SINGAPORE - Singapore has launched the first of eight new warships that will sharpen the navy's firepower to tackle new maritime threats.
Independence, a littoral mission vessel, will go through sea trials from next year after its combat systems are installed.
It is expected to be battle-ready by 2017 while the others are expected to become operational by 2020.
The warships are also the first in nearly 20 years to be wholly designed and built in Singapore, since the first Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank was launched in 1998.
With the delivery of the littoral mission vessels, the Republic of Singapore Navy will be able to retire the fleet of 11 Fearless-class patrol vessels, which are 20 years old.
The deal to build the ships, which will patrol Singapore's surrounding waters and be deployed in maritime security operations, was inked in 2013. ST Marine and Saab Kockums AB designed and built the ship's while the Defence Science and Technology Agency put the systems together.
The 80m-long littoral mission vessel, which is two-and-a-half times bigger than its predecessor, can also sail further and faster. It can hit top speeds in excess of 27 knots and sail up to 3500 nautical miles. Powered by four engines, it can last 14 days at sea.
The LMV is operated by 23 crew members, fewer than the 30 who man the patrol vessel.
The warship is equipped with high-tech touchscreens and computer systems that can do more with fewer people.
One of the unique features of the new warship is its integrated command centre that combines the combat, engineering and navigation teams, allowing faster and seamless coordination among the sailors.
Only the Dutch and American navies have warships with such a feature.
Co-locating the crew members will allow the RSN to "save a few appointments within (the ship) but still allow the crew to operate effectively as a team", said Lieutenant-Colonel Chew Chun Chau, who is heading the LMV construction project.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the LMV is "not just another new ship but instead will lead the way in how we use technology to overcome operational demands."