The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) commissioned two Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) at Changi Naval Base on Tuesday.

The LMVs were developed by the RSN, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, and Singapore’s ST Engineering. The Singapore Defense Ministry said the commissioning of the RSS Sovereignty and RSS Unity is a “significant milestone” in the Navy’s transformation to strengthen capabilities.

These are the second and third of eight total planned LMVs that will replace the Fearless-class Patrol Vessels, which have been in service for over 20 years. The design and construction contract was first awarded in 2013.

Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen inspects the honor guard at the commissioning ceremony for RSS Sovereignty and RSS Unity, the second and third Littoral Mission Vessels at Changi Naval Base.
Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen inspects the honor guard at the commissioning ceremony for RSS Sovereignty and RSS Unity, the second and third Littoral Mission Vessels at Changi Naval Base.

The first LMV, RSS Independence, was commissioned last May. The final five ships are set to be operational by 2020, the Ministry of Defense said.

The ship is 80 meters long, displaces 1,250 metric tons, and can travel at over 27 knots. It is armed with an MBDA MICA anti-air/anti-missile system, Oto Melara 76mm gun, Rafael 25mm Typhoon gun, Oto Melara 12.7mm Hitrole gun, and a water cannon system

The ministry highlighted the ships’ mission modularity, allowing them to be configured for a range of operations.

“The LMVs represent a quantum jump compared to its predecessor, the Fearless-class patrol vessels. Whether it is speed, endurance, anti-air or Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) capabilities, the LMVs outperform by leaps and bounds the Patrol Vessels that were built in the 1990s,” Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen, said in a speech at the commissioning ceremony.

Minister Ng said the Navy needed a new littoral ship that would be flexible in its deployment and modularity helps it flexibly fulfill several types of operations including securing sea lines of communications and humanitarian assistance. The ships have different modules like unmanned systems or medical facilities that can be configured quickly on the LMVs.

He also noted a perennial manpower challenge because both cohorts in Singapore are falling so “we need the LMV to operate with a leaner crew” of 29 persons. Minister Ng noted other navies usually have a 60-person crew for LMVs.

The LMV co-locates the bridge with the combat information center (CIC) and machinery control room to produce a large “free-form space” in the middle of the ship.

“Literally, walls were broken down and with it, silos of personnel responsible for these different tasks in traditionally designed ships. It allowed them to see what others were doing, complement their own work processes, have better awareness of the ships surroundings, and respond to situations quicker and more effectively,” the defence minister said.

He also explained that the ship’s mast was turned inside out, with sensors stacked vertically in an enclosed frame, but with improved outside access rather than narrow confined indoor corridors.

“The result is an impressive reduction in maintenance time by up to 80 percent,” Minister Ng said.

He underscored that the LMV design has already been proven successful because the first ship, RSS Independence, was deployed as part of an RSN Task Group in the ASEA Multilateral Naval Exercise off the coast of Thailand.

This is important because the tempo of operations and area of operations have expanded in the last decade, the minister said.

“The success of these three ships will have a catalytic effect on the RSN and, indeed, the entire SAF. Through this program, we have shown what we can achieve when we put our minds to it, and when we work together constructively and diligently.”

Minister Ng said the demands on Singapore’s navy will only increase due to rising trade and military buildups in the region, with both the U.S. and China proposing joint exercises with ASEAN at the recent ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Manila, Philippines.

He also noted that the RSN’s role in keeping sea lines of communications open and secure are “integral to maintaining Singapore’s economic viability as well as maintaining regional stability.”

The Independence-class ships are planned to serve in the RSN for over two decades.