Wednesday, September 2, 2009


With the arrival of the countrys' first Scorpene submarine tomorrow September 3, 2009 at Port Klang, the Royal Malaysian Navy has now entered into a new dimension in maritime warfare. Being a maritime nation, the acquisition of the submarine though late, will heightened the defence posture of the navy of our territorial waters and beyond. This added dimension in naval warfare capabilities will not only influence the teachings at our naval institutions, but more significantly influence joint warfare studies at all Armed Forces institutions, where in the past submarine warfare particularly at the Armed Forces Staff College and the Defence College was purely academic and is of lesser importance.

The first submarine named after the nation's first Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman was jointly built by DCNS of France and Navantia of Spain. The second submarine expected to arrive in March next year is named after the second Prime Minister Tun Razak. The construction of both the submarines began in 2002 at a cost of a whooping RM 3.4 billion, that became a contentious issue by the opposition during the March 8, 2008 General Elections. Both the submarines will eventually be located at its new ultra modern base at Sepanggar Bay, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Here I wish to congratulate Cdr Zulhelmy Ithnain and his crew of 35 submariners for being the first group of submariners to form the RMN's submarine fleet, and this will be documented in the annals of the RMN; to be fondly remembered by the future generation of officers and men of the RMN.



FMZam said...

It is believed that the Challenger class were purchased to develop the required submarine operations expertise before selecting a modern class of submarines to replace them, since all the boats are over 40 years old.[9] The four submarines form the 171 Squadron of the RSN.

I cannot help but admire the way a young country developed its submarine fleet as appended above. That's the kind of pride we should be having, not to be proud of purchasing.

maurice said...

It is often said a navy would not be complete without a submarine force.The two submarines would provide a beginning to TLDM to start developing its underwater warfare capability in a serious way.

The nation in peace time look upon TLDM leadership to deploy the submarines in order to protect our immediate national interests and yet at the same time contributing to regional stability.

I guess it is a tall order which requires careful handling.

Congratulations TLDM.

maurice said...

After having read the technical description and latest state of the art systems installed in the Scorpne submarine (pls visit blog greatest challenge for TLDM in the immediate future would be to place the necessary support and maintenance facilities.

The extensive logistic support required hopefully will benefit local companies as I am sure the French manufacturer DCN is more than eager to transfer the technological know-how in the maintenance of the submarines to Malaysian companies.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF)should create a separate and independent budget for the submarine maintenance in order to be fair to the RMAF and especially to the Army.If lumped together under the budget of Mindef, I could forsee the Army will end up with nothing as the submarine maintenance cost is expected to eat most of Mindef's budget.

It is interesting to see how the Army leadership is going convince the Government to get the necessary funds to support its procurement plans with the submarine maintenance cost expected expected to take centre stage these days in Mindef's politics.

Major (Rtd) D.Swami said...

Whenever the Submarine is mentioned, I think of C4 and Altantuya, I think of the commission paid to Perimekar, a whooping RM500 million. The propulsion system can be easily detected. It will be a sitting duck for our next door neighbour, even before it takes off.Singapore's recent acquisition of submarines with air-independent propulsion is being matched by similar purchases by other regional navies.

They are part of a larger trend in regional naval expansion which could have far-reaching repercussions.

Recent reports about the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) acquisition of two used but refurbished Archer-class submarines from Sweden were not particularly newsworthy.

There was, however, one noteworthy admission by the RSN that was nearly buried in the news. These submarines have been outfitted with special engines for air-independent propulsion.

This is a means of powering conventional diesel-electric submarines without using their batteries or having to surface to recharge. It permits the sub to remain submerged for much longer periods, two to three weeks, as opposed to just a few days on battery power.

What is particularly astonishing about this disclosure is that these RSN submarines were not originally outfitted with such a capability. So, the RSN did not simply acquire these engines by happenstance of purchase.

Obviously, the Singaporean navy paid the Swedish submarine builder Kockums to do a retrofit, which involves literally cutting the hull in half and inserting these engines — no small feat.

In other words, this was a conscious effort by the RSN to get the most advanced conventional submarine they could. Singapore, therefore, has become the first country in the southern Asia-Pacific to acquire submarines with this capability.

By no means, however, will the RSN's acquisition be the only one in the region. Other Asian-Pacific navies are also acquiring similarly capable submarines.

True, they do extend the operational endurance and range of conventional diesel-electric submarines. However, all air-independent propulsion systems are only auxiliary power sources, intended to supplement normal diesel-electric propulsion. They do not have the speed of an electric motor or the endurance of a nuclear-powered submarine, which can remain submerged almost indefinitely.

It is, therefore, probably best suited for long-endurance silent running, hiding from threats and hunting prey. This gives the subs expanded capacities for operations like anti-submarine warfare or trailing surface ships.

They are also more capable of projecting power farther out into the open ocean. Consequently, they can do a better job patrolling sea lanes of communication or protecting exclusive economic zones.

At the very least, air-independent propulsion greatly expands the range of options and opportunities for the submarine forces of regional navies. At the moment, the number of such submarines, current or planned, does not appear to threaten a new mini-arms race.


Malaysia, which is acquiring two Scorpene submarines, has not bought the Mesma-equipped version (although after the Archer deal, future Malaysian sub purchases, if any, could include this option).

Such upgrades will result in increased capacities in long-range force projection, stealth, amphibious operations and precision-strike.

All these trends add up to something much more than the “mere” modernisation of naval forces. Depending on how these forces are utilised, they could have far-reaching repercussions on regional peace and stability. As such, these developments need to be studied for possibly negative consequences as well.

Luke said...

I would like to ask, why not purchase a sub with inter-continental missile ability. This would really be a strong deterrence to any invading forces. As it could hit important city of the enemy before they hit us.