19 Mei 2014

Modernization of Malaysian Navy

19 Mei 2014

DCNS has offered a downsized variant of ‘Mistral’ class to replace KD Sri Inderapura (photo : Malaysian Defence)

Malaysia’s physical geography, divided between a peninsular and the island of Borneo, creates a unique set of defence challenges for the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) that is armed with a disparate range of weapons. Yet recent events have reminded the country of the need to modernise its equipment.

Malaysia’s proposed 2014 core defence budget has increased by six percent to $5.1 billion. However, just $868 million of this will go towards new equipment, despite current security threats.

Gowind class Littoral Combat Ship (photo : Navy Recognition)

The Royal Malaysian Navy’s (RMN) biggest acquisition programme revolves around six Second-Generation Patrol Vessel-Littoral Combat Ships (SGPV-LCS) to be built by Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) located in Lumut, Perak. Based on its ‘Gowind’ class design, DCNS shipbuilders of France is providing technical assistance to Boustead for the project. The SGPV-LCS follows on from the ‘Kedah’ class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) used by the RMN, but the design is bigger and better armed. The corvette’s armament is expected to include the MBDA Mica surface-to-air missile (SAM), Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missile, two torpedo launchers, BAE Systems Bofors Mk3 57 millimetre (two-inch) guns and two 30mm MSI Defence cannons. The ships will feature Thales Smart-S Mk2 radar and CAPTAS-2 towed-array sonar. Construction should start this year, and delivery of the first example is slated for 2018.

Samudera class training vessel (photo : Malaysian Defence)

These vessels are desperately needed as the navy is suffering under a high operational tempo that is apparently affecting morale. A limited number of hulls make it difficult to meet all obligations. One such task is Operation Fajar, the anti-piracy escort mission in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea for Malaysian-flagged cargo ships. Ongoing since 2008, the government recently renewed this commitment until at least June 2014. Because of a lack of suitable vessels, the RMN acquired two converted container ships (MT Bunga Mas 5 and MT Bunga Mas 6 in 2008 and 2011 respectively) to support Operation Fajar.

In other construction news, Selangor-based NGV Tech has built two 76-metre (249-feet)-long ‘Samudera’ class training vessels for the RMN. The local shipbuilder collaborated with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) of the Republic of Korea (RoK) in their technical development. The second vessel was launched in February 2013 as part of the $96.1 million contract signed in 2011, and it should commission by the middle of 2014. The navy chief has called for the procurement of two more armed ships based on this type to help overcome a platform shortfall, but no movement has occurred to date.

Kongsberg NSM, anti-ship missile with operasional range 185 km (photo : Lukasz Pacholski)

The earlier ‘Kedah’ class Next Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV) programme delivered six vessels based on the Blohm and Voss ‘Meko-A100’ class OPV design. From the third NGPV onwards the ships were constructed locally, but the lightly-armed fleet could be upgraded with anti-ship missiles in the future. There is also speculation that the RMN has a preference for Kongsberg Naval Strike Missiles (NSM).

Two ‘Kasturi’ class frigates are undergoing a Service Life Extension Programme (SLEP) to enable 15 more years of service. KD Kasturi rejoined the fleet in January 2014, and her sister is now undergoing a SLEP at the hands of BNS; she should begin sea trials by late 2014. The SLEP overhauls the engines, replaces the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, and an Atlas Elektronik DSQS-24C hull-mounted sonar is fitted. The frigates now have eight Exocet MM40 Block 2 missile launchers, two EuroTorp AS244 torpedo launchers, a Bofors 57mm Mk1 gun and two MSI Defence 30mm cannons. Thales’ TACTICOS is the ships’ new combat management system.

Laksamana class corvettes will be refitted as FAC-G (photo : pertahanan pertiwi)

In further refurbishment work, four ‘Laksamana’ class corvettes will be refitted and re-designated as Fast Attack Craft (Gun). Their outdated missile systems have been retired, their torpedo launchers removed, and they will rely on 76mm (three-inch) and 40mm guns as their armament.

Malaysia obtained two DCNS ‘Scorpene’ class submarines in 2009, though their upkeep continues to drain money from the RMN budget. These 1,550-tonne submarines based at Sepanggar in East Malaysia are equipped with Exocet SM39 Block 2 missiles and Whitehead Black Shark torpedoes.

Scorpene class diesel submarine (photo : wazari wazir)

Since 2008 Malaysia has had a requirement for a large-displacement Multipurpose Support Ship (MPSS) for peacekeeping and humanitarian-assistance duties. This need became more acute in 2009 when the navy’s solitary amphibious-warfare ship (KD Sri Inderapura) was engulfed by fire. France has offered an amphibious support ship based on a downsized variant of DCNS’s ‘Mistral’ class design while the RoK is offering a smaller version of the ‘Dokdo’ class amphibious support vessel. The USA has also proffered the USS Denver ‘Austin’ class amphibious support ship as a hot transfer once she decommissions in 2014. The MPSS project has been deferred indefinitely but it may be reinstated in the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (11MP) governmental spending programme in the 2016-20 timeframe.

The Sabah confrontation demonstrated the RMN’s need to boost its asymmetric capabilities. Consequently, it is deploying locally built fast interceptor craft to East Malaysia. The RMN has three regional naval commands, but a fourth will be added at the planned Bintulu naval base in Sarawak, according to the RMN chief. “It will be a major effort there and we are currently in discussion with both the federal and state government there as to the size and development of the base and its facilities,” said ADM Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar. Bintulu will be the closest facility to the James Shoal.

Sikorsky offers MH-60R Seahawk as ASW helicopter (photo : US Navy)

The RMN operates six AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300 and six Airbus Helicopters AS555 Fennec maritime support rotorcraft. However, the navy further requires at least six maritime support helicopters, most likely to be procured under the 11MP. Christophe Nurit, Sikorsky’s vice president in Asia, told AMR, “Malaysia has a stated requirement for anti- submarine warfare helicopters. We’re supporting the US Navy to offer the MH-60R Seahawk.”

Maritime surveillance is critical to the country’s security, so the RMN wants organic Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). Up to four are required, though four Beechcraft B200T MPAs of the RMAF are presently performing long-range patrols. Eight US-funded coastal surveillance radar stations have been incrementally established on the Sabah coast as part of a counterterrorism initiative. Able to track boats up to 38nm (70km) offshore, this radar network could expand still further in the future.

(Asian Military Review)

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