Over the weekend, Singapore launched another one of its new locally built and designed warships. The vessel, which was unveiled at a ceremony attended by a range of Singapore defense officials and personnel, represented another step forward for what the country considers a key line item as part of its ongoing naval modernization to confront a range of challenges.
As I have been noting in these pages, one of the many manifestations of the modernization of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has been the replacement of its existing fleet of Fearless-class patrol vessels, which have been in service for over two decades, with locally built and designed Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) that represent a marked improvement over their predecessor.
The Singapore government has previously characterized the LMVs as being “smarter, faster, and sharper” relatively speaking. The vessels are also advanced technologically, efficient in terms of manpower, and have the versatility to deal with a wide spectrum of challenges, ranging from counterpiracy to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations (See: “What Do We Know About Singapore’s New Warship?”).
Thus far, the LMV program has continued on as scheduled. Three LMVs – RSS Independence, RSS Sovereignty, and RSS Unity – were commissioned in 2017, which also marked the Golden Jubilee of the RSN. Two previously launched LMVs – RSS Justice and RSS Indomitable – will be commissioned later this year, while Fortitude, the sixth LMV, is presently undergoing sea trials after being launched back in March.
As the program has continued, the LMVs have also been gradually integrated into the RSN’s activities. Instances of participation have included bilateral exercises with Indonesia and Thailand so far this year, and the first ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise in Thailand last year (See: “ASEAN’s First Naval Exercise in Perspective”).
On August 18, Singapore launched its seventh LMV. The vessel, named Dauntless, was launched at ST Engineering’s Benoi Shipyard by Heng Hwee Nee, the wife of Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. The ceremony was also attended by Singapore’s navy chief Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong as well as other senior officers from the RSN and Defense Science and Technology Agency.
In his remarks delivered at the launching ceremony, Heng framed the launch of the new LMV within the broader context of Singapore’s status as a maritime nation and the importance of the RSN’s mission of safeguarding Singapore’s continued free access to sea and protection of its way of life. He also noted the significance of the LMV program for the RSN, lauding both the rapid operationalization of it in a short period of time as well as the performance of the vessels themselves when called upon so far.
In a press release, Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), for its part, characterized the launch as a “significant milestone” in the RSN’s continued transformation, and said that the LMV program more generally was “progressing well” given the initial targets that had been set.