SINGAPORE - The final three of the Republic of Singapore Navy's high-tech, locally-built ships turned fully operational on Friday (Jan 31).
All eight littoral mission vessels (LMVs) can now be deployed for operations and respond to maritime threats facing Singapore.
RSS Fortitude, RSS Dauntless and RSS Fearless joined five other LMVs to replace the ageing Fearless-class patrol vessels, which have been in service for more than 20 years.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who officiated at the commissioning ceremony at Tuas Naval Base, said in her speech that the commissioning of the last three was an important milestone.
This was so given Singapore's reliance on the maritime trade and its susceptibility to a range of maritime threats, from piracy to terrorist attacks.
"We have even more reasons to take pride in the vessels because they are quintessentially Singaporean, being designed and built in Singapore by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans," she said.
Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs, said the LMVs are a testament to Singapore's determination to defend its way of life despite its constraints.
The LMVs were designed to overcome the manpower limitations that the navy feels more intensely, she said, as the smallest of the three services in the Singapore Armed Forces.
For instance, while sensors on warships were traditionally exposed to the elements and needed frequent maintenance, the LMVs' masts were designed to house its sensors internally, shielding them from the harsh maritime environment, she said.
"Coupled with easier access to the sensors from within the ships, the LMVs have been able to halve the workload for maintenance compared to the patrol vessels they replace," said Mrs Teo.
She congratulated the navy, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, ST Engineering and other defence industry partners for the successful completion of all eight LMVs in 4½ years since the first was launched.
The first-of-class RSS Independence was launched in July 2015 and commissioned two years later by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, after the LMV project started in 2010.
Since then, the LMVs have been involved in round-the-clock patrols of Singapore's waters, search-and-rescue operations, exercises with foreign navies, and security operations such as the Kim-Trump Summit in Singapore in 2018.
Last November, when the merchant vessel Hoyu caught fire in Singapore waters, LMV RSS Indomitable was activated, and it rescued all 18 crew members, together with the Police Coast Guard and Singapore Civil Defence Force.
"When we had a dispute with our neighbours over our territorial waters, our LMVs were there to stand guard and defend our sovereign rights," said Mrs Teo.
She said Singapore continues to rely heavily on the maritime trade, which brings in daily essentials such as food and fuel.
"At the same time, our reliance on the sea is a strategic vulnerability that others can potentially exploit. We risk becoming 'sea-locked' if we lose access to the sea lines of communication that link us to the rest of the world," she said.
She said Singapore is susceptible to a range of maritime threats, from piracy to terrorist attacks.
"That is why we need a strong navy to protect our coastline, and to keep our sea lines of communication open."
"Here, the LMVs will play a vital role in strengthening the RSN's ability to defend our everyday," she said.