The RSN's first-of-class LMV, Independence, during its launch ceremony on 3 July 2015. (photo : Straits Times, Xinhua)
Singapore has launched the first of eight Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) on order for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).
The vessel, Independence , was launched on 3 July at ST Marine's shipyard in Benoi in a ceremony presided over by Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen.
Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) signed a contract for the LMVs in January 2013, with the ships replacing the RSN's 11 Fearless-class patrol boats (which have been in service since the mid-1990s). The LMV has been jointly designed by Saab Kockums AB and ST Marine, and is being built in Singapore by ST Marine. Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) is the overall manager and systems integrator for the programme.
The Independence class is fitted with one Oto Melara 76 mm main gun, two Oto Melara Hitrole 12.7 mm remote-controlled weapon stations (one each on the port and starboard sides), and a stern-facing Rafael 25 mm Typhoon gun system. Protection against hostile aircraft and missiles is provided by MBDA's VL Mica anti-air missile system deployed via a 12-cell vertical launching system (VLS) in the forward section.
The platform's non-lethal options are provided by two water cannon and two remote-controlled long-range acoustic device (LRAD) system turrets with integrated xenon lights.
The sensor suite includes the Thales NS100 3D surveillance radar, Kelvin Hughes' SharpEye navigation radar, and an electro-optical director and 360° surveillance system supplied by Stelop (a business unit of ST Electronics). In response to a question from IHS Jane's , the RSN confirmed that the LMV does not have an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.
The 1,250-tonne ship has a length of 80 m, a beam of 12 m, and a draught of 3 m. It has a top speed in excess of 27 kt and a range of 3,500 n miles on an endurance of 14 days.
The LMV can embark a medium-lift helicopter on its flight deck. It also features a launch-and-recovery system (provided by Norwegian Deck Machinery) that can accommodate at the stern two rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) or the Protector unmanned surface vessel (USV). The LMV has a baseline crew complement of 23, including five officers.
A concept that is being proven out in the RSN for the first time is the LMV's integrated command centre, which co-locates the ship's bridge, combat information centre (CIC), and machinery control spaces.
"The integrated command centre integrates and synergises the management of navigation, engineering, and combat functions to achieve greater operational effectiveness and efficiency, especially during maritime security operations", said MINDEF. This approach mirrors that adopted on the US Navy's Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
The LMV's launch-and-recovery system, located at the stern, can accommodate up to two RHIBs or the Protector unmanned surface vessel (USV). (photo : IHS Jane's)
Also fitted is a remote monitoring system that allows for real-time reporting of serviceability data. "The ship's platform and combat systems' health status can also be transmitted back to shore for centralised monitoring and prognosis of the systems to detect anomalies and plan for pre-emptive maintenance," said MINDEF.
To maximise versatility, the LMV has been configured to deploy a range of containerised mission packages such as a medical module to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations. The platform can also deploy unmanned systems for surveillance and mine countermeasures (MCM) operations.
Following the launch, Independence will undergo a combat system installation period, and will then start sea trials. The vessel is scheduled for delivery in 2016 and is expected to be fully operational by 2017. All eight LMVs are expected to achieve full operational capability by 2020.
Concepts such as the integrated command centre exemplify the RSN's service-wide effort to reduce manpower requirements. In an interview in the Singapore Armed Forces' publication Pioneer in May 2015, chief of navy Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han highlighted the republic's dwindling birth-rate as a challenge facing the service.
Other recent efforts to ease the manpower burden include the deployment on board RSN vessels of unmanned systems, such as the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).
The LMV's lack of organic ASW capability, in contrast to its sonar-equipped predecessors, suggests that the RSN is now relying on its Formidable-class frigates as the service's main submarine prosecutors. It could also be an indication that the RSN may employ helicopter-based submarine prosecution capabilities for the LMVs.