As I noted last week, Singapore is having a host of activities as its navy commemorates its 50th anniversary (See: “Foreign Warships to Join Singapore For First International Maritime Review”). Among those was the commissioning of the first of its new locally-built and designed warships.
On May 5, which is Navy Day for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commissioned Independence, the first of eight RSN Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs), at a ceremony at Changi Naval Base. Lee delivered remarks on the commissioning and also interacted with personnel during a visit to the ship, where he was briefed on its capabilities.
Lee’s commissioning of Independence, which was first launched in July 2015 at Singapore Technologies Marine’s (ST Marine’s) Benoi shipyard, carried both symbolic and substantive significance. Symbolically, it marks another milestone in the transformation of the RSN, which Lee described in his remarks at the commissioning ceremony as evolving from just three ships 50 years ago – two seaworthy wooden ships, the RSS Panglima and RSS Bedok, and a third ship, RSS Singapura, moored to serve as navy headquarters – to a “full-fledged Third Generation Navy,” with submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, and unmanned vessels and aircraft.
Independence, which is the first of the RSN’s next generation warships, is the first Navy ship to be completely designed and built in Singapore in collaboration with the Defense Science and Technology Agency. The RSS Independence name is also significant: it was the name given to one of the six pioneer warships bought by the RSN in 1968 which had played a role in the city-state’s response to the Laju Ferry Hijacking in 1974.
Substantively, RSS Independence, the first of eight LMVs set to replace Singapore’s current 11 Fearless-class patrol vessels by mid-2020, represents a marked improvement over its predecessor. As I detailed in an earlier piece, there are various ways in which the capabilities of the ship support Singapore’s defense ministry’s (MINDEF’s) characterization of it as “smarter, faster, and sharper.” (See: “What Do We Know About Singapore’s New Warship?”).
Meanwhile, progress on the introduction of the LMVs has continued as we near the 2020 deadline. The fourth LMV was launched in March, and the keel for the fifth was laid down by ST Marine in November last year.
The commissioning of the RSS Independence was just one of several events that marked the RSN’s 50th Navy Day. Lee also launched the RSN50 Commemorative Book and RSN50 Doodle Wall – which he was the first to color on – and sealed the RSN50 time capsule that recognized the historic achievements of the RSN.