21 Mei 2015
RSS Kallang sailing off on 31 Dec 2014, as part of the Underwater Search Task Group, to join the multinational AirAsia search operations. (all photos : Sing Mindef)
For 194 SQN and the MCMVs, eliminating threats under the sea and ensuring that the sea lanes are clear of mines will always be their primary mission, no matter how arduous and long the process may be.
The recent upgrades have breathed new life into the ships, which were commissioned in 1995. They have also been a morale booster to the MCMV crew, allowing them to operate more efficiently and focus more on getting the mission done.
"In the past, I might need 24 hours to clear a certain area. I can do so now in half that time with a greater level of confidence, as my sonars are much more effective," said MAJ Ng.
He added: "Our slogan is 'Safe in our wake', meaning that where an MCMV has been, it is safe to follow behind. 194 SQN may be a relatively small unit, but one with a niche capability that has a huge significance.
"Mine-countering is a very specialised area of expertise, and nobody else in Singapore has this capability except us."
The first ship of its class (the Bedok-class MCMV), RSS Bedok, was commissioned in 1995.
The MCMVs were named after coastal towns in Singapore. It is a worldwide tradition for MCMVs to be named after coastal towns. Bedok, Kallang, Punggol and Katong happened to be the four coastal towns in Singapore, before reclamation was done.
The hull of the MCMV is made of plastic. The MCMV is made of Glass-Reinforced Polyester, commonly known as fibre-glass. As mines are mainly designed to target ships, which are essentially big pieces of floating steel, a plastic hull prevents the MCMV from emitting the typical metallic signature which would trigger mines.
The MCMVs' proportions are similar to those of commercial tugboats. This allows the MCMVs to be highly manoeuvrable so that they can easily weave in and out of hard-to-access areas while scanning for sea mines.
Upgrades List of the MCMV's
Check out some of the upgrades and new technology that boost the MCMV's operational capabilities.
25mm Typhoon Naval Stabilised Gun System
Replacing the 40mm BOFORS L70 gun, the Typhoon gun fires more accurately and puts the crew at less risk as it can be operated remotely from within the ship. As the MCMV is not typically used for naval battles, the gun is to help defend it against small boat attacks.
Mine Hunting Sonar (MHS)
The eye of the MCMV, the MHS is hull-mounted and lowered through the keel to scan for mine-like objects in the water. The upgraded MHS scans twice as deep and twice as wide compared to its predecessor, providing a much clearer picture of underwater objects.
K-STER Expendable Mine Disposal System (EMDS)
This remotely operated vehicle replaces its predecessor, the Mine Disposal Vehicle. The K-STER EMDS consists of two variants: the K-STER I and K-STER C. Equipped with a camera for live video streaming and a sonar, the K-STER I is mainly used to take a closer look at a mine-like object before a decision is made whether to blow it up. In this case, the K-STER C will be activated.
Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (TSAS)
This yellow torpedo-like sonar works by being towed from the back of the MCMV. The TSAS has a wider detection range and can scan as close as just as a few metres above the seabed, allowing the MCMV to carry out underwater surveys at a much faster speed. Other advantages of the TSAS include being equipped with sensors to react accordingly when it senses obstructions, and providing sonar readings in colour. It often works in tandem with the MHS.
Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS)
This autonomous underwater vessel is an unmanned sonar which is launched from a sea boat or Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat. It can be deployed in areas that the MCMV is unable to enter, such as restricted areas and shallow waters.
Small and portable, the REMUS is useful as an added underwater search capability, easily transported by flight or from one ship to another. Its unmanned capability minimises the risk to human lives, eliminating the need for personnel to step into the minefield to hunt for mines.
Since 2011, the REMUS has been taking part in an annual international mine counter-measure exercise held in Bahrain. These exercises provide exposure and enable the REMUS team to learn from and benchmark themselves against their United States and Australian counterparts. The REMUS was also involved in the search and locate operations for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 last December.