Sunday, January 22, 2012

So It's 6 Littoral Combat Ships, Or Not?

The Ministry of Defence has been touting its latest acquisition of 6 second generation patrol vessels (SGPVs) as the purchase of the latest and most advanced "littoral combat ships" (LCS). It is also the justification for the ships to cost a total of RM6 billion, which was subsequently adjusted upwards to RM9 billion.

However after our clarification meeting between Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament - Saifuddin Nasution, Dzulkefli Ahmad and myself with the Minister of Defence, Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi and his officials, we have confirmed that we are not acquiring Littoral Combat Ships.

The Government has been justifying the cost of acquisition of the 6 ships by comparing against the United States LCS programme which cost between RM1.5 billion to RM2.5 billion per ship to claim that we are buying on the cheap at only RM1.5 billion per ship.

The LCS is a specific ship built by the United States (US) Navy and no other countries. The US current has only 2 LCS in service with orders for additional ships still under construction.

According to, the LCS is "a fast, highly manoeuverable, networked surface combat ship, which is a specialised variant of the family of US future surface combat ships... Both [ships] achieve sprint speeds of over 40knots and long-range transit distances of over 3,500 miles."

The Wikipedia entry notes that the LCS are able to "add the capabilities of a small assault transport with a flight deck and hangar large enough to base two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, the capability to recover and launch small boats from a stern ramp, and enough cargo volume and payload to deliver a small assault force with armoured fighting vehicles to a roll-on/roll-off port facility."

The reputable Defense Industry Daily also confirmed the LCS are "115 – 127 meters in length and 2,800 – 3,100 tons of displacement" and are differentiated from typical frigates by "their shallow water design and employment."

However, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed during our dialogue that the top speed for our SGPVs is only 28 knots and not 40-45 knots of the standard LCS. In addition, our ships will be shorter at 105 meters and does not have the long-range transit reach of 3,500 miles. Earlier announcements by Mindef have also confirmed that the ships will have a 2,500 tons of displacement, carry only an Eurocopter 725 each and does not have the capability to launch and recover small boats.

In fact the announcement by Mindef contractor Boustead Naval Shipyards on Bursa Malaysia last month and our meeting confirmed that we will be acquiring "Gowind Class Corvettes" from scandal-tainted French shipbuilder DCNS. It will certainly be a stretch of any military experts' imagination to equate our purchase of these SPGV Corvettes to the state of the art LCS.

We would like to once again thank Mindef for holding the dialogue with us 2 days ago for this information could not have been confirmed otherwise.

We would now like to call upon Mindef to "call a spade a spade" and stop the attempt to disguise our acquisition with fancy names to justify their substantial cost. The Gowind-class corvettes are not ships to be belittled and are powerful in their own ways which may serve the needs oe Malaysian Navy, but they are not by means the equivalent of LCS as trumpeted by the Minister and Government.


Anonymous said...

Speed in the water gets very expensive when you start going up. Its likely for the speed of half, the real cost is also only half. In other words, the contract is padded or 'fat' by at least 100%..

Anonymous said...

Our opposition MPs are just not up to the mark. They must do their homework and get the clarification form government.This a debate and questions must be asked in a timely manner. otherwise they just become a red herring like this expose.

JM said...

Just a note:

The definition of "LCS" differs from country to country.

The one YB refer to in Wikipedia was solely for the USA, doesn't mean it is applicable or shall be adapted to Malaysia.

And not to forget, the USS Independence (LCS-2) had ALSO cost overrun from USD220million to USD704millions in year 2009. Converting that to RINGGIT, and considering how much the inflation rate is, what would be the cost now??

Anonymous said...

Dear JM,

You could be right that differnt country can have their own definition of LCS. However, it seems that we are buying "Gowind Class Corvettes" from scandal-tainted French shipbuilder DCNS, which is obviously not a LCS. Or do you meant that Malaysian government had definied that the "Gowind Class Corvettes" is LCS in term of Malaysia standard?

In addition, the contentious is how much will Boustead Naval Shipyards pay DCNS for each "Gowind Class Corvettes"? Why would Malaysia government pay Boustead Naval Shipyards whopping RM1.5 Billion each?

PS Tan

JM said...

Hi PS,
As I've said, the definition can be set by the different government, as long as it is acceptable for themselves. It all depends on from which perspective you look at the issue.

How much BNS paying DCNS: Beats me.. Ask them... And again, how do you define ""Gowind Class Corvettes"? It's Corvettes for DCNS, might not be the case here..

Take this as an example : We categorized the "Kancil" and "Viva" as CAR, but to the American or most Europeans, they are "NUTS"..

Look at the Lekiu-class Frigate that we have. It's a 97.5M 2270tons ship. That is even small than the SGPV. Why call it a Frigate then? A Frigate in the west easily passed 130M in length and 5000+ tons. Anyone ask this before?


NOW, how to define "LCS" then? It's a class of it's own currently available only in the USA. Can we afford to copy it? No... So we create something on our own... Is that right, or wrong? Does it really matter so much??

Why 1.5billiom for one? From what I know, with all the weaponary and system on-board, RM1.5billion CEILING is reasonable... Not cheap, just reasonable...

Not to forget, don't try to compare the price with RSN or any other navies, and the price announced often without the systems and weapons price.

Anonymous said...

Littoral or no littoral, the RMN must look into the vessel speed first. All advanced navies use gasturbines. RMN is still a Diesel navy. Why don't we retrofit the current fleet first?

Anonymous said...

Speed has its advantage however it holds more threat than promise. The disadvantage is that speed requires great power. By choosing high speed the Navy has consciously chosen to accept lower carrying capacity and endurance. The impact on endurance is illustrated by the fact LCS’s cruising range of around 4,000 nautical miles (nm) at 20 knots reduces to 1,500 nm at 45 knots. Recent survey conducted by Congressional Budget Office discovered that US Navy operates LCS at relatively low speed - 10 knots or less 90 percent of the time it is under way and 30 knots or more only about 3 percent of the time.

Anonymous said...

This is the exact quote from Defense Industry Daily regarding the Littoral Combat Ship.

"At 115 – 127 meters in length and 2,800 – 3,100 tons of displacement, the USA’s competing LCS ship designs are almost the size of a Britain’s Type 23 frigates. They might well be classified as frigates, were it not for their shallow water design and employment."

The ships are not being classified base on its size but it is classed by its role.

Anonymous said...

The top speed of 40-45 knots is desired by the US Navy and with the monohull design it has the potential to reach that speed. The ships Malaysian Navy is building also uses the same monohull design. Although the current speed of Malaysian ship is 28 knots but with this design it could potentially reach 40-45 knots. Recent survey conducted by Congressional Budget Office discovered that US Navy operates LCS at relatively low speed - 10 knots or less 90 percent of the time it is under way and 30 knots or more only about 3 percent of the time.