Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Singapore International Maritime Review 2017: Largest Showing of International Navy Ships at RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base

Naval cooperation key to maritime security: President Tony Tan
Strong partnerships critical as security challenges grow more transnational, he says
By Chong Zi Liang, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2017

The gathering of navies from around the world to celebrate the Singapore navy's 50th birthday is testament to Singapore's strong network of global friendships, which is all the more critical as security challenges have become increasingly transnational, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said yesterday.

Noting how multilateral cooperation is key to ensuring a stable maritime order as well as safe and secure seas, he added: "The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has built up a strong and well-connected network of partnerships with like-minded navies."

This is because most of the security threats like piracy cannot be effectively managed by a single country, Dr Tan said after he was welcomed by a parade of international sailors at Changi Naval Base.

For instance, the RSN's stealth frigates and landing ship tanks have taken part in multilateral counter- piracy operations, and Singapore also - on four occasions - took command of the Combined Task Force 151 fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

"In the challenging and uncertain security environment today, having only good hardware and strong capabilities is not sufficient," said Dr Tan.

To celebrate the RSN's golden jubilee, 46 vessels - including 28 from 20 foreign navies - formed up in the waters off Changi Naval Base for Singapore's first International Maritime Review.

Kicking off the review, Dr Tan boarded an open-top vehicle to review the docked ships, whose sailors cheered as he passed by. He then boarded the recently commissioned Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence for a review of the remaining warships anchored off the base.

The review was held in conjunction with this year's edition of the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference Asia, which Dr Tan noted is a crucial platform for naval leaders to exchange views on topics like maritime cooperation.

Dr Tan also announced the renaming of Changi Naval Base to RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base.

As RSS Singapura was the name of the RSN's first headquarters, it will remind Singapore's sailors of the navy's heritage and its vital role in defending the country, said Dr Tan, who officiated the foundation-laying of the base as deputy prime minister and defence minister in 2000.

Navy chief Lai Chung Han, in his opening address, thanked Dr Tan for his role as defence minister from 1995 to 2003 in developing the navy's landing ship tank, frigate and submarine capabilities. These assets, he said, now form the core of the third-generation RSN.

Dr Tan said a highlight of his visit to the navy last year was seeing the Archer-class submarines, as he was pleased to see the submarine capability built up so quickly.

"I am confident the navy will continue to enhance its capabilities to address the evolving security landscape we are facing," he said.

First International Maritime Review ends on high note
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 16 May 2017

As the morning wore on, the clear blue skies were covered by dark clouds and the calm waters were occasionally broken by choppy waves.

But just as Singapore's friendship with foreign navies has withstood varying conditions, the flotilla of international naval ships pushed through the elements to pull off the navy's first International Maritime Review without a hitch yesterday as part of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) golden jubilee celebrations.

The 46 ships that had gathered for the fleet review comprised 28 warships from 20 foreign navies, 16 RSN warships and two Police Coast Guard boats. More than 6,000 guests and participants, including Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Mohamad Maliki Osman, were present.

Among them were more than 30 navy chiefs, vice-chiefs of navy and directors-general of coast guards, and over 40 flag rank officers from 44 nations.

As the reviewing officer, President Tony Tan Keng Yam kicked off the event with a land review of the vessels berthed at the wharf. Among them were 12 RSN vessels, including the frigate RSS Formidable, and Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence, commissioned earlier this month by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The foreign vessels included helicopter carrier JS Izumo from Japan, replenishment tanker HMNZS Endeavour from New Zealand and guided missile corvette HTMS Sukhothai from Thailand.

As the President rode past in an open-top vehicle, sailors lined the length of their ships to salute and wave.

At the end of the land review, Dr Tan boarded the Littoral Mission Vessel to continue on a sea review of the remaining ships in the anchorage - the RSS Independence's first operational duty since it was commissioned by PM Lee.

Accompanied by foreign navy chiefs, Dr Tan sailed past 26 vessels at sea, including French frigate FS Prairial, Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat, Chinese frigate Huangshan, Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag and Myanmar frigate UMS King Sin Phyu Shin.

Despite the choppier seas as the RSS Independence ventured further out, sailors waved, tipped their caps and even blared their ships' horns to greet Dr Tan.

Following close behind the RSS Independence was its sister ship, LMV Sovereignty, which carried other VIP guests, including SAF Chief of Staff-Joint Staff Lim Tuang Liang, Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs deputy chairman Amrin Amin, committee members Cedric Foo and Joan Pereira, and the spouses of foreign navy chiefs.

As Dr Tan reviewed the final ship - landing ship tank RSS Endurance - rain clouds loomed overhead.

But the weather held up for the aerial finale minutes later, as a Sikorsky 70B naval helicopter soared high above, followed by a Fokker-50 maritime patrol aircraft. Two F15SG fighter jets brought up the rear, swooping in side by side to end Singapore's inaugural International Maritime Review on a literal high.

Maritime review 'highlights Singapore's naval diplomacy'
Inaugural gathering of regional navies hosted by RSN as part of celebrations has added significance, say experts
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 15 May 2017

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will be reviewing about 50 warships from 21 countries, including Singapore, during the inaugural International Maritime Review (IMR) hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) today.

Staging one of the largest gatherings of naval ships in the region is the centrepiece of RSN's 50th anniversary events, but naval experts say it will also indirectly highlight Singapore's adept use of naval diplomacy, which is critical to the Republic's security.

Dr Euan Graham, director of the international security programme at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said Singapore, being a small state, has had to be proactive in its naval diplomacy efforts because it wants to avoid being isolated.

"If a country like Singapore is passive, it will quickly find itself strategically compromised or marginalised," he added.

"So it has to constantly build its relationships in the region, where there are still trust issues and territorial disputes, making sure those don't bubble up to the surface."

The South China Sea territorial disputes between China and four Asean nations, which have intensified since 2012, have posed concerns for trade-dependent countries like Singapore, whose trade is three times that of its economy.

Maritime expert Collin Koh from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies described the IMR - held at Changi Naval Base - as a manifestation of the growing maturity of Singapore's naval diplomacy, which could become more important amid maritime tensions.

"Especially in these times of maritime disputes, the review signals that Singapore is willing to play a role in engaging diplomatically with regional players. The message is: Singapore may be small, but that does not mean it cannot be a constructive player," Dr Koh told The Straits Times.

In a 232-page book A Maritime Force For A Maritime Nation: Celebrating 50 years Of The Navy, the RSN said it has contributed to the expansion of Singapore's policy space through maritime diplomacy, which began with its first bilateral exercise in 1974 with Indonesia.

Over the decades, its engagements have grown to include multilateral exercises, information-sharing and joint patrols, with some held outside the region.

Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, one of seven contributors to the book, wrote that one of the RSN's three roles is to foster practical cooperation on issues of common concern between navies, in support of a rules-based international order. In a piece titled Peace At Sea, he cited how the RSN, along with 20 other regional navies, had in 2014 adopted the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

The code - signed by 21 members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, including China and eight Asean states - guides how military vessels should react to situations to reduce the risk of incidents.

It was put into practice by participating countries of the IMR, which include China, the United States and Japan, with their warships travelling to Singapore since last Tuesday from the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.

Of the 46 vessels at the IMR, 16 will be from the RSN and two from the Police Coast Guard.

Most of the foreign vessels will also be at the Imdex Asia maritime defence show from tomorrow till Thursday.

Experts also pointed out limits to naval diplomacy, as "decision-makers are not the chiefs of navies, but the political leaders in the various countries", said Lowy's Dr Graham.

"But there is a limited aim and in that, Singapore is trying to position itself and steer the region towards a more coordinated and cooperative direction," he added.

Singapore acquiring two new Type-218SG submarines
New Singapore submarines 'to match growth of regional navies'
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and other officials also stress need for countries to cooperate to tackle threats
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 17 May 2017

In a move to replace its older submarines and match the expansion of navies in Asia, Singapore will be acquiring two new subs that will be delivered from 2024, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

With 800 more warships and submarines expected to operate in the Asia-Pacific by 2030, the United States Navy will also bolster its capability to keep up with - or even exceed - the pace of development of maritime forces by other regional countries, said its chief of naval operations John Richardson.

Dr Ng, who was speaking at the opening of the 11th International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Imdex) Asia, said: "To be effective, the Singapore navy needs to keep pace with this growth of navies in Asia."

This bolstering of maritime forces comes as commercial shipping has burgeoned, with Asia-Pacific naval budgets set to increase by 60 per cent through 2020.

But senior government and naval officials, including Dr Ng, also highlighted the need for countries to work together in tackling threats even as they strengthen their navies and security agencies.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said countries should cooperate and abide by international agreements and codes of conduct to avoid unintended sea conflicts.

But trust must be built through regular communication for multilateral networks to be effective, he added. "Without trust, promises of cooperation would merely be superficial lip service," he said.

Admiral Richardson also told reporters before the start of Imdex Asia that in "an era of maritime competition", countries should identify areas of common interests and talk openly about differences to reduce the risk of miscalculations.

He also reaffirmed the close partnership with the Singapore navy, adding that he has spoken to navy chief Lai Chung Han about improving the relationship further.

He later joined seven other navy chiefs, including Rear-Admiral Lai, at the International Maritime Security Conference, held as part of Imdex Asia.

Discussing the changing security and strategic landscape, RADM Lai reiterated the need to reinforce a rules-based maritime system that will help prevent misunderstandings at sea.

A record number of maritime defence and naval forces are attending the biennial three-day Imdex Asia, which began yesterday.

On top of navy chiefs, coast guard directors-general and representatives of navies and coast guards from more than 40 countries, 28 foreign warships from 20 navies will be at the maritime defence show at the Changi Exhibition Centre.

Maritime expert Collin Koh from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that one factor fuelling the growth of navies in the region is the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

"For claimant states, naval power puts some muscle to their claims. For non-claimant states like Singapore, geopolitical uncertainty means a need to invest in insurance," he said.

New submarines give navy 'more flexibility in deploying assets'
RSN can rotate vessels for different uses, say experts on the four Type-218SG vessels
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 17 May 2017

Singapore's purchase of two new "state-of-the-art" submarines will give the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) greater flexibility in deploying its assets and in defending the country, said defence analysts.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced yesterday that Singapore would buy two Type-218SG submarines expected to be delivered from 2024. In 2013, it acquired two submarines of the same model that are expected to be delivered from 2021.

When all four submarines are delivered, the RSN will be able to rotate their deployment, with one under maintenance, one in training, and two carrying out operations, said Dr Michael Raska from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

"This will give the navy greater submarine presence in the seas," he told The Straits Times.

Maritime expert Collin Koh, also from RSIS, pointed out that the navy's four Challenger-class submarines, which were made in the 1960s and bought by Singapore between 1995 and 1997, are ageing and two were retired in 2015.

When the two remaining Challenger-class submarines are retired, the Navy will still have its two Archer-class submarines - bought in 2005 - to complement the four Type-218SG vessels.

"It takes time to build up a world-class fleet, so such an expansion in numbers requires lots of planning ahead to achieve," he said.

Both analysts added that it is cost-effective to buy the same submarine model and from the same source - German defence contractor ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

Dr Raska said the 2013 contract might include an option to buy more vessels at a better price, and that there could be savings in maintenance and training as the crew will be dealing with familiar ships.

He added that the purchase of the state-of-the-art submarines is in line with Singapore's goal of modernising its armed forces.

"The key aim is to keep a maritime strategic edge for the next 20 years over its neighbours," he said.

But Dr Raska also noted that Singapore will have to be mindful of a response from its neighbours. "If Malaysia and Indonesia see this as tilting the military balance, they will want to get more submarines of their own. This could accelerate an arms competition in the region."

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