Sunday, 21 May 2017

Malaysian 15 to 5 Armada Transformation Program - Meeting Mahan’s Perspectives while Adjusting to the Fiscal Environment

Written by Theodore Bazinis*

Alfred Thayer Mahan. Source
Royal Malaysian Navy vessels in formation
In his essay “Considerations Guiding the Dispositions of Navies’’, for the British journal National Review (1901), Mahan defined the ways that a nation should deploy and dispose its naval forces in times of peace. Τhe godfather of Sea Power, determined the constitution of the fleet, as a critical factor for naval power. Aiming to cope with a range of threats and challenges and fulfill its nation’s ambitions in maritime domain, a fleet should consist of adequate number of ships and of requisite types. Naval Strategists and Naval Policy Makers are charged to correspond in such a manner so that to achieve an ideal connection between naval procurements (which define the future constitution of the fleet) and ambitions, threats and challenges within a given fiscal context. Mahan determined four elements (abilities) which constitute a balanced fleet: (1) projection of sea power and overcoming a contingent or future enemy, (2) protection of vital sea lanes, (3) scouting and operating toward the coast and (4) exercise naval diplomacy.

Malaysia in maritime domain

Strategically located state, laying in one of the most important choke points (Malacca Strait) which divides South China and Adaman Seas, Malaysia is facing a number of challenges in maritime domain: (1) The need to enforce its claims to the disputed islands and features of South China Sea, (2) The emergence of China and India as sea powers, (3) Chinese claims in South China Sea which in turn provoke US and her allies (Japan, Australia) intercession and reaction in the region, (4) Maritime contest between China and Southeast Asian countries with contested claims in South China Sea (Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei) and (5) Fulfill its commitment to MSSMAA (source n.I) to contribute in safeguarding the navigation along the Malacca Strait by potential threats of any nature (piracy, terrorism, insurgency, distribution of Weapons of Mass Destruction). 

Bases of the Royal Malaysian Navy. By Muffin Wizard. source

Concerning all above building and maintain potential naval capabilities is more than a comprehensible aim, it is a prerequisite to achieve the aforementioned strategic objectives. Evidently, in order to deal with the challenges associated by East Asian regional maritime security environment, Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) should meet and satisfy the four elements of Mahan’s theory.

What is the 15 to 5 program?

It is a strategic response of Royal Malaysian Navy that figures out threat and challenges in maritime domain, taking into account the security environment and the allocation of financial resources. The 15-to-5 program is a centerpiece plan that proposes a transformation process (or restructure) by reducing the current RMN’s 15 classes of vessels to just five categories: Littoral Mission Ships (LMS); Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS); Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); New Generation Patrol Vessels; and submarines. 

The 15 to 5 program of the Royal Malaysian Navy

Current Royal Malaysian Navy forces consist of 15 classes of naval vessels that have been constructed in seven different countries –Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, Sweden, Britain and Malaysia with an average age of thirty (30) years. Through this program RMN seeks an alternative in order to adjust in fiscal reality without affecting its capability to address security threats and deal with challenges.

As RMN Admiral Ahmad Kamaralzaman noted “…We used to have 15 types of vessels from seven different countries with the average age of 15 years. After a study done we realized that the operating costs are very high… it is cheaper to buy new ships than to maintain the old ones that are already 30 to 40 years old. Although LMS is smaller it is capable of doing a lot of missions…In the past we wanted the best platform available to meet our requirements but in reality we can’t afford them. So we are looking at ways to meet the challenges…if the transformation program is endorsed by the government the replacement process will be done in stages. We will focus on building ships from 5 classes harnessing the abilities of local industries...” (source n.II)


1. In July 2014 Royal Malaysian Navy and Boustead Naval Shipyard signed a contract for 6 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) vessels, designed by French DNCS and based on the Gowind 2500 Corvette design. Keel for the first one was laid down in March 2016 and the second in February 2017. The first ship is expected to be delivered to the RMN in late 2019. Littoral Combat Ship is a vessel of 3000tn displacement, 111m length, max speed of 28knots and endurance of 5000nm. Equipped with BAE Systems 57mm Mk3 naval gun, MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air missile (SAM), anti-ship KONGSBERG Naval Strike Missiles, two J+S 324 torpedo launching systems, two MSI Defense Seahawk 30mm guns and THALES CAPTAS 2 Array Sonar, the ship is planned to meet operational requirements and operate in blue and littoral waters of Indian Ocean and South China Sea assuming a broad range of modern and post-modern operations. So, Littoral Combat Ship is expected to pass off as the spearhead of the Royal Malaysian Navy. 

Gowind 2500 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) of RMN

2. An agreement signed last November between RMN and China regarding the purchase of four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS). According to Admiral Kamarulzaman the LMS will be smaller and less expensive than Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Royal Malaysian Navy plans to acquire 18 of these vessels which will replace the Laksamana class corvettes, Vosper Patrol Coast (PC) boat, Fast Attack Craft (FAC) with Gun (G) or Missiles (M). Construction was assigned to Boustead Naval Shipyard Bhd and China Shipbuilding and Offshore International co Ltd with monitoring being led by the Malaysian Ministry of Defense, as well as China’s SASTIND (State Administration Science Technology and Industry for the National Defense). Although not much are known regarding technical and operational features, analysts estimate that the length of the ship will be about 70m, max speed up to 30-32 knots, equipped with a 30mm gun. LMS vessels are planned not only to execute surveillance missions, but also to be deployed in humanitarian and disaster relief operations. 

The concept of Littoral Mission Vessel of the Republic of Singapore Navy

3. With respect to the NGPV’s, Admiral Kamarulzaman has stated that the Royal Malaysian Navy is interested in procuring more (about 12) of an improved version of Kedah class corvettes. 

Kedah class KD Kelantan in the Strait of Malacca. Photo by Nicolas Lopez, USN.
Notice that the vessels has a large space and very modern electronics to support a
variety of weapons but they are currently operating with limited armament.

4. No decisions have been reached yet for the Multi Role Support Ship (MRSS) but it is possible that RMN would seek to acquire two or three such vessels enhancing its capabilities in humanitarian assistance / disaster relief operations as also moving troops and equipment. Except the discussions with China, in November 2016, the Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL signed an MOU with Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) to construct Malaysia's first multirole support ship (MRSS) in Indonesia, based on an enlarged Makassar class LPD of more than 150 meters (source n.III).

KRI Banjarmasin, Makassar class LPD of the Indonesian Navy

5. Regarding the submarine fleet, RMN has acquired two Scorpene class submarines, constructed by French DNCS and its Spanish partner Navantia. Both of them are armed with Blackshark heavyweight wire guided torpedoes and Exocet SM 39 anti-ship missiles. 

Scorpene class submarine KD Tun Razak

6. Recently, the Malaysian Coast Guard delivered the first of the six New Generation Patrol Coast (NGPC) boats, the KM Bagan Datuk, constructed by local company Destini Shipbuilding. Such a vessel can provide flexibility in performing a wide range of operational duties and security missions (antipiracy, fisheries polishing, anti-smuggling, borderline surveillance). It is worth of mention that the class is equipped with the Fulmar UAV system. 

KM Bagan Taduk, first of NGPC vessels.  Notice that she is fitted out for airborne
drone trials with a launcher rail forward and an arrester net behind the mast.
Photo by JerryE /

Given current limitations, it remains to be seen if the Royal Malaysian Navy will actually be able to cope with financial demands and fulfill its aspirations. If the defense budgets declines in the coming years it is possible that the required funds will not be made available. Nonetheless is obvious that the so far planning and decisions made, lead Royal Malaysian Navy a step forward towards a capability boost which will in turn will safeguard Malaysia’s interests and enhance her role as a security actor in the region.

* Theodore Bazinis is a Political Scientist –International Relations (MA) and Researcher in the Institute of International Relations in Athens, at Maritime Strategy and Security Department.

I. Maritime Security Sea Patrol Monitoring Action Agency, an agreement signed in July 2004 by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand to secure navigational routes along Malacca Straits mainly from piracy. The agreement calls for intelligence exchange, sea and air patrols.
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Monday, 17 April 2017

Sa'ar 4.5 (Hetz) class fast attack craft of the Israeli Navy

Written by D-Mitch
Sa'r 4.5 class fast attack missile craft (FACM), the powerful
naval protectors of Israel. Photo by Ofek Ron-Carmel
When we talk about Israeli vessels, aircraft or any kind of military platform, we expect a variety of sensors and antennas, of which the majority of them have usually an unknown to the general audience purpose. This is exactly the case for the naval class which is analyzed in this article where its sensors related to electronic countermeasures, are reported mainly based on my experience and also on my judgement according to the producers' product descriptions. I must admit this article was not easy at all; an article which I started writing about a year ago and reached over than 35 pages... It was worth it though as I believe I managed to write the most complete article about the class online. The Israeli naval class which is analyzed in this article is the Sa'ar 4.5 class or else Hetz class of fast attack missile craft (FACM); the backbone of the modern Israeli Navy (Hebrew: חיל הים הישראלי‎‎, Ḥeil HaYam HaYisraeli (English: Sea Corps of Israel); Arabic: البحرية الإسرائيلية‎‎) which is the naval warfare service arm of the Israel Defense Forces. Actually there are two different subclasses that are both named Sa'ar 4.5. The first subclass consists of two boats and was initially called Chochit (Hebrew: חוחית‎‎), but renamed to Aliya (Hebrew: עליה‎‎) and later on were sold to the Mexican Navy which renamed to Huracan class. Two Aliya subclass boats are in service with the Mexican Navy. This class will be analyzed in a future post. The second subclass was initially called Nirit (Hebrew: נירית‎‎) but renamed to Hetz (Hebrew: חץ‎‎). It should be mentioned here that this class was once the most heavily armed and most advanced in the world in the fast attack missile craft type. Today, Sa'ar 4.5 (Hertz), in its regular configuration, shares the first place together with the Egyptian Ezzat class (Ambassador Mk III) the latest addition to the Egyptian Navy, and certainly is one of the best FACM in the world today.

Israel Navy Saar 4.5 class missile boats. Photo: Nir Ben-Yosef (AKA xnir)

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

An (early) April Fool's Day joke, the Greek media and the journalistic professionalism

Very early in the morning of Friday the 31th, I read in the news that the shipowner Alexandros Goulandris is intended to make the armored cruiser Georgios Averof sailable, a legendary ship of the Hellenic Navy (Πολεμικο Ναυτικό) and now for many decades a memorial and museum ship. I found it really funny to be honest, someone to spend so much money to repair an old museum vessel and make it sailable again when the priorities of the Hellenic Navy are so many and when the country is broke. I am Greek as many of you know (or you can realize that from my posts that give an emphasis to the Navy of Greece), and as a navy enthusiast, researcher (operations research analyst)  and amateur blogger, I do care about the future of my country's Navy. Therefore I wanted to raise up an issue, to see the reactions of the people and moreover to test the Greek media. This was not an easy decision for me to make and took a lot of consideration before I posted the fake news. I hope that my followers will not have bad feelings and enjoyed the joke as much as I did. I must admit also that I was not expecting that huge domino effect and the reproduction of my "news" in so many blogs and websites and most important in so many variations! I was also seriously "bombed" from dozens of phone calls and private messages.

USS Stout (DDG-55), one of the ships that was "acquired" by the Hellenic Navy

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Monday, 20 March 2017


Written by D-Mitch

This is the fourth post, after a long time, of a new category of infographics of various coast guard vessels from around the world. These infographics aim to highlight the most important equipment of the vessels; I do not analyze the systems in depth as I do for the warships instead I provide some basic information mainly from Wikipedia (if else I provide the source) about the ships, their history and their capabilities.
1.  Sa'ar 62 class offshore patrol vessels of the Azerbaijani Coast Guard
President Ilham Aliyev inspecting the
new shipyards and the boats
Typhoon MLS-NLOS missile launcher
Azerbaijan is one of the very few countries in the world that has in her inventory missile-armed coast guard vessels. Jane's, reported in summer of 2014, that Azerbaijan had bought six Sa'ar 62 offshore patrol vessels (based on the Sa'ar 4.5 class) and six lighter Shaldag Mk V patrol boats. The purchase came to light flowing the release of images from the commissioning of a new naval shipyard in Azerbaijan, which showed the first vessels during handling and construction in new shipyards in Türkan (video here), which is also according to Jane's believed to have been built by Israel Shipyards. The construction hall has capacity for at least three vessels to be constructed simultaneously. It should be mentioned that  Azerbaijan became second country in the world, after Russia with her remaining Krivak III (Nerey) class cutters armed with SA-N-4 surface-to-air missiles, that introduced in the coast guard fleet, vessels armed with missile weapon systems. However, in the Azerbaijani service, the distinction between  a coast guard vessel and a naval vessel is blur, as none of the naval vessels is equipped with missiles in contrast to.. the coast guard vessels! A nice video about the Azerbaijan Coast Guard can be watched here. Recently, Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates commissioned coast guard vessels with missile weapon systems. These vessels, will be analyzed in a future post.

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Monday, 27 February 2017

Naresuan class frigates of the Royal Thai Navy

Written by D-Mitch

The lead ship in the class, Naresuan (421), after the upgrade.
Via Fb Combat-Zones
The most advanced and heavily armed surface combatants of the Royal Thai Navy (Thai: กองทัพเรือไทย; rtgsKong Thap Ruea Thai) are two (2) Naresuan class frigates, cooperatively designed by the Royal Thai Navy and China but built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation in Shanghai the period 1991-94. The two vessels in the class, Naresuan (421) and Taksin (422), were commissioned in December 1994 and October 1995 respectively. The Naresuan class is considered a modified version of the Chinese-made Type 053 frigate. When Thailand ordered four new 053 frigates in 1990, China built them to the (then) latest 053H2 (Jianghu III) standard. Two were modified with helicopter decks in the back. Although the price was excellent, the Thai Navy complained of quality issues. The interior wiring was exposed and had to be re-wired. The ship's battle damage control system was very limited, with poor fire-suppression system and water-tight locks. It's said that if the ship's hull was breached, rapid flooding would lead to loss of ship. The Thai Navy had to spend considerable time and effort to correct some of these issues. The harsh criticisms lead to many improvements in China's shipbuilding industry. By the mid-1990s, the Thai Navy was confident enough to order two enlarged 053 hulls (F25T), later named HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Taksin, to be fitted with western engines and weapon systems. The ships were purchased at "friendship prices" of 2 billion baht each, compared to the 8 billion baht price tag for Western-built frigates.
The two Naresuan class frigates, after their upgrade, in formation
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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

INFOGRAPHICS #25: United States Navy Blue Angels, Grumman's Cats and United States fighter aircraft

The following images are created by Steve Freeman (sfreeman421 for deviantart) and depict all the all the types of fighters that were/are in service with the United States Navy as well as the eight different demonstration aircraft that the United States Navy's flight demonstration squadron, the "Blue Angels", have flown from 1946 to present, and the Grumman's Navy Cats. Enjoy this great artwork!

US Navy fighter planes (1915 - present). In high resolution here
Grumman's Navy Cats. In high resolution here.
US Navy Blue Angels. In high resolution here.
Drawing showing the different aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy "Blue Angels" aerobatics team (top to bottom):
  • Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat: June–August 1946
  • Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat: August 1946 – 1949
  • Grumman F9F-2 Panther: 1949 – June 1950; F9F-5 Panther: 1951 - Winter 1954/55
  • Grumman F9F-8 Cougar: Winter 1954/55 - mid-season 1957
  • Grumman F11F-1 (F-11A) Tiger: mid-season 1957 – 1969
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II: 1969 – December 1974
  • Douglas A-4F Skyhawk: December 1974 – November 1986
  • McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A/C Hornet: November 1986 – present
Source: U.S. Navy All Hands magazine February 1996, p. 24.
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

INFOGRAPHICS #24: HMS Warspite, Royal Navy's most distinguished battleship that should have been preserved!

HMS Warspite model by Julian Seddon
Τhis article is related to the POLL which was published yesterday. The "winner" of the poll, was HMS Warspite, thus I thought it would be appropriate to post its glorious story which I borrowed from Wikipedia and I added some extras (see sources). HMS Warspite was one of the five 33,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class battleships built for the Royal Navy during the early 1910s. Her thirty-year career covered both world wars and took her across the Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. She participated in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet. Other than that battle, and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during the war generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea. She was involved in several major engagements, including battles in the North Sea and Mediterranean, earning her the most battle honours ever awarded to an individual ship in the Royal Navy and the most awarded for actions during the Second World War. For this and other reasons Warspite gained the nickname the "Grand Old Lady" after a comment made by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham in 1943 while she was his flagship. It should be mentioned that HMS Warspite holds the record for the longest hit on a moving target in naval warfare history, when during the Battle of Calabria in 1940, Warspite, hitting the Italian battleship Giulio Cesare at a range of approximately 24km (26,000 yards)!
HMS Warspite During The Spanish Civil War (1937)

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