The model of Malaysia's Next Generation Patrol Vessel - NGPV batch II (photo : KLSR)
KUALA LUMPUR: The grounding and training provided for our submariners are of such high quality that Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) crew were invited to serve with the French navy.
RMN chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said the exposure given to its submariners was so thorough that the French navy was willing to have them aboard their submarines.
"This shows the level of competency our crew have attained, and the credibility they have achieved during their stint in France."
Abdul Aziz was referring to the 500-odd RMN crew trained in Brest, France initially in the Agosta training vessel before being deployed into the two Scorpene SSK submarines -- all three vessels of which were procured under a total package worth RM3.42 billion in 2006.
Technical training was also provided by the French shipbuilder, DCNS, at Cherbourg, and its Spanish partner, Navantia at Cartagena.
The first Scorpene submarine, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, arrived here on Sept 3 last year, while the second, KD Tun Razak, is expected to arrive in the middle of this year.
"We are very committed and dedicated to ensure that the submarine programme, a strategic asset for the country, continues with minimal hitches," he said in conjunction with the 76th RMN Day which falls today.For that reason, he added, the navy was also urgently scouting for a submarine escape-and- rescue vessel.
"Its presence will provide a psychological confidence to submariners."
Abdul Aziz added that despite the financial constraints, the RMN was bent on ensuring that Malaysia's coastline, maritime strategic interests, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), territorial waters and islands were secured.
The RMN, he said, was also prepared to defend the nation against seaborne threats.
"I believe if our men's and women's interests are looked after, morale will be high and they will serve the country to the best of their ability."
It is understood that the RMN's future fleet programme includes a second batch of Lekiu-class frigates, New-Generation Patrol Vessels (NGPV), Multi-Purpose Support Ships (MPSS), maritime patrol aircraft and anti-aircraft/ship/submarine warfare helicopters.
The RMN's ultimate goal is to have six-vessel squadrons of each class by the year 2020.
Abdul Aziz added that the emphasis was for RMN to procure assets on a common platform policy to facilitate affordable maintenance and servicing, improve readiness and optimise available resources.
"Such assets will boost our capability to protect our 3,000km coastline, the 400km separating the peninsula and East Malaysia, and the Straits of Malacca as one of the world's busiest sea lanes."
In 1996, a total of 27 Meko 100 NGPVs were built in Lumut, Perak, to fulfil the RMN's requirements.
An initial contract for six NGPV vessels (which have since been reconfigured as littoral combatant ships), was clinched and five -- KD Kedah, KD Pahang, KD Perak, KD Terengganu and KD Kelantan -- have been commissioned since June 2006.
On the MPSS procurement, Abdul Aziz said the navy was also considering those from South Korea and China which offered competitive and high-quality vessels.
The RMN now has 42 vessels after 17 were handed over to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
On the RMN auxiliary ship Bunga Mas 5, Abdul Aziz said it played a pivotal role in protecting Malaysian commercial vessels plying the Gulf of Aden since being deployed there under Ops Fajar in June last year.
Bunga Mas 5, equipped with combat capability and special forces on board, undertook a six-month stint in the gulf.
"Its deployment has been very effective. There are no more hijackings since the two incidents involving MISC vessels last year," he added.(New Strait Times)