'Over time, we will also have to do that. It is part of managing obsolescenceÖit is something we will have to manage with the UK government as well, and we are in discussions over the options.'
He added that no options had yet been identified for the Sea Skua replacement.
LIMA 2017: Malaysia could train Saudi submariners
19th March 2017 - 22:00
by Dzirhan Mahadzir in Kuala Lumpur
Discussions about Malaysia providing submarine training to Saudi Arabia are at a preliminary stage, and nothing has been finalised yet, the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Adm Ahmad Kamarulzaman, revealed.
On 2 March, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein issued a statement saying that, as part of current Malaysia-Saudi Arabia defence cooperation efforts, Malaysia had offered the sharing of expertise and training for members of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) in regard to operating submarines.
Speaking at a press conference on 7 March, Kamarulzaman stated that the RMN had excess capacity in its submarine training infrastructure located at RMN Kota Kinabalu, since the training facilities there were designed to meet the needs of a full squadron of six submarines. Currently, the RMN only operates two Scorpene submarines.
Kamarulzaman added that the RMN had the equipment and simulators to provide a full-force training programme. He also said it was too early to comment on potential RSNF numbers that could be trained.
'At this stage, we are looking at the figures. Obviously, we would not be at the moment able to train huge numbers, but in the initial stage there is not a problem at all for initial training for basic submariners,' he said.
Kamarulzaman declined to reveal the number of submariners that the RMN Submarine Training Centre produces annually, but an RMN press release on 21 December 2016 announced that 18 personnel (four officers and 14 other ranks) had obtained Level 1 Submarine Qualification and Dolphin badges.
The RMN has four levels of submarine qualification, with level 1 being crew qualified, level 2 being instructor level, level 3 for heads of department and level 4 for submarine commanding officers.
The press release also stated the training centre to date had trained 209 RMN personnel to various levels of qualification and expertise. It did not state when the centre began training operations, but a 2013 news report stated then RMN Chief Adm Aziz Jaafar as saying it began training personnel in April 2011, and that the submarine qualification course lasted 18-24 months.
LIMA 2017: China and Boustead get set on LMS start line
23rd March 2017 - 8:30
by Gordon Arthur in Langkawi
More details about Malaysia's purchase of an initial batch of four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) from China emerged at the LIMA 2017 exhibition in Langkawi.
The first two LMS vessels with a full load displacement of 710t will be constructed in China. Boustead Holdings, a subsidiary of the Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) is expected to hold about 60% of a joint venture with the Chinese partner, will be responsible for completing the next two.
China is expected to deliver its part of the bargain in 2019 and 2020, while Boustead should deliver its vessels in 2021.
Abdul Aziz bin Ahmad, head of Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC), of which the Boustead Naval Shipyard is part, told Shephard that the Chinese deliveries are expected before Malaysia constructs its vessels. This sequence should allow kinks to be ironed out.
The four-year deal for four LMSs is valued at MYR1.17 billion ($264 million) and a letter of acceptance from the Ministry of Defence was reportedly accepted on 17 March.
A contract with China was signed in early November 2016. Shephard understands that the deal took the RMN somewhat by surprise, since a Chinese-designed warship was not favoured as an option.
Indeed, the deal with China, signed by Prime Minister Najib Razak during a visit to Beijing, was undoubtedly a political decision although cost was a major contributing factor.
The RMN is nevertheless putting a brave face on it. Chief of Navy Adm Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin stated, 'The LMS programme will cost us 20% of the Littoral Combat Ship budget, but the LMS will be able to perform 80% of LCS duties.'
The LMS has two rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) stowed on the stern, these being suitable for rapid interdictions of suspicious vessels within Malaysia's EEZ. The RHIBs are launched via a stern ramp. The ship can also accommodate containerised mission modules.
The design is 68m long, has a beam of 9.2m and a draught of 2.7m. Specifications available from Boustead revealed a 2,000nm range, endurance of 15 days and maximum speed of 22kt.
The LMS will have a complement of 45, as well as berths for 15 extra passengers. The main weapon is a 30mm cannon, supported by 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine guns.
A BNS spokesperson also said that weapons and other ship systems were in the process of being selected, but that no details were yet available. However, it is known that the vessels will be fitted with MTU engines.
When asked whether the integration of Western weapons and various systems would be problematic on a Chinese design, the representative denied any difficulties.
However, Shephard remains sceptical that the process will be straightforward, even though the LMS is a relatively simple warship. Throw into the mix the fact that this is China's first major defence sale to Malaysia too.
To meet its programme commitments, China Shipbuilding and Offshore International is contemplating establishing an office in Malaysia.
Under the '15-to-5' plan unveiled in 2015, the RMN's order of battle will reduce to five main ship classes. The LMS will play an important role in this plan, with a total of 18 ships expected to be commissioned in coming years.
LIMA 2017: Malaysian shipbuilders plough ahead
27th March 2017 - 9:10
by Gordon Arthur in Langkawi
Progress in shipbuilding, rather than the aerospace industry, was most observable at the LIMA 2017 exhibition in Langkawi, with some naval projects making significant progress.
These include the Second Generation Patrol Vessel - Littoral Combat Ship (SGPV-LCS), new coast guard OPVs and plans for multirole ships.
Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) is constructing six 3,100t SGPV-LCS vessels. Abdul Aziz bin Ahmad, head of Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC), told Shephard that the first of class will be launched in August and that it would definitely be delivered in time for LIMA 2019.
The hull is in the construction phase and the majority of the ship's equipment is ready to be installed.
The second and third SGPV-LCS vessels are also under construction. The keel for the second vessel's hull was laid on 28 February and is 30% complete.
Aziz said he expected follow-on boats to be completed on a rolling drumbeat every 10 months, with construction speeding up as BNS's experience grows.
The SGPV-LCS for the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) measures 111m long and it is based on DCNS's Gowind 2500 design. A $2 billion contract was signed in 2011. As part of the RMN's '15-to-5' plan, the navy eventually wants to field 12 of this class.
Elsewhere, Malaysia has long professed a desire for multirole ships for the RMN. Such platforms are necessary for moving equipment between Peninsula and East Malaysia, amphibious operations and for providing a versatile capability for disaster relief missions.
Malaysia has lacked a strategic sealift capability gap since the loss of the landing ship tank KD Sri Inderapura owing to a fire in 2009.
The leading contender to build three so-called Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) is a tie-up between Malaysian shipyard Boustead and PT PAL of Indonesia. The two signed an MoU on 2 November 2016 at the Indo Defence exhibition.
The MRSS, an evolution of the Indonesian Navy's Makassar class, displaces 12,000t and Is 163m in length. Data shown at LIMA listed a cruising speed of 18kt, and accommodation for 140 crew and 500 troops.
It can accommodate four helicopters (two in hangars and two on the flight deck), as well as up to 16 main battle tanks and six other armoured vehicles. Its well deck can host two landing craft, plus two rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) are mounted on davits.
The MRSS will have a medium-calibre gun (either 57mm or 76mm), two 30mm cannons and four 12.7mm machine guns.
A PT PAL spokesman said it has not yet been decided whether they would be built in Indonesia or Malaysia.
Notably, the Indonesian Navy brought KRI Banjarmasin, its third Makassar-class landing platform dock (LPD) on which the MRSS is based, to LIMA 2017.
A spokesman from PT PAL told Shephard that it will hand over similar ships to the Philippine Navy. The Philippine's second LPD is due in May, if not sooner. The Philippine ships, 2m shorter than Indonesia examples, are based on the same Makassar-class platform. The Philippines holds an option for two more vessels too.
It is unclear when funding for the MRSS will be allocated, as the project depends on the financial health of the government coffers, especially as the SGPV-LCS and four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) from China have been prioritised.
China, fresh from its surprising success in scooping a contract for the aforementioned LMS, may fancy its chances of supplying an LPD-type vessel instead of Boustead/PT PAL. The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) exhibited a scale model of a 20,000t LPD at LIMA 2017, while another Chinese shipbuilder showed a similarly sized landing helicopter dock.
Elswhere, TH Heavy Engineering (THHE), a Malaysian company that normally builds offshore oil/gas rigs, is responsible for building three 1,900t OPVs for the Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) that are based on the Damen 1800 design from the Netherlands.
THHE formed a joint venture with Destini on 27 October 2016, of which the latter holds a 51% share. A $165.5 million contract for the OPVs was awarded on 18 January 2017.
Construction of the 83m-long ships (a scale model is pictured above) is expected to commence at THHE's Pulau Indah shipyard in September and all are slated for delivery within 3.5 years.
The OPVs, the largest vessels ever operated by the MMEA, will have a 4,500nm range and an endurance of 21 days. The builder stated, 'The OPVs are capable in patrolling Malaysia's coasts in all weather conditions.'
Each ship will have a flight deck, able to handle up to a 7.5t helicopter such as the AW139 used by the MMEA, but no hangar. With the ability to land and refuel helicopters, a surveillance capability such as UAVs is not considered necessary for these OPVs.
The class will also carry one fast interceptor boat, a RHIB and two jet skis useful for interdicting suspected boats.
The OPV will be powered by four Caterpillar diesels to give a top speed of 20kt. Crewed by 70 personnel, they will be fitted with an Aselsan 30mm SMASH cannon and a 12.7mm machine gun, as well as fire hoses.
Finally, in this round-up of Malaysian shipbuilding, Destini is building six New Generation Patrol Craft for the MMEA. The first, KM Bagan Datak, was commissioned on 15 March and appeared at LIMA 2017.