Thursday, October 8, 2009

Malaysia Receives 1st of 2 Diesel Subs

Defense News


Malaysia Receives 1st of 2 Diesel Subs

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first of two diesel submarines ordered by Malaysia in 2002 for $972 million, arrived at Port Klang naval base Sept. 4 after a two-month transit.

Based on the Scorpene-class submarine, the submarine was launched in October 2007 at the DCNS dockyard in Cherbourg, France.

The deal was a joint French (DCNS) and Spanish (Navantia, then Izar) program that included one used French-built Agosta 70-class submarine, the Quessant, for training. Under the agreement, the fore sections were built in Cherbourg by DCNS and Navantia built the aft sections in Cartagena, Spain.

The second, the KD Tun Razak, will be launched in October with delivery in 2010. The two submarines will be known as the Prime Minister class.

"We have a huge number of submariners being trained in south France and they will be returning in batches," said a Malaysia defense industry source.

Since 2005, a 142-member Malaysian Navy crew has been training at the DCNS Dockyard in Brest, France. Plans are to base the submarines at Sepanggar Bay naval base in Sabah state on Borneo, which has been undergoing a major renovation.

"The OEM [original equipment manufacturer] will also be around till the end of the warranty period to ensure that the subs are fully operational," said the source.

Though Malaysia is getting only two submarines, there are concerns the number of new submarines joining the growing list of operational submarines in South East Asia will cause problems, including more accidents.

Besides Malaysia, nations operating submarines in the area include Australia, China, India, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Sam Bateman, senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, said there needs to be a confidence-building mechanism between nations fielding submarines in what is already a very crowded Malacca and Singapore Strait.

If not, there will likely be accidents and territorial violations that could increase tensions unnecessarily, he said.