Forces: February 16, 2005

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When your country is dependent on sea going commerce for food and raw materials, it is a good idea to be able to secure the routes used to deliver the raw materials and food. Without food, the population of Singapore starves. Without raw materials, the manufacturing stops. Singapore also is dependent on exporting high-tech items manufactured in this country. Most of these products, raw materials, and food travel by sea.

Ensuring the safety of these arrivals is the job of the Republic of Singapore Navy. This force is expanding its capabilities with numerous new vessels. In the last ten years, Singapore has built twelve 500-ton patrol boats to replace six older Vosper craft. The Fearless-class is a fast (65 kilometers per hour) boat equipped with a 76mm gun, Mistral surface-to-air missiles, and two triple 12.75-inch torpedo tubes. Six of these boats have been built, and can work with other assets to kill submarines near Singapore.

A second class of patrol boats, the Resilience-class, is based on the Fearless-class. This class is armed with six Israeli Gabriel anti-ship missiles. The Gabriel is a medium range (60 kilometers) anti-ship missile that has been proven in combat in the various Israeli-Arab wars. The Gabriel uses infra-red guidance, which is quite useful in the cluttered area of operations in the waters surrounding Singapore. The Resilience-class patrol craft also use a 76mm gun, Mistrals, and four 12.7mm machine guns. Singapores six old Sea Wolf-class patrol boats remain in service, carrying Gabriel and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The six Victory-class corvettes (which carry Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Barak surface-to-air missiles, and two triple 12.75-inch torpedo tubes) are also still in service, but have had some problems.

In the last six years, three major ship classes have entered service with Singapore. In 1997, Sweden leased Singapore a Sjoormen-class diesel-electric submarine. After personnel were trained, three more subs of that class were purchased. These are small (1,400 tons) subs with a top speed of 37 kilometers per hour, and only capable of diving to 150 meters. They dont need to dive much deeper than that, since the waters are quite shallow. These vessels are equipped with four 21-inch torpedo tubes and two 15.75-inch torpedo tubes. A total of twelve weapons (eight 21-inch and four 15.75-inch) can be carried by these submarines.

Singapores other new naval class of six patrol frigates based on the French LaFayette class. These stealthy frigates will be slightly smaller than the French vessels (3,000 tons compared to 3,700 tons; 360 feet long compared to the 407.5 feet), but will be faster (65 kilometers per hour compared to 46.3 for the French versions). This vessel is to carry a mix of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and either ASTER 15 or Barak point-defense surface-to-air missiles. It also has four 21-inch torpedo tubes. This is a heavier torpedo battery than most surface warships get (Russian designs use 21-inch tubes, most other navies use 12.75-inch tubes, but some use 15.75 or 16-inch tubes). This frigate also has a 57mm gun. It will be a large class of modern frigates, and will make Singapores navy one of the most powerful around the Strait of Malacca. Singapore also has been building a class of four LSD type amphibious ships. These LSDs, the Endurance-class, are 8500 tons, have a speed of 27.78 kilometers per hour, and each can carry 18 tanks.

Singapore has also taken note of the effectiveness of mines. As a nation reliant on maritime trade (and with over 900 merchant ships flying its flag), Singapore has invested in a force of four modern mine-countermeasures vessels. These are the same as the Swedish Longsort-class minesweepers, and are 155.8 feet long, displace 600 tons, and equipped with modern sonars and ROVs for use against the most modern mines.

Singapores navy is arguably the best Navy in Southeast Asia. Most of the major units have been commissioned after 1990, is designed to fight in the waters around the small country, and it trains hard. Anyone who tries to cut Singapore off will have a huge fight on their hands. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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