Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Slasher !

The X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie is scheduled to open soon and this movie tells of the origins of my favourite X-Man Wolverine. I have been thankful that in the movie series Wolverine has at least ditch his yellow coveralls that although cool and marks him as the outsider within the fraternity, that suit definitely does not lend itself as much as the jeans and singlet grunge look the Wolverine has nows. It is just that flashing of the admantium claws by Mr Wolverine nows reminds me too much of another movie character that although not as cool, was as much popular in the eighties as the X-Men Marvel Comics character in the late 20th Century. Do you remember him below that gave a whole generation of teens nightmares when they slept? Hello from him!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Gulai Pucuk Ubi Tumbuk Recipe To The Fore

I had noticed about this traditional Malay recipe collection book from a review in a local newspaper and today in celebration of paying off my income tax and to accumulater tax receipts for this year's assesment, I brought the family to Kinokuniya bookstore where I found it on sale. After paying for it and flicking through it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the recipe for the definitive Mandailing Dish, Gulai Pucuk Ubi Tumbuk was included in the recipe book. This virtually unobtainable dish from any malay food shop has finally obtained general credentials and at least this family's version of this traditional recipe can now be kept for perpetuity . Yes there are many family variations of this dish, and the condiments itself may change according to personal preference.

For those interest in the book, here is a brief descrition from the MPH website :

Title: A Taste of Batu Gajah : Traditional Malay Family Recipe
Author: Datin Seri Raihan Abdul Rahman; et. al.
Published Date: 01-APR-09
ISBN: 9834455704
Format: Paperback
Main Category: Food & Drinks
Our Price: RM 80.00
Book Description

While A Taste Batu Gajah is about life – and the tastes - of this unique historical town in Perak, it is more importantly about authentic
Malay cooking with lots of heart and soul thrown in. The cookbook's recipes will remind you of a time when life was simple and good things were to be savoured.
The recipes in A Taste of Batu Gajah were and still are, cooked by Datin Norsiah, a woman who equates food with love.

I hope if you do decide to buy the book yourself, I hope you enjoy the collection of traditional Malay recipes that may not be available elsewhere.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Making New Out Of Old

According to the Dictionary of Naval Terms by Thomas J Cutler, a service life extension program is a program designed to extend the period of usefulness of service vessels by giving them an extensive overhaul and modernization refit. This is where the life of the hull and basic structure of a ship is extended by replacing the mechanical, electrical, propulsion, waste, and other systems and likely rebuilding the spaces and, of course, re-outfitting them. Nonetheless it has to be remembered that the lifetime of the refitted (SLEP) ship will likely be less than that of a new ship. Although almost all navies does this procedure, unfortunately for a small navy like ours with limited resources, SLEP has been a way to prolong the life of our naval assets as replacements are usually far in between and may not even be insufficient quantities. For example, our FS1500 Kasturi class frigates has since 1984 had refits under SLEP when their Sewaco combat system wasa updated 1999 and later refits, the 100 mm gun was upgraded to Mk2 configuration in 1994 and around 2002 their MM38 Exocet SSM replaced with the newer MM40 version. As reported by a journalist who attended the recent RMN media event, KD Lekir the second in the class has just finished her SLEP program but there seems to be no identifiable changes to her appearance to suggest a major modernisation refit was undertaken as shown by the photographs here.

This was despite the announcement during LIMA 2007 that the government had handed over the letter of intent (LOI) to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd for service life extension program of Kasturi Class Corvettes for both KD Kasturi and KD Lekir of RMN. Nonetheless the exclusive photo above taken by Cari Forum Member Standupper on 15 April that was posted in the Security Agencies, Police and Military discussion board shows that the hull of KD Kasturi being completely gutted, probably in anticipation of the full modernisation announced in the LOI. Another source has advised that KD Kasturi entered the dockyard at the end of last year and only recently was prepared for the SLEP program. This modernisation is expected to consist of the following upgrade package as reported by Tempur defence magazine previously :

a. Installation of TACTICOS CMS to replace the Daisy Sewaco-MA Combat Data System

b. Electronics package including Thales DA-08 air search radar , Mirador-IR optronic director,
marine navigation radar , DR3000S ESM suite, ATLAS Electronik DSQS-24C hull mounted sonar, Link Y MK 2.5 and TERMA SKWS decoys.

c. Weapons system upgrade with the intallation of a Eurotorp B515 with A244S Whitehead ASW torpedoes at the ASRL position, the 100 mm gun would be replaced with a medium calibre gun , most probably with the existing Bofors 57 mm gun as the aft gun would be removed completely in order to extend the helicopter deck and two MSI 30 mm guns would replace the existing Emerlec guns.

Well we can only wait and hope that the modernisation upgrade as speculated above be carried out after the ship has finished her SLEP as otherwise her mission capability may not be sufficient to increase her survivability in the this more challenging environment as compared to when she was built in the 1980's. This is especially since we cannot afford to buy many new fighting platforms but instead have to rely on making new out of old ships that we already have.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Return Of The Armed Merchantman?

KL Security Review has reported that the Malaysian Navy confirmed that the Royal Malaysian Navy and Malaysian International Shipping Corporation(MISC) is negotiating to cooperate in upgrading a merchant ship to become a naval auxiliary ship to replace the navy ships deployment in the Gulf of Aden Bay for escort missions. Off hand this piece of news brings to mind the gallant armed merchantmen that served as the cradle and crucible to forge the Malay navy men during World War II with heroic gallantry and which now lends their names to the Navy's own patrol vessels. That was a time when navy combat ships were in scarce supply thus these merchantmen had to be armed as naval auxiliary ships to conduct patrol and escort missions. It seems now that our own navy can no longer afford to spare a navy unit to undertake the convoy escort missions and thus has to request MISC to furnish them with a naval auxiliary to undertake such missions.

The report stated that a merchant ship have been identified for the conversion and the ship selected merchant must comply with several conditions, for example, must have space for a hangar and accommodation for naval staff on the ship. The article also stated that MISC already operates vessels with helipads in their Offshore Floating Facilities fleet, but what they may have not realised are that such ships are tethered production and storage vessels, and the helipad conversions they have installed may not be suitable for a vessel that is supposed to be sailing in speed and in climatically challenging environment as can be seen from these photos of the various vessels. In fact if we are to peruse MISC's fleet, it may not make much sense to convert their ships just to ply the Gulf for escort duties without any payload, especially for only one unit and it also does not make sense commercially to convert several units for such a role just because modern ship designs just do not lend itself easily for conversion to armed merchantmen. In addition, the current modus operandi for the convoys is for our merchant ships to muster at a friendly port like Djibouti before transiting the Gulf under armed naval escort. Thus the period when the escort ship returns to a port of muster to berth and wait for the next convoy to form up means idle time for a merchant ship, and I believe would be a sticking point between the Navy and MISC. Another factor would be the crewing of the ship, as navy sailors may not be able to or cannot crew such a merchant men, and I doubt if civilian crews would want to endure such a task like convoy duties in the Gulf that some of our navy men from Ops Fajar has stated is a harrowing task.

So what should be the better solution in the humble opinion of this blogger you say? Well in this case I would like to remind you that the RMN are actually no strangers to operating leased commercial vessels in their fleet like MV Fajar Samudera, MV Mahsuri and STS Puteri Mahsuri in addition to commercial hydrographic vessels. The first two ships are being used to train their sailors including reservists. As the sending of KD Tuah has set a precedent of sending trainee sailors to the Gulf area of operations, then I do not see any reason why we should not send any of these two training vessels instead. MV Fajar Samudera on the left is more like a cruise ship to be a good naval deterrent while MV Mahsuri on the right is a 92 metre long 4000 tonnes ex-research vessel with a cruising speed of 12.5 knots, perfect for such convoy escort work. In addition, the ship design already incorporates a large helicopter pad in the stern and since it is a training ship, accommodation should not be a problem for the navy Special Forces men assigned to her. She also has a stern ramp for easy deployment of the Special Forces men and also has medical facilities on board and has served as a hospital ship during the Navy's exercises. Thus the conversion required for MV Mahsuri can be no more than installing non deck penetration medium calibre guns and repainting the ship to naval grey to show it means business. It fact this ship approximates most closely the size and capability of KD Mahawangsa and KD Inderasakti that has done their tour of duty in the Gulf.

The only problem this idea would face is that MV Mahsuri is currently privately owned and crewed by civilians under the command of the Navy. But then this should not be too difficult to resolve as there is already a precedent for our oil industry players to supply equipment for the Navy's Paskal for use in their oil platform protection duties. So why not our shipping industry players led by MISC then not buy over the ship and present it to the navy for use in the escort missions, or at least lease the ship on the navy's behalf for the navy to operate. If the MV Mahsuri is not available, then I am sure in the current state of shipping industry that is in the doldrums, it would be easy to find another suitable or much better ship to undertake the task. Would RFA Argus or its Chinese equivalent Shicang class be too much too ask?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Islamic And Fashionable?

My wife recently on the occasion of her birthday finally decided to mark it by starting to don the tudung and hijab. Thus it seems coincidental that this article appeared in The Star discussing what it would mean to be fashionable in Islam, or is Islamic Fashion an oxymoron in itself.

Firstly let me put together the relevant bits from the article for the base of my comments later. The article mentions that "According to the Quran, men and women are required to dress modestly by covering their aurat, which refers to the area from the navel to the knee for the former and all parts of the body except the face, hands and feet for the latter. However, there has been much debate on how this can be interpreted and how far one needs to go to ensure proper Muslim attire compliance. If the idea is to dress modestly and not attract attention to yourself then surely “Islamic fashion” is a misnomer, as fashion is all about adorning oneself and attracting attention." It goes on to explain the origins of Islamic Malay clothing where " upon conversion to Islam, a whole new concept of covering up emerged among the Malay Muslims, who chose a kind of a tent shape....that the habbaya from the Arabian Peninsula became the kebaya matched with a shawl and sarong, which was tied in a style called tindih kasih. Then there is the Turkish long tunic that became the baju kurung, worn with a wrapped and draped sarong. The wrapping and draping concept appears in the Cik Siti Wan Kembang outfit (from Kelantan) that comes with a wide shawl and, later on (also for Kelantan women), the kain batik lepas, a piece of batik material. The bright 2m coloured fabric was used as a head covering; it became multi-functional to suit daily life,” .

Thus in the present era, fashion from the Islamic point of view is where "The Islamic silhouette does not emphasise the figure, especially the chest. The designs should focus more on practicality, in keeping with Muslim activities in daily life. Which basically means comfortable and practical clothing that a Muslim can wear while performing everyday tasks. In today’s context, the most recognisable form of such comfortable, practical and, of course, modest garment in Malaysia is the baju kurung. That is a variation of the jubah that Muslim women elsewhere wear. Increasingly, Muslim women wear the outfit with a headscarf that’s called hijab in the Middle East but usually is referred to as the tudung, (cover) locally.As the name suggests – from the word kurung which means to confine – this shape of dress was to protect the human body from unwanted elements,”.

Unfortunately Among designers, there are different schools of thought where one feels that it’s about infusing Islamic values and modesty into the world of fashion while the other feels very strongly that fashion and Islam cannot mix as this means to invite people to look at you, and that’s wrong as they feel hat women should be modest and not attract attention.. Nonetheless my own personal opinion agrees with this statement by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir who is actually against the term Islamic fashion and feels religion and fashion should not be mixed and points out that "“our mothers and grandmothers have been wearing traditional dress all their lives, so are we now saying that they are not Islamic?" Therefore it does really make sense to me when she says that

“I object to it because it implies that those of us who don’t wear these types of garments, particularly if we don’t cover our heads, are not Muslims. I think everyone should dress modestly and that is enough. Dressing in ‘Islamic fashion’ does not mean you are a better Muslim than one who does not.”

“Religion and fashion are two separate worlds. Yes, I think women have a right to dress in any way that pleases them and be modest about it as well. But I don’t think it needs to be called fashion. If it is fashion, not only is it by definition attention-getting but it’s also fleeting and transient and requires you to change every so often, even when there is no reason to.

“Following fashion can enslave you too. Does the Quran give fashion guidelines? No, it just tells us, men and women, to behave modestly. God is beyond fashion.”

So to me the best would be to emphasise on common sense and practicality in Muslim wear and keep in mind that conceptions of modesty and appropriateness vary between different Islamic denominations and individuals, and you may need to straddle the two worlds somewhat uneasily and try to find a balance. I believe the answer may be beyond all of us, and in the end, how one chooses to interpret religion is strictly between oneself and God.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

We May Not Be Green Yet, But We Are Heading There

There has been some comments on the Earth Hour bandwagon like the following quote from the Star, but what I want to do is to comment on what the writer has wrote on the little people who care who actually make going green happen.

Similarly, Earth Hour has come and gone (I was out for a meal so technically my lights were switched off). While the bandwagon was brimming with green groupies, after more than two weeks, where are we now?

The point is that grand gestures are easy to embrace – cool, too, when they come with enough do-gooder publicity. But how many of us are even thinking about switching off our electricity for an hour every day or every week after that? Thought so.

The writer has basically asserted that from her exposure that ''that green causes .... are generally targeted at those who can afford to go green and spend time thinking about it. “For those who are struggling to earn a living, it is unfortunately a non-issue.”" This is based on her experience that when she returned from abroad, her exposure to garbage separation there amounts to nothing locally as she believes that all the garbage would still go to a single bag and will later unceremoniously dumped together into the landfill.

What she does not realise is that in Malaysia, it is exactly the opposite as it is these poor people who are the little people who actually help in recycling our society's waste in a big way. I am not talking about the metal thieves who help recycle our metal gates and gratings and such but I wonder if she really has not seen these little people with a piece of long metal that is hooked at the end to help them hook the drink cans out of garbage bins and longkangs. Or she has not seen how our enterprising garbagemen who has taken the initiative to separate the garbage themselves to sell to the recycling centres as shown by the photos here, or our own landfill scavengers who brave thrash landslides and methane blasts to separate the garbage at site, with some lucky ones finding the occasionally missing gold jewelry as a jackpot sometimes, something I know from personal experience when I was doing a project at some of the landfills. This not even taking into account the ubiquitous old newspapermen doing the rounds that is not only limited to newspaper nowadays but other junk too.

And the reason for these recycling enterprise? Its just cold hard cash as it is really true that there is money in garbage. So never mind if we still do not practise formal garbage separation via coloured thrash bins or sacks. As long we try to separate the recyclables from our trash and keeping them separately until they can be thrown away together later on, we would have done our own little bit to help the environment by helping those who actually are doing the recycling bit make the job a little bit easier. You really don't need to wait to go brown, blue and green to go green.

KD Hang Tuah To Return Month End

KL Security Review has reported that KD Hang Tuah's deployment in the Gulf Of Aden will end at the end of the month. And I speculated wrongly in my previous post that this would deprive the navy trainees from on board training, as KLSR has reported that the trainees are actually deployed on this voyage with the main benefit is to allow the trainee officers to carry out its mandate to study ocean-going training and experience. This is a good strategy by the RMN to utilise the funding for this voyage to also provide ocean going to the trainee officer, which due to lack of resources the Navy rarely emulates the major navies' midshipmen training ship round the world voyages. Nice going! You guys are really stretching the dollar for the good of the Navy.

Post Script
From a newspaper article that appears on the day after this posting was made, the RMN CNO was quoted as saying that Ops Fajar was to be terminated due to the economic slump that is happening whereby fewer merchant ships are moving in the danger area. The high cost of monitoring and escorting the merchant ships through the Gulf that is fully borne by the Navy was another factor in the decision to terminate the operations.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Ghosts Of My Youth

Yes I am reminiscing but I am literally thinking of the ghosts stories that has appeared in my youth, a mind train that started when I saw the movie trailer on TV for a Thai horror movie that featured a haunted cinema. That got me thinking of a ghost story about the Odeon Cinema in Ipoh that somehow was built beside a Christian cemetery, at the rear of the Cinema if you see it from this recent photograph of the converted building. The story goes that at the reserved first class section located at the balcony area on the second floor, there is a row of seats at the back that is usually purposely left empty. This is because in the event of a full house that the seats are actually occupied, the poor patrons would be disturbed by their usual occupants, supposedly denizens from the cemetery that somehow spends their afterlife watching the most recent movies. Another version of the story says that there was only a particular ghost who had his favourite seat, so woe betide the unfortunate soul who happens to sit there. Nonetheless both versions of the story agrees that the ghost was quite benevolent, that in the event you vacate the seat, the disturbance will stop. I can vouch though that the many times we watch movies there as it was one of the cheaper cinemas in Ipoh, I do seem to remember that there was a particular row that is usually empty. Though instances of a full house are rare, it was noticeable because the cinemas then (as also now) usually fill up with the seats at the back, so when the last row seats are usually empty, it does pique your mind whether the stories are true or otherwise. Nonetheless I have never had the wherewithal to test the story, so I could never verify it though there were stories that some brave souls did try to test their machismo and was rewarded by leaving the cinemas with tears. God only knows eh!

Other than the usual run of the mill ghost stories that I have heard, I would only touch on those that may be particular to my region and at least there was one that I heard from my late grand-uncle who claims to have seen the giant or tall ghost called Bota who straddled the bridge that connected Bota Kiri and Bota Kanan one early morning, who had one foot at each end when he was crossing the bridge as he was commuting daily between Ipoh and Lumut then. So when he looked up, he could actually see the crotch of the gigantic ghost and I bet that was one ugly sight and the ghost must be one of the largest in record as he could span such a long bridge as shown in the picture. Again the ghost in this story was benign as he said the was just standing there, like a sentry and was not doing anything that may harm somebody. So since my family has always been taught to let things be if anything weird happens or "Jangan Tegur" in Malay, he just moved on and that was the only incident that happened during his few years of commuting. Anyway if you want to know more, Bota to the folks in the area that was named after the creature was supposed to be some sort of a soil based creature that only occasionally hunts for flesh for its diet, and if a human goes missing around there it was then attributed to the Bota but then it is usually because the human may have crossed some pantang/taboo or superstitious practices. So it may have been my grand-uncle's good luck that when he crossed path with the Bota, the creature was either not hungry or my grand-uncle did not break any pantang eh.

Many may have heard of Hantu Kum Kum or Hantu Stokin as these are ghosts that is known nationally but I think one that may be particular to Ipoh was the hysteria about a dog head ghost that was supposed to go around trying to snatch kids for dinner. The most frightening aspect of this story is that unlike regular ghosts, this one appears in the day time. So families were being panicked into keeping their kids in the house as the modus operandi is that the ghost is a man whose head turns into a dog head to chomp at a kid who he then drags away when he gets the chance. So pity the stranger who may come a calling to your door as they will be nastily turned away, but pity the kids like me more who until the story died out, was kept lock inside the house and could not even play in the compound, lest they be lured out. This story to me was definitely a hoax that if I remember correctly even got the Police issuing Public Announcements that the story was not true and no kids had gone missing due to any dog headed man but they are investigating cases of real kidnappings, such was the hysteria gripping the public. But in light of the recent missing children cases that has yet to be resolved, maybe such precautions are necessary these days anyway.

Another story was related to me by my own late father whose family house neighboured the village cemetery. He told me one night he was attracted by a light flickering within the cemetery so like a cat he went there to sneak a peek. Imagine his surprise when he saw a floating coffin on the way to a burial plot. It seems that the coffin was not actually floating but may have been carried by a procession of invisible people or orang halus in Malay, coming to the cemetery to bury one of their own. I never got around to ask what happen next and my father also did not say anything more about the incident except to remind me that there are many things in this world that we do not know about, and as long as we try co-exist peacefully nothing untoward will happen as demonstrated by the stories above. And if any thing that that looks like a ghost may actually try to harm us, these are most likely people masquerading as ghostly beings. And if something supernatural does try to disturb us, rely on God as it has been promised in the good book that they cannot harm us unless we allow them to do so, especially by showing fear to them. These are the lessons that I took to heart in my own encounters with the supernatural, but then these are stories that I will only tell my own children so as to impart the same lessons that I received from my own father.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Submarine Rescue Outsourced

Last month it was announced in the Parliament that the RMN initially wanted to sign a 20 year outsourced submarine rescue contract because the Navy has no expertise but was instructed to re-negotiate for a shorter deal instead.

KUALA LUMPUR ( March 2, 2009) :

The Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) will use the service of Target Resources Sdn Bhd for "Submarine Escape and Rescue" (SMER) since it has no experience in the field, Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop said the SMER service was important as the country's first submarine would start operation in July.

"It will allow the defence ministry and TLDM to learn the technical aspects aimed at providing the best service," he said when winding up the motion of thanks to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for his opening address.

Abu Seman said on Aug 25, 2008, the defence ministry received approval from the finance ministry to negotiate directly for SMER at a cost of RM8.2 million monthly for 20 years or RM98.4 million annually.

"However, the finance ministry did not agree with the cost and asked the defence ministry to renegotiate for the lowest price over six years. The negotiation is ongoing."
It has to be explained that by extracting from the Parliamentary hansard we learn that "submarine escape and rescue(SMER)" is the first process in a rescue of a downed submarine in order to extend the survivability of the submarine via intervention. This would require a system that encompasses Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle(IROV), Emergency Life Support Store, Distress Submarine Ventilation and Depressurization System and finally Atmospheric Diving Suit and Hull Inflated Boat. This is the system that is to be outsourced while the rescue teams and rescue ships themselves will be requested from international rescue organisations as the Parliament was informed that ownership cost will be exorbitant especially for a navy that will only have two submarines in service. Even the Indian Navy that already has a substantial submarine fleet and are now building six Scorpene class susbmarines is also dependent on foreign resources if any of its submarines gets into trouble as their Defence Ministry's failure to make a decision on a US$65 million program for two deep submergence rescue vessels has meant that the program has to be restarted again with a retender.

This post will not discuss the hows and why's of the contract but will look at how two regional Navies have also outsourced for a similar service. They have engaged UK's James Fisher Defence (JFD) who recently shipped their latest Deep Search and Rescue (DSAR) 500 series free swimming rescue vehicles(SRV) to South Korea and Singapore. The DSAR 500 had leveraged JFD's experience of the materiel design, in service support and operation of the LR5, the manned component of the UK Submarine Rescue Service (UKSRS), that was in fact substantially rebuilt in service by JFD during the course of its service life until its stand down at the end of November 2008. The vehicle and other assets of the UKSRS were acquired by JFD from the Ministry of Defence and is now being internationally marketed for further service as the James Fisher Submarine Rescue System (JFSRS). The LR5 vehicle normally carries three submersible crew members, the pilot, a co-pilot and the systems operator. Depth rated to 400 metres, the rescue submersible makes a watertight seal onto the distressed submarine's escape hatch. The watertight seal allows transfer of personnel without submitting them to the high external sea pressure. Technicians and medical officers can be transferred to the distressed submarine if required and survivors from the submarine are transferred onto the submersible. Up to 15 submarine survivors can be evacuated at a time to the mother ship or to a mother submarine. The LR5 could make up to eight trips to the distressed submarine (rescuing 120 survivors) before needing to recharge the battery power supply. Meanwhile the Royal Australian Navy have since December 2008 engaged JFSRS to provide it with a standby submarine rescue service using the equipment that includes the LR5 submarine rescue vehicle (SRV), the Scorpio 45 Intervention System remotely operated vehicle and their vastly experienced operations team that is rigorously maintained ready to deploy anywhere across the globe at 12 hours notice; with a proven, lightweight and air transportable submarine rescue system that is ready to respond to any RAN disabled submarine incident.

Evolved from LR5 vehicle, the new DSAR 500 have been designed by JFD to incorporate a number of engineering improvements, technology insertions and additional features. They have also benefited from the introduction of a modular manufacture and outfitting philosophy. The DSAR 500 rescue vehicle is capable of rescuing up to 16 submariners or a total rescue payload of 1200kg from a depth of 500 metres in currents of up to 3 knots. Rescuees may be transferred under pressure to the medical and decompression facilities on board the mothership. The DSAR 500 delivered to South Korea is to operate from mother rescue ship (MOSHIP) Chung Hae Jin and builds on JFD existing relationship with the Republic Of Korea Navy, particularly the service’s existing LR5K rescue submersible. The second craft is part of a new submarine rescue service for Singapore. Unlike the South Korean order that is a direct commercial sale, JFD and partner ST Marine are providing a contractor owned, contractor operated submarine rescue service for The Republic of Singapore Navy under a fifty-fifty joint venture known as First Response Marine Ltd. (FRM). The RSN’s order comprises a submarine support and rescue vessel (SSRV) (i.e. the mother ship) to transport a submarine rescue vehicle (SRV) and all of its control and handling systems to the site of a submarine in distress.Through FRM, ST Marine and JFD are working together to deliver a fully integrated submarine support and rescue MOSHIP and SRV service, and operate and maintain the rescue asset for a twenty year period. The contract valued at S$400 million is the first private public partnership for the Navy and FRM is due to begin operations by the middle of 2009.

The above are two examples of how a naval submarine fleet owner can prepare for incidents of a submarine in distress by outsourcing the submarine rescue service to a commercial submarine rescue service, especially for a small operator like our Navy. The choice can be between a direct contract with a submarine rescue service company like JFSRS or encourage the setting up of an in-country company like FRM in Singapore. These are alternative solutions to a joint navy service like NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) shown left or a navy owned system like Korea's DSR-5. However looking at the name of the foreign technology partner given in Parliament, Paris Ling Bai System Limited, I cannot help but speculate whether the RMN will be outsourcing their submarine rescue services to China's PLA Navy and will use the The LR7 - or the Sea Dragon, China's newest, most advanced and biggest rescue submarine that you can see in this LR7 BBC Video. The multi-million pound LR7, the next generation of deep submergence rescue vessels, has been designed and developed by Perry Slingsby Systems (PSS), part of the Aberdeen-based Triton Group, and will put the Chinese Navy at the forefront of sub sea search and rescue worldwide. Capable of operating in depths of more than 300 metres, the 10 metre long state-of-the-art submarine can transport up to 18 people rescued from stricken vessels and is set to operate from PLAN's domestically built Type 926 Submarine Rescue Ship. Though it may seem odd to hire a service that is further away than what FRM can offer down south, I guess presumptive security concerns trumps the convenience and accessibility in this case though I hope that I am proven wrong when more details are announced.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Assalamualaikum Pak Lah!

Well at 10:00 a.m., Malaysia once again had a smooth transition of power with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak being sworn in as the sixth Prime Minister. Continuing the new tradition of bestowing the title of Tun to the departing Prime Minister and spouse, both Pak Lah and his wife are now Tun's in honour of their services to the nation. It had been a tumultous six years for Tun Abdullah and he could have done more, but I guess he was too nice to really move the behemoth onto his tracks towards achieving his ambitions for a greater Malaysia. Nonetheless the undeniable fact is that with this handover, our nation has witnessed two occassions of a peaceful transfer of power from a sitting Prime Minister to his successor without him losing a general election. Thus despite what is being claimed by many opposition sycophants that we now live in a repressive and undemocratic society. So I say to you how many countries that are really under a dictatorship can claim a similar transition and this is a clear cut evidence that Malaysia remains a democratic constitutional monarchy state. Amen!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

It Looks Like A Corvette, But...

PV 03 Perak Awaiting Commissioning

While we await the actual status of PV Perak and PV Terengganu and PV Selangor, the former pair supposed to be commissioned while the latter to be launched last month, let us have a look at some of the less contemporary designs that has appeared in the market since the project started. Although the approved second batch is unlikely to stray far from the Meko A100 design of the first batch of six, it would still be a good idea to have a look at the designs and specifications other navies have for their patrol vessels. This is because from the beginning of the RMN patrol vessel program, criticism of the fitted for but not with(FFNW) concept has loudly lingered in the many defence forums, with many pundits saying the Kedah class patrol vessels should be more heavily armed and speedier commensurate with the project cost announced. All this are said without realizing that in general even for the newer designs, a modern patrol vessel is not built to naval shipbuilding standards as a cost saving measure, is usually only sufficiently armed for its general patrol missions, modular so that it can be support simple integration of different combat systems that is actually another way to say FFNW and the hull form optimized for exceptional sea keeping even in high seas, essential for long periods of patrol at sea as offered by their long endurance and range. The incorporation of a level of stealth features in order to reduce radar cross section to a minimum although not essential is a welcome element in the newer patrol vessel design.

VT's OPV For Trinidad And Tobago

UK based VT Shipbuilding holds a strong position as a leading supplier of offshore patrol vessel with a family of OPV in service or in build that extend from basic patrol vessels to highly sophisticated designs. Beginning with Royal Navy River class fishery protection vessels as a basic design, the Batch 2 Falkland Islands patrol vessel improved on the earlier design with additional helicopter capability although only armed with a 30mm gun. Meanwhile their design for Trinidad and Tobago is a new design closely based on their existing portfolio model that has a speed of 25 knots and overall length of 90.5 metres. Long range maritime patrol is enabled by 35 days endurance and a range of 5000 miles at 12 knots. This allows the ships to poise at sea and when appropriate, close an area of interest to project force, including by helicopter. At the higher end of the VT series is the stealthy Ocean Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy of Oman, 99 metres long and fitted with a comprehensive combat system beyond the normal expected levels expected in an OPV including medium calibre guns, SSM and Shorads supported by a comprehensive weapons management system, organic helicopter capability in a hangar propelled at a speed of more than 25 knots by two diesel engines.

VT's Khareef Class OPV For Oman

Fr. Fassmer GmbH meanwhile has found success in South America with two Fassmer OPV 80 design built for the Chilean Navy while Argentina plans to build five and the Colombian Navy one. With a length of 80 metres and speed of 21 knots, the vessel has a range of 12,000 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots. Armed with a 40/70mm gun, the deck layout incorporates a helicopter launch platform, crane, two RHIBs, container storage and rescue zone. More recently, Fassmer has also introduced a larger OPV design, the Fassmer OPV 90, which at 92 metres is offered at a higher maximum speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles at a higher cruising speed of 14 knots and suitable for the integration of a variety of military payloads and enhanced helicopter capabilities.

Chile's OPV Piloto Pardo From Fassmer

Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding is building four Patrol Vessels for the Royal Netherlands Navy that measures 108 meter in length with a total displacement is 3750 tonnes. The ship's speed is approximately 22 knots. To optimize the seakeeping behaviour of the vessel the hull has been stretched, and the bridge and superstructure are located relatively aftwards. The patrol vessel offer hangar space and landing facilities for one NH-90 helicopter or equivalent types. Two RHIBs will be embarked, one launched and recovered via a slipway in the stern, the other from a boat davit on the port side. The Patrol Vessels will be the first vessels of the Royal Netherlands Navy equipped with an integrated mast module which integrates practically all RF systems, radars as well as communication and optical sensors on board of the ship in one housing that allows detection and tracking of high- and low-altitude air targets, fast boats, periscopes, mines and even swimmers. Their armament will consist of one 76 mm Oto-Melara gun, one rapid-fire gun and two Hitrole machine guns. The weapons will all have full remote control.

Damen Schelde's Holland Class OPVs

Although not mentioned when their specifications were discussed above, these patrol vessels all share the fact that they were conceived as flexible, long endurance vessels equipped to perform a wide range of constabulary tasks with a primary focus on presence missions and maritime security tasks in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of each navy’s nation. Thus armaments can be limited to medium and small calibre guns to fulfil self defence and constabulary requirements. By putting endurance and sea keeping ahead of speed, the patrol vessels will instead use their helicopters and embarked RHIBs to intercept and prosecute targets at range. The helicopter will be able to identify and track targets significantly beyond the ship borne sensor horizon, while the high speed RHIB can be used for boarding operations. Thus even though these ships may by design look like under-armed corvettes, their specifications actually meet their mission design requirements.

And specifically for our Kedah class patrol vessels and the future improved Batch 2, the FFNW concept actually allows them to be upgraded to actual corvette capabilities when the need actually arises, and the modular concept will allow sufficient time for the additional combat systems to be installed when the war clouds are gathering. So remember that even though the Kedah class may look like corvettes and you may wish that they are armed like corvettes or even light frigates, the fact remains that they are sufficiently equipped to carry out their primary role as patrol vessels, with the bonus that ultimately they can be the corvettes that you are dreaming of.