Republic of Singapore Navy
Over the years, the RSN has ensured the seaward defence of Singapore and safeguarded its sea lines of communication. With Singapore retaining its place as the world's busiest port - vessel arrivals reaching a record 1.46 billion gross tonnes, an increase of 11 per cent from 2006, and almost 50 per cent of global oil shipments being transported daily via the Malacca Strait - safeguarding the sea lines of communications is a strategic imperative for the Republic of Singapore Navy [RSN]. Despite a population of only 4.6 million, and a land area of only 683 square kilometres, Singapore boasts one of the most capable and modern navies in the Asian region. As stipulated in the Navy 2000 plan; the RSN's surface combatants received a major enhancement of their missile capabilities. The RSN's amphibious assets were reoriented in the mid-1990s away from the former mission of assisting Army training deployments abroard, and for the provision of Midshipman Sea training, to become a naval rapid reaction force.
As of December 1989 the navy had one missile gunboat squadron, one patrol craft squadron, one amphibious transport squadron, and additional ships for minesweeping and support operations. The West German Lürssen model and the indigenously produced missile gunboats provided the navy with a limited, but effective, capability to patrol Singapore's international boundaries with Indonesia and Malaysia as well as the seaplane approaches to the island, which were vital to the nation's shipping interests. The six Lürssen-designed Sea Wolf fast-attack craft could, if necessary, conduct operations several hundred kilometers out to sea, and their Gabriel and Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles would be effective against enemy naval craft within a ninety kilometer range. They also were equipped with 57mm and 40mm guns. The six British Vosper Thornycraft, which were indigenously produced patrol craft, were effective for patrolling coastline and inlets. These vessels were equipped with 40mm and 20mm guns.
Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd (ST Marine), part of Singapore Technologies Engineering, built 12 Fearless Class patrol vessels for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). The RSN awarded the contract to ST Marine in February 1993 and the first of the Fearless Class patrol craft was commissioned in October 1996. The final vessel of the class was commissioned in August 1998. In January 2003, the third vessel of the class, RSS Courageous, was badly damaged in a collision with a container ship in the Singapore Straits. Four crewmembers lost their lives when part of the aft section of the vessel was sheared off.
The six landing ships that comprised the amphibious transport squadron could transport up to two fully equipped army battalions to landing areas in Singapore and neighboring countries. The age and slowness of these craft, however, would make them easy targets for hostile aircraft and naval vessels during wartime. Similarly, Singapore's two obsolescent minesweepers would be inadequate to clear all of the sea-lanes around Singapore should a hostile foreign power attempt to control the Strait of Malacca and other strategic channels in the area.
After an extended period as the SAF's 'cinderella' service in the 1970s and 1980s, the RSN's capabilities expanded near-exponentially during the 1990s following decisions made both in 1983 and in 1988. The 1983 decision to expand the RSN's capabilities to allow it to protect Singapore's SLOCs led to the delivery of missile corvettes; the implementation of the Navy 2000 plan after 1988 saw the acquisition of minehunters, maritime patrol aircraft, new patrol vessels, submarines and new landing ships. Older vessels were modernised and many vessels were armed with air defence as well as anti-ship missiles. At the same time, major infrastructure has been built in the form of two new naval bases.
The Republic of Singapore Navy commissioned the first of the Formidable-class frigates, RSS Formidable on May 5, 2007, to mark the 40th year of the RSN. The second, third and fourth ships in the class, RSS Intrepid, RSS Steadfast and RSS Tenacious, were commissioned at Changi Naval Base on February 2008. The remaining two frigates, RSS Stalwart and RSS Supreme are expected to be fully operational by the year 2009. The six ships form the 185 Squadron of the Republic of Singapore Navy and replace the RSN's retired missile gunboats, which had been in service for more than 30 years and were finally decommissioned in May 2008. The first of the missile gunboats, RSS Sea Wolf and RSS Sea Lion were commissioned in 1975. For more than three decades, these missile gunboats conducted numerous operations at sea, as well as maritime surveillance, patrol and escort operations. The Formidable-class frigates are designed to carry a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter and are equipped with Aster SAM system, which has a range of up to 30km.
Singapore took the first step to develop a submarine capability through the acquisition of four Sjoormen-class (Challenger) subs and has since purchased two Type A 17 Västergötland-class submarines from Kockums AB. The submarines, Västergötland and Hälsingland, were retired early from the Royal Swedish Navy (RSwN) as a result of cutbacks in Sweden's submarine force. Kockums bought back the two submarines from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration for resale to Singapore. The Swedish media reported the deal to be worth about US$128 million. The two Västergötland-class submarines were expected to be refitted with AIP systems before delivery to Singapore in circa 2010.
Singapore has decided for the moment against procuring additional Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters for its fleet of Formidable-class guided missile frigates. The country's ASW helicopter program initially called for 12 aircraft, and Seahawk won out against Eurocopter's AS 532 Cougar Mk II and NH Industries' NH90 helicopters. This requirement was subsequently reduced to six helicopters in 2004 because of budget constraints and the contract for six Sikorsky Seahawks was announced by the Singapore Ministry of Defence on Jan 21, 2005, with first delivery aimed for 2008. Republic of Singapore Air Force officials have now decided not to exercise contract options for further helicopters, stating that six are sufficient to fulfil the ASW requirements.
Singapore also has a requirement for MPA to replace its EP-3 Hawkeyes. The contenders include Northrop Grumman's Hawkeye 2000, the Embraer/Saab Erieye, and Lockheed Martin's P-3. A decision on the preferred platform is expected in the near future.
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