Singapore Completes Frigate Fleet
By WENDELL MINNICK
Taipei - The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has taken delivery of the last of six 3,200-ton Formidable-class frigates. French-based shipbuilder DCNS in tandem with ST Marine delivered without ceremony the RSS Supreme on Aug. 22. Commissioning is tentatively scheduled for 2009.
Four of the six Formidable-class frigates are commissioned and operational in the 185 Squadron. As a multirole stealth vessel, the frigates have a complete weapon suite that includes one Sikorsky S-70B helicopter for anti-ship and anti-submarine missions. The ships have a range of 4,200 nautical miles.
"This also marks the conclusion of a comprehensive technology transfer to Singapore Technologies Marine (ST Marine) at the local shipyard providing turnkey shipbuilding," said Tan Jin Kien of EASTWEST Public Relations for DCNS.
In 2000, Singapore's Defense and Science Technology Agency commissioned DCNS for six Formidable-class frigates as part of the New Frigate Program. The agreement included full technology transfer to ST Marine under ST Engineering.
"The first frigate, RSS Formidable (68), was built at the DCNS shipyard in Lorient, France. The five following frigates were built in Singapore by ST Marine under DCNS supervision," Tan said.
A derivative of the La Fayette frigate, these are the first frigates in Singapore naval history. With a complement of 70 sailors, the ships will expand Singapore's ability to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.
"The RSN now has a genuine 'blue water' capability that will enable it to participate fully in joint naval operations with Singapore's friends and allies for purposes such as SLOC [sea lines of communication] protection and naval peacekeeping," said Sam Bateman, senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
"As we have seen with the recent RIMPAC exercise off Hawaii and an earlier Malabar exercise hosted by the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal, these vessels now allow the RSN to play in the big league of blue water navies," said Bateman.
On Aug. 25, the RSN and the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) concluded the joint SINGSIAM exercise that included one Formidable, the RSS Tenacious.
"Exercise SINGSIAM, which is conducted once every two years, allows the RSN and the RTN to develop combined operational concepts and naval tactics in areas such as maritime security," said a Singapore Ministry of Defense press release.
The Formidable-class frigate, RSS Steadfast, is making a port call at Shanghai from Aug. 25 to Aug. 29.
"Singapore and China enjoy warm and friendly defence ties. The port call by RSS Steadfast is the first visit by a RSN frigate to China and is a reflection of the growing interactions between the two navies and defence establishments," said a Singapore Defence Ministry press release. The Steadfast sailed to China after participating in the RIMPAC exercise in Hawaii in July.