Sunday, 7 May 2017

Singapore Navy's 50th Annivesary: PM Lee Commissions First Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence

Strong navy needed to keep trade flowing: PM Lee
He says Singapore has built a maritime force that is admired at home and respected abroad
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 6 May 2017

Singapore needs a strong maritime force as an island nation that depends on trade as its lifeblood, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, as the navy celebrated its 50th anniversary and commissioned a new warship.

That was why Singapore's pioneers decided to build up the navy soon after the Republic gained independence in 1965.

"Because we traded with the world, and the sea was - and still is - our lifeline," said PM Lee, before commissioning the navy's first littoral mission vessel (LMV) at Changi Naval Base.

"We needed a strong maritime force to protect our sovereignty, defend us from seaborne threats, and keep trade - our lifeblood - flowing."

Singapore's maritime sector contributes about 7 per cent to the nation's gross domestic product. It is home to over 130 international shipping groups and more than 5,000 maritime establishments, making it one of the world's busiest ports.

PM Lee noted how the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is now a fighting force equipped with technologically advanced hardware, including submarines, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, and unmanned vessels and aircraft - a far cry from its inception on May 5, 1967, at Telok Ayer Basin with just two seaworthy wooden ships and a third ship moored as its headquarters. "(It is now) a navy that is admired at home and respected beyond our shores," he said.

Joining the fleet was the first locally designed and built LMV, RSS Independence, which became fully operational after a ceremony witnessed by some 1,700 past and present navy personnel and guests.

These included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim, Chief of Navy Lai Chung Han and eight former navy chiefs, including DPM Teo.

The warship - launched in July 2015 - is the first of eight LMVs to be commissioned and tasked to replace the fleet of 11 Fearless-class patrol vessels by 2020.

As part of the golden jubilee celebrations, PM Lee also launched an RSN50 commemorative book and an art mural depicting Singapore's maritime heritage alongside the navy's progress, by colouring the crescent moon in gold.

He also sealed a time capsule comprising artefacts symbolic of the RSN's key achievements over the years; it will be opened on the navy's 75th anniversary in 2042.

Items in the capsule include a framed poster of the ports of call during the navy's first round-the-world voyage, a replica of the new LMV and a book compilation of the aspirations of navy personnel for the next 25 years.

With the commissioning of RSS Independence marking a new milestone, the men and women of the navy carry a vital task in continuing its proud history, said PM Lee. "It is now your duty to sail the ships of the next-generation navy, and keep Singapore safe and secure, in peacetime as in war," he told them.

Rear-Admiral Lai yesterday pledged the navy's continued dedication to protecting Singapore's waters, as he thanked the Government and Singaporeans for their trust and support over the years.

"On our golden jubilee day today, we, men and women of the navy, recommit ourselves to defend our country and the security of our waters," he said.

PM Lee pays tribute to pioneers who steered fledgling navy
He hails their determination and resourcefulness in building the navy
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 6 May 2017

As a young sailor training overseas in the 1960s, now retired Second Warrant Officer Osman Abdullah used to endure a term of derision aimed at Singapore's nascent maritime force.

"They called us a toy navy," he said.

Yesterday, looking out at the modern warships docked at Changi Naval Base, he broke into a wide grin as he recalled that old taunt.

"Now you see, the toy navy is coming up," he said with satisfaction. "I'm very proud to see the navy grow like that."

Mr Osman, 86, was one of the pioneers at the Singapore Navy's golden jubilee celebrations, during which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted its humble beginnings.

Fifty years ago to the day, the Navy Ensign was first hoisted at Telok Ayer Basin, the site of modern-day Shenton Way, to form the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force.

Made up of just a handful of volunteers from the Singapore Division of the Malayan Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Singapore Women's Auxiliary Naval Service, "it was a makeshift force", said Mr Lee.

One of those with the women's auxiliary service, Ms Iris Ng, said she was a telephone operator, connecting calls through a manual switchboard in the 1960s while on land.

Out at sea, she learnt to navigate and read the compass of a ship, and did maintenance duties, too.

"The floorboards were wooden and we had to polish the copper railings with Brasso to make them shine," recalled the 77-year-old.

Addressing more than 1,700 past and present naval officers yesterday, Mr Lee paid tribute to that early generation of sailors, saying: "What our pioneers lacked in technology and resources, they made up for in their determination and resourcefulness."

And so naval officers were sent abroad to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to train and gain operational experience.

"They acquired and passed down the art of seafaring and the skills and discipline of seamen," he said.

The navy's hardware was also progressively improved, starting with six patrol craft in 1968. It then gradually broadened its range of vessels with missile gunboats, landing ship tanks, minesweepers and missile corvettes.

These efforts paid off in 1975 when the organisation was renamed the Republic of Singapore Navy, and became one of the three services - along with the army and air force - in the Singapore Armed Forces. Today, it is a full-fledged navy complete with submarines, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, and unmanned vessels and unmanned aircraft.

The men and women who don its uniform have also been tested in real operations, Mr Lee added, as they have carried out anti-piracy missions in the Arabian Gulf, search-and-rescue operations after aircraft incidents, and coordinated patrols in the Malacca Strait.

Because of these achievements, it is now "a navy that is admired at home and respected beyond our shores", Mr Lee said.

Joining this modern fighting force is the first navy ship completely designed and built in Singapore.

Mr Lee commissioned the littoral mission vessel RSS Independence into service yesterday. It is the third ship to bear the name Independence after its two predecessors, a patrol craft and another patrol vessel, retired from service.

Mr Lee acknowledged the crews of the first and second Independence ships, as well as the pioneers who turned up to mark the navy's 50th birthday.

"Your presence honours the new RSS Independence and its crew, and reminds us what the navy is about: not just capable ships and up-to-date technology, but fighting spirit and dedication to the nation," he said.

RSS Independence evokes memories for retired officer
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 6 May 2017

Hearing the name RSS Independence once again yesterday, as the navy's first littoral mission vessel (LMV) was commissioned, 1st Warrant Officer (Ret) Kalvinder Singh felt a profound sense of pride.

For the 65-year-old retired naval officer, the name carries two years of memories of a tough but fulfilling life patrolling Singapore's seas on board the first patrol craft RSS Independence, as a naval combat system specialist from 1973.

"The name is very close to my heart. After so many years, the fact that the name Independence still exists in the navy - I feel really proud to hear it again," he said.

The patrol craft, one of six pioneer warships bought by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) in 1968, was the first naval vessel named Independence. The second was a patrol vessel commissioned on Aug 22, 1998.

Yesterday, the name lived on in the newly commissioned first-of- class LMV, locally designed and built by the RSN and the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

Compared with the RSS Independence of today, life on the patrol craft back then was tough, said 1WO (Ret) Singh, who now works in property management.

"There were very few ships, so we had to do a lot of patrolling out at sea. We could spend four days out at sea, and, on the way back home, they would tell us to continue patrolling again," he said.

But despite the long spells at sea, he enjoyed the thrill and excitement of each deployment.

One memorable incident was the Laju ferry hijacking in 1974, when the RSS Independence was placed on standby in harbour in Pulau Brani. For a few days, 1WO (Ret) Singh and his crew had to live on the patrol craft, not knowing when or whether they would be deployed.

During the crisis, he said, they were in a state of uncertainty, not knowing what would happen. "We were waiting for directions from HQ on whether to go or not to go," said 1WO (Ret) Singh, adding that they were not deployed in the end.

He also served on missile gunboats and a County-class landing ship tank during his 37-year naval career, which ended with his retirement in 2007.

If given the chance now, he said, he would choose to serve on a navy ship again in a heartbeat.

"To be on board a ship with a crew who all worked in a team together - that was one of the most beautiful things (in my life)."

Singapore Navy's highest-ranking female officer Jerica Goh: Charting new territory for women on the high seas
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 5 May 2017

When Colonel Jerica Goh was a junior officer in her 20s, she faced a taboo about women in the engine room of a ship.

"On one ship, I was told that girls were not allowed to walk through the engine room because it's pantang," said Col Goh, 42, using the Malay word for "taboo".

"They said the ship, being 'female', might get jealous and offended."

But as she recalled the memory, Col Goh, who joined the Republic of Singapore Navy in 1993, shrugged it off as a "funny story".

"At that time, I thought, if I was not allowed to go through the engine room, then I won't take charge of that ship when I am on duty," said Col Goh, who is now the head of the Naval Training Department.

In her 24 years in the navy, that was the only incident where she was treated differently because of her gender, she said.

Since then, Col Goh has risen up the ranks and is now the highest-ranking female naval officer.

As the Singapore Navy celebrates its 50th anniversary today, Col Goh is a living embodiment of an aspiration penned in a time capsule 25 years ago by a fellow female naval officer- to have female officers command ships and units.

The wish, which was made by then Lieutenant Phoon Chiu Yoke, was revealed when the capsule was opened in January this year.

Seven years after Lt Phoon made the wish, Major Tay Poh Ling became the first female commanding officer of a ship.

Later, in 2013, Col Goh became the first female commanding officer (CO) of a frigate when she took charge of RSS Supreme - the navy's most advanced warship.

Since 1999, there have been about 10 female commanding officers of naval ships, including Col Goh.

Female navy personnel now make up about 8 per cent of staff.

As CO of RSS Supreme, Col Goh led a search-and-rescue operation for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 in December 2014 - which was a challenging mission, she said.

For 10 days, the RSS Supreme surveyed the Java Sea, sometimes in rough conditions, for debris and survivors from the plane, which had vanished with 162 passengers and crew members.

"A few times, we were quite lucky that everyone on the launched boats returned safely."

Based on her experience, Col Goh said that on a ship, gender matters little. "In the end, it's about how we coordinate activities, the ships, resources and fight the war. It's more about decision-making skills than physical ability," she added.

Navy marks 50th year with time capsule
It contains wishes and hopes for the RSN in the next 25 years, along with artefacts, and will be opened in 2042
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 5 May 2017

Having a first female chief of navy and training systems using virtual reality - these hopes and aspirations of the men and women of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will be sealed in a time capsule by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today.

It is part of celebrations marking the navy's 50th anniversary today, which is also known as Navy Day.

These 800 wishes submitted by navy personnel for the RSN in the next 25 years have been compiled into a book, which will be put into the time capsule, along with artefacts that highlight the RSN's key achievements since its silver jubilee in 1992.

The time capsule, shaped like a typical compartment on board a naval ship, will be placed in the Navy Museum in Tanah Merah Coast Road.

Other items include a framed poster of the ports of call during the navy's first round-the-world voyage, called Sail Navy 2000, on the RSS Endurance.

Following the RSS Endurance's maiden deployment on Navy Day in 2000, led by then commanding officer, Colonel (Ret) Siow Chee Khiang, it visited nine ports and sailed through the Panama and Suez canals.

The voyage lasted four months and covered 25,000 nautical miles.

Another artefact is a replica of the Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel - locally designed and built warships which are expected to fully replace the Fearless-class patrol vessels by 2020.

The capsule will be opened when the navy turns 75 in 2042.

In January, the RSN opened a time capsule that was sealed 25 years ago in 1992, with about 200 aspirations for the navy to achieve by this year.

To date, the navy has surpassed these aspirations, said Rear-Admiral Timothy Lo, chairman of RSN50, "because of the great work of the men and women of the RSN who have served our nation with dedication and distinction".

For example, one wish made by then Staff Sergeant Loy Joon How was for the navy to have "formidable coastal and strike capabilities against three-dimensional threats".

This was achieved in 2007, when the navy acquired the Formidable- class frigates.

The navy also fulfilled another aspiration from its 25th anniversary - for ships to carry rotary-wing aircraft - when RSS Endurance, the first Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank, was commissioned in 2000.

The new wishes include one from a Ms Jessline Lim, hoping for a female chief of navy.

Another submission by Military Expert 4A Lim Jin Hua reads: "I hope to see that we have advanced in tandem with technology. We will be using VR as part of our training... where we can use VR to simulate a virtual battlefield."

Col (Ret) Siow, 55, hopes the navy will continue to have the ability to accomplish what it sets out to do in the next 25 years.

"It will be a constant challenge, as the world becomes more complex," he said.

30 foreign warships to mark RSN's 50th birthday
Largest gathering of naval vessels here and public activities among events planned
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 1 May 2017

Singapore will this month play host to the largest gathering of naval vessels, as part of celebrations for the navy's 50th anniversary.

From May 7, led by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), about 30 warships from 20 countries will make their way to the Republic from the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. Participating countries include China, the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and Australia.

As part of the group sail, the warships will take part in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise, where Singapore will lead in exercising the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

The code was signed in 2014 by 21 members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which includes China and eight Asean countries. It guides how military vessels should react to situations to reduce the risk of incidents at sea.

After arriving in Singapore, the warships will take part in the International Maritime Review on May 15 - a show of strong ties forged in the RSN's 50-year history, said RSN50 organising committee deputy chairman Saw Shi Tat.

"This is the first time that the Singapore navy is organising the International Maritime Review," Colonel Saw told reporters last Friday. "The scale... is testament to the friendships we have forged with friends and partners all over the world."

With President Tony Tan Keng Yam as the reviewing officer, the event will comprise a parade, a land review of the warships in harbour, and a sea review of warships at the anchorage.

During the review, Changi Naval Base will be officially named RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base. More than 4,000 guests and participants will be present, including over 30 chiefs of navy and directors-general of coast guards.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will commission the navy's first Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) on Friday, which marks 50 years since the Singapore naval ensign was first raised at Telok Ayer Basin on May 5, 1967. The vessel, named Independence, is the first of eight LMVs locally designed and built here.

A time capsule of items marking the RSN's achievements since its silver jubilee in 1992 will be sealed, such as a poster of the ports-of-call during the RSN's first voyage around the world in 2000, and a replica of the Independence-class LMV.

Events are lined up for the public, including storytelling sessions by men and women of the navy for children, and rope-tying workshops at selected Safra clubs during the June school holidays. In November, the public will get to tour navy ships, view equipment and weapons, and interact with navy personnel.

"The navy's development over the past 50 years has closely mirrored the development of Singapore," said Col Saw. "And in its golden jubilee year, all can be proud of the navy's achievements and contributions that it has made to the defence of our country."

Singapore Navy's Golden Jubilee: PM Lee Commissions First Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence
Singapore International Maritime Review 2017: Largest Showing of International Navy Ships at RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base

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