The recent announcement by Defence Minister Dato Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi regarding the intended construction of six Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) by Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) at an estimated cost of RM6 billion has generated enough debate by the opposition, bloggers, defence analyst, ordinary man on the streets, and the latest being the Navy Chief himself. I view this as a healthy debate as it only shows that Malaysians are alert concern with the developments surrounding them, and more so if it involves public spending; especially that of defence spending.
As a retired military person, I would not hesitate to support the local defence industry and particularly if it involves high technology transfers. In the case of the construction of the LCS, or for that matter any other navy vessels, one must understand that Malaysia seriously needs to a strong navy as the country is a maritime nation.
Malaysia has several ship building companies, but the construction of a navy vessel is not as simple as building a leisure yacht or even a cruise ship. This is something that is not well understood by most people, as a navy vessel is grossly different for other ship. I think the Navy Chief in his press conference held today has enumerated in great detail as to why the cost of building the LCS locally is exorbitant.
One ought to be aware that although BNS has recently delivered Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), this does not mean that they are now competent and are experts in building more sophisticated navy vessels. Indeed, if one were to understand what an LCS entails and the technology that goes into building such a vessel, one will at once realize the substantial differences in the makeup and configuration of the OPV and the LCS. More significantly, the OPV and LCS have vastly different roles and tasks.
I am informed that BNS would be collaborating with a number of established internationally renowned shipbuilding companies. This in itself is already a costly affair as it also involves technology transfers and various aspects of sophisticated equipment integration that would make the LCS a awesome fighting navy vessel.
I believe the idea of building the LCS locally is not something that had just appeared from the sky. It must have gone through long drawn discussions, fore thought and taking cognizance of the long drawn development plan of the RMN. Let's hope too that once the LCS has been successfully built, Malaysian can proudly say that the country now has the full capacity to built larger and more sophisticated navy vessels and ships, thus contributing to the defence self relience that the country aspires.
Our RMN truly deserve the best as its role in the defence of our sea frontier is critical to the defence of the mainland. You breach the sea frontier; you breach the mainland as well.
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