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Surface Forces: January 16, 2004
   
The January 7th launch of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) first 3,200 ton Project Delta class stealth frigate has revealed some of the advanced capabilities incorporated into these ships. It was confirmed that, when fully operational, the project Delta frigates will be amongst the most powerful air warfare ships in the Asia Pacific region, and comparable to the South Korean KDX II class, the Japanese Kongo class, and the Chinese Type 052c class.

The RSS Formidable was launched  at Lorient, France and  will undergo outfitting and sea trials in France before traveling to Singapore in early 2005, where she will join her five locally built sisters. Once all the ships of this class are in service by 2009, Singapore will retire its six 1970's vintage Sea Wolf class missile gun boats.

The project Delta class are based on modified French La Fayette multipurpose frigates, which are currently in service with France, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. Until the launch of the Formidable, the most potent ships derived from this class were the 4,700 ton Saudi Al Riyadh (F3000S Sawari II) Class Multipurpose AAW Frigate. From the specifications recently released by the RSN, the Delta class will be more... formidable.

Fully operational, the RSS Formidable will be capable of carrying up to 32 Aster active homing SAMs in Slyver VLS (vertical launchers just below the deck) launchers. The exact Aster variant has not been made public, but most likely will be the 30 kilometer range Aster 15, not the 110 kilometer range Aster 30. Aster incorporates an active radar seeker and reaction thrusters for high maneuverability, and will give these ships a highly potent area air defense capability, with the ability to intercept anti-ship missiles at long ranges. This will enable the RSN Formidable and her sisters to perform anti-air escort duties similar to the US Aegis warships.

Other weapon systems include up to eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, six Whitehead lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes and an Oto Melera 76mm Super Rapid dual purpose gun. Secondary gun systems are not mentioned, but RSN ships have recently been fitted with locally developed modular 25mm remote weapons systems. These systems have their own optical and thermal targeting systems and fire control, and can be fitted with various IR SAMS, like the Mistral, to operate as gun/missile combination Close-in Weapons systems. These ships will also operate a medium naval helicopter.

The base-line La Fayette class have stealth features, that make their radar cross section equivalent to a 500 ton fishing boat, and the Delta ships will be even stealthier. Compared to her La Fayette cousins, the RSS Formidable and her sisters have a significantly reduced profile as a result of it's smaller superstructure and the use of enclosed sensor mast technology. The reduced radar signature makes it more difficult for radar to detect and track the ship. It also becomes more difficult for anti-ship missiles to home in on the ship, or see past counter-measures.

All her radar warfare requirements are met by a single Thales Herakles phased array multi-function radar system, which provides 2D surface and 3D air search and fire control functions, including multiple tracking, target designation and command uplink for the Aster missiles. Very little information is publicly known about the Herakles system, and the Delta class may be the first ships to carry it. A variable depth active low frequency towed sonar by EDO provides these ships with good underwater detection in coastal waters.

Combat management, bridge management and ship's systems were all developed jointly by Singapore's Defence Science & Technology Agency and Defence Science Organization, and contain innovative automation features that have reduced crew requirements. For example, all combat systems can be accessed from Standard Operating Common Consoles, which have weapons control functions and a 20 inch color LCD display.

This enables the RSS Formidable to function at full combat efficiency with a ships complement is 70, plus an additional 15 for helicopter support. In comparison, the La Fayette class has a crew of 164.

The RSS Formidable's propulsion is via four MTU diesels in Combined Diesel on Diesel (CODAD) configuration, which give her a top speed of about 50 kilometers an hour, and a cruising range of approximately 7,200 kilometers. This will enable the Formidable and her sisters to operate as true Blue Water units. Currently, the only RSN ships that can operate 
in Blue Water Conditions are its 8,500 ton Endurance Class LSTs.

For information and images of the Project Delta stealth frigates:
http://www.mindef.gov.sg/weapons/frigate/index.asp
For a comparison with the Al Riyadh class:
http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/al_riyadh/index.html

--Shawn Chung